Meeting minutes of the education committee of the Trustees of the New Castle Common

Biographical and Historical Notes

The New Castle Common Trustees of New Castle, Delaware, created the New Castle Institute in the early 1850s to serve students in united school districts forty-five and forty-six. In 1851, the Trustees created a committee on education to oversee administration of the institute. According to an act passed by the Delaware General Assembly in 1852, the institute taught "the rudiments of learning," including classical literature and the sciences, to both boys and girls. Schooling was available to white children who were at least six years of age. The Trustees financed the school with funds from the New Castle Common and contributions from pupils' parents. By late 1852, the girls' school was located in the "western lower room of the Arsenal," a building on the New Castle Green. In 1868, the New Castle Institute had 340 students, 200 boys and 140 girls. The Trustees withdrew financial support from the Institute in 1875, when it turned the endeavor over to the new Board of Education.


"An Act Concerning Schools in the Town of New Castle," Feb. 4, 1852, in Laws of the State of Delaware, Passed at an Adjourned Session of the General Assembly, Commenced and Held at Dover, On Tuesday, the Sixth Day of January, In the Year of Our Lord, One Thousand Eight Hundred and Fifty-Two, and of the Independence of the United States, The Seventy-Sixth. Wilmington, DE: Johnson & Chandler, 1852.

Hein, Kara K. and Siders, Rebecca J. "A Documentary History of the Arsenal, New Castle, Delaware." Center for Historic Architecture and Design, University of Delaware, 1998.

"Trustees Projects," The Trustees of New Castle Common website (accessed December 14, 2016)

Information derived from the collection.

Scope and Contents

This manuscript volume contains the meeting minutes for the New Castle Common Trustees' education committee from 1851-1853 and 1868-1875. The minutes focus on the establishment and maintenance of the New Castle Institute.

The education committee held semi-regular meetings on the administration of the New Castle Institute, during which it established school rules and teachers' duties, set salaries, and paid bills accrued by the school. The committee allotted the most authority to the school principal, who could appoint teachers, make necessary rules, and adopt textbooks. In general, the male principal and teachers earned much higher salaries then female teachers, although salaries were renegotiated on a regular basis. Most teachers and principals only spent a few years at the school before moving on to other opportunities. Amendments to the rules suggest that there were issues with absent and tardy teachers. In 1869, the principal examined the current teachers to ensure they were fit for their posts.

Students paid anywhere from a few cents to several dollars a quarter to attend the New Castle Institute, although the committee made allowances for impoverished children. Students were subject to rules regarding attendance, cleanliness, and abstention from tobacco products. Students exhibiting improper behavior were threatened with suspension or expulsion. When the committee updated school rules in 1875, they specified that pupils were not allowed to "throw stones or other missiles," or climb trees or school buildings, suggesting problems with other disorderly behavior.

In September 1875, the students were given examinations in spelling, geography, history, and written arithmetic. The results indicate that few students were ready for promotion to the next class. An inscription near the results table reads "these persons seem to have no idea of exactness in work." At the end of the volume, there is a grammar school attendance roster from Fall 1875.

This volume is bound in marbled paper over boards with a tan leather spine. The marbled paper is missing in places and the spine is badly rubbed. The volume has light blue wove paper pastedowns and flyleaves and twenty-five leaves of faintly-lined, blue wove paper. Several leaves have been removed from the back. The volume contains handwritten text in black ink and pencil.