From March 1996 through December 2005, Charles Cummings wrote weekly Knowing Newark columns for The Star-Ledger. He wrote about Newark’s ethnic groups, its industries, its neighborhoods, its festivals, its parks, its music groups, its river, its founding, its contributions to the nation, its high points, and its low points—all this and more. The columns show Newark in all its diversity and complexity, and together they provide an unrivaled account of its 350 year history.
With the gracious cooperation of The Star-Ledger and the generous support of Newark Celebration 350, the Newark Public Library is pleased to make all of the Knowing Newark columns available in this keyword searchable website for this first time. By including photographs or illustrations that accompanied the columns when they first appeared in the newspaper, this website also provides access to one of the largest digitized collections of images of Newark. The website was launched in April 2016 with the first 100 Knowing Newark columns, and an additional 400 columns will be added gradually over the course of the year as part of the Library’s contribution to the celebration of Newark’s 350th anniversary.
The columns have been put in four general categories—History and Landscape, Industry and Commerce, Groups and Communities, and Culture and Education—and then listed in chronological order. We encourage you to use the keyword search function to find and explore multiple columns that may touch on the same topic, person, or community. These columns are like treasure maps, guiding the reader to fascinating stories and resources, with perhaps a detour on the way but also the promise of a rich reward. Charles Cummings’ Chronology with highlights in Newark’s history first appeared in a series of columns; it is included here as a continuous historical timeline for the first time.
The Newark Public Library’s Charles F. Cummings New Jersey Information Center has additional resources for most of the topics covered in these columns. If you want to do additional research, or if you spot a mistake that should be corrected, please visit the Library or contact firstname.lastname@example.org. In addition, the links at the bottom of each page will take you to other websites with useful information about Newark’s history.
All columns are Copyright 1996-2005 The Star-Ledger. All rights reserved.
Reprinted with permission. Images that accompany the columns may not be used commercially without permission.
No one knew more about the broad sweep of Newark’s history, or was more generous and gracious in sharing his knowledge, than Charles Cummings of the Newark Public Library.
Newark was Charles’s adopted home, and over more than four decades he developed an enduring love for this city. On his mother’s side, he had deep Southern roots; he attended the University of Alabama and did graduate work in history at Vanderbilt University. When he came North in the early 1960s to work at the Newark Public Library he brought a Southerner’s appreciation of how stories could explain the past and inspire the future in a place like Newark. Charles learned Newark’s stories from his work in the New Jersey reference room at the Newark Public Library and then conveyed the stories in several ways: by helping all-comers at the Library with equal attention and generosity, from the earnest student working on a class assignment to the celebrated author Philip Roth gathering local color for his novels; by conducting his much-in-demand tours of Newark landmarks and neighborhoods; by carrying out his varied tasks as Newark’s first official City Historian—and through his weekly Knowing Newark columns in The Star-Ledger.
All Newark mourned when Charles died in December 2005. This website with all of his Knowing Newark columns provides an enduring tribute to him and his work.
Above photos: The Jim McCann Association pictured in front of Patrick McCann’s tavern on 163 Summit Street, Newark, St. Patrick’s Day, 1938. The Newark Public Library; 1691 Town Book. The City of Newark Archives and Record Management/Gail Malmgreen; Pride of Newark Junior Elks, on the steps of Essex County Courthouse, 1950’s. The Newark Public Library/Gail Malmgreen; Young Men’s Hebrew Association. The New Jersey Historical Society/Gail Malmgreen; The 312th Infantry Parade on April 27, 1918, during World War I, included women, the Girls Behind the Men Behind the Guns. The Newark Public Library.