Skip to Main Content

New Jersey: History of Printing and Publishing


The Library of Congress has a wealth of print materials relating to the printing history of the state of New Jersey, available in both the general collections and the special collections of the Rare Book & Special Collections Division. Additional print materials are found in the Newspapers & Periodicals and the Broadsides & Printed Ephemera sections of this guide.

Please note: unless otherwise noted, most of the names (people, groups, or organizations) below link to fuller information in the Library of Congress Authorities Online Catalog. Authority records enable librarians to provide uniform access to materials in library catalogs and to provide clear identification of authors and subject headings. For example, works about "movies," "motion pictures," "cinema," and "films" are all entered under the established subject heading "Motion pictures."

Authority records also provide cross references to lead users to the headings used in the catalog, e.g., a search under: Snodgrass, Quintus Curtius, 1835-1910 will lead users to the authorized form of heading for Mark Twain, i.e., Twain, Mark, 1835-1910. These authority records also provide a direct link to browse materials under that heading in the Library's Online Catalog.

William Faden, engraver and publisher. The province of New Jersey, divided into east and west, commonly called the Jerseys. 1777. Library of Congress Prints & Photographs Division.

Brief History of Settlement

The area now known as New Jersey was originally inhabited by the Lenape (also Lenni Lenape or Delaware) people. There were three main Delaware tribes in New Jersey: the Unami (Lenape) tribe, the Minisink (Munsee) tribe, and the Unalachtigo tribe.

*Please note that terminology in historical materials and in Library descriptions does not always match the language preferred by members of Native communities, and may include negative stereotypes. Item descriptions often include direct transcriptions of original captions. The Library presents the historic captions because they can be important for understanding the context in which the images were created. Please see this article from the National Museum of the American Indian External for more information.

Giovanni de Verrazano became the first European to explore the area around 1524.

The region was first officially claimed for Holland by Henry Hudson in 1609 and dubbed "New Netherlands." Holland held control of the region until 1664 when England took over, renamed the area New Jersey, and further divided the region into East and West Jersey before eventually uniting them into a single colony.

New Jersey shared a governor with New York until 1738 when Governor Lewis Morris became New Jersey's first governor.

Government Printing

The history of printing in the state is largely concerned with the needs of the occupying government. Books, pamphlets, and broadsides were all produced to record and disseminate government acts, laws, charters, and decrees. Other official documents included treaties with Native Americans, and reports and surveys on the geology, climate, and other aspects of the region. Many copies of these printed materials were kept together and formed a small reference library for the use of members of government, which eventually became the New Jersey State Library External.

The Early American Paper Money Collection in the Rare Book & Special Collections Division contains bills issued primarily by the Continental Congress and the original thirteen colonies, ranging in date from 1746-1865. The denominations range from one penny to a hundred dollars and three pence to eight pounds. There are several examples of bills printed by Isaac Collins of Burlington and James Parker of Woodbridge.

Printing the Revolution

Later in the 18th century there was something of a printing boom, particularly leading up to and during the American Revolution when accurate, local information needed to be produced and dispersed quickly. Wedged between British-occupied New York City and the rebel capital of Philadelphia, New Jersey experienced over 100 battles throughout the war, and contributed significantly to its outcome. Once New Jersey became the third state to enter the union in 1787, the new State Government needed printers to produce and disseminate the reports, proceedings, and other records of the new democracy.

The following titles link to fuller bibliographic information in the Library of Congress Online Catalog. Links to additional online content are included when available.

Martha Cooper, photographer. View of Great Falls on the Passaic River.1994. Working in Paterson Project Collection, 1993-2002. Library of Congress American Folklife Center.

Power and Potential

In the late 18th century Alexander Hamilton saw the powerful production potential of the rushing waters of the Passaic River, and began the state's textile industry in the area. In the 19th century New Jersey experienced a great industrial boom; towns like Paterson, Trenton, Camden, Elizabeth, Jersey City, Newark, and Passaic all became centers for the manufacture of goods from silks to steel. Throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, immigrants came to the state for opportunities in New Jersey's rural farmlands and industrial cities, creating a dense and diverse population. The 19th and 20th centuries saw New Jersey produce some of the most important inventions of modern times.

Resources on New Jersey's contributions to science and industry in the Rare Book & Special Collections Division cover a vast range of topics, formats, and collections. We will discuss just a few important facts and items or collections below.

Notable People

Thomas Edison (1847-1931)

Dr. Virginia Apgar (1909-1974)

  • Tenafly, NJ
  • Developed the Newborn Scoring System, otherwise known as the Apgar System, allowing medical professionals to quickly evaluate the medical condition of a newborn.
  • Learn more: New Jersey Women's History External

Communist Party. Silk workers & dye workers of Paterson. Paterson, 1933. Printed Ephemera Collection. Library of Congress Rare Book & Special Collections Division.

TImeline: Notable Firsts, Inventions, and Events

  • 1642 - first brewery in America opened in Hoboken
  • 1846 - first organized baseball game was played in Hoboken
  • 1878 - first submarine built by John Holland of Passaic County
  • 1879 - first incandescent lamp (light bulb) was made by Thomas Edison in Menlo Park
  • 1883 - first town to be lighted by electricity was Roselle
  • 1889 - first movie was developed by Thomas A. Edison in West Orange
  • 1919 - first passenger flight in American history flown from New York to Atlantic City
  • 1921 - first radio broadcast of the World Series was transmitted live on radio station WIZ in Newark
  • 1933 - first drive-in movie theater in the U.S. opens in Camden
  • 1935 - Scientist Albert Einstein establishes his home in New Jersey
    • Albert Einstein papers, 1916-1953 - Correspondence and manuscripts of writings held in the Library's Manuscript Division, including a fair copy of Einstein's 1905 paper concerning the theory of relativity titled "Zur Elektrodynamik bewegter Körper," and manuscripts of "Einheitliche Feldtheorie" and "Das Bi-Vektor Feld."
  • 1940 - first solid body electric guitar was invented by Les Paul of Mahwah
    • Les Paul papers, 1904-2000 - The Les Paul Papers in the Library's Music Division contain music arranged for Les Paul's ensembles by himself or others and printed sheet music of popular songs. The collection also contains publicity materials, business papers, schematics, scripts, brochures, photographs, and correspondence.

The following titles link to fuller bibliographic information in the Library of Congress Online Catalog. Links to additional online content are included when available.

Phillips & Taylor, photographer. [Walt Whitman, half-length portrait, seated, facing left, wearing hat and sweater, holding butterfly]. [1873]. Feinberg-Whitman Collection. Library of Congress Prints & Photographs Division.

New Jersey School of Literature

“The waves on the Jersey shore still came tumbling in, quieting him as their secret escaped him, isolating him and leaving him lonesome - but possessed by the great mystery which won the world to his side.”
— William Carlos Williams on New Jersey's influence on Whitman.

From first editions and presentation copies to comprehensive author collections, the Rare Book & Special Collections Division has numerous resources for exploring literary history in America. The list below highlights several significant authors associated with the state of New Jersey.

Notable Authors

The following names (unless otherwise noted) link to fuller information in the Library of Congress Authority Files. Links to additional online content are included when available.

Walt Whitman (1819-1892)
Though he wasn't born in New Jersey, Whitman is closely associated with the state. After spending the Civil War in Washington, DC, Whitman moved to Camden, NJ where he composed the final (also called the "deathbed") edition of his masterwork, Leaves of Grass. From a slim volume of 12 poems in 1855 to a hefty tome containing over 300 poems in 1891, the book went through a number of editions over the years, for most of which Whitman was heavily involved in the printing and publication processes. The Library's extensive resources for the study of Walt Whitman include manuscript material in the Manuscript Division and a collection of early editions of Whitman's writings kept in the Rare Book and Special Collections Division.

  • Charles Feinberg - Whitman Collection
    The Feinberg-Whitman Collection is probably is the largest and most important group of materials relating to American poet Walt Whitman ever assembled. In building this collection, Charles E. Feinberg noted in 1958 in the Papers of the Bibliographical Society of America that he "tried to acquire all available letters, postcards, checks, bills and documents, primarily to reconstruct Whitman's daily life and creative activity." Among the printed items are many volumes from Whitman's publications, including several copies of Leaves of Grass from 1855 to 1891, many of them inscribed or signed, and page and galley proofs of Specimen Days (1882-82); early critical and biographical treatments; and works of more recent scholarship.

Amiri Baraka (1934-2014)

  • Poet, essayist, playwright, novelist, and critic, Baraka (previously known as LeRoi Jones) was a highly influential figure for a span of over 50 years, focusing on issues of racism and black liberation.
  • Entry from The Poetry Foundation External: Baraka was well known for his strident social criticism, often writing in an incendiary style that made it difficult for some audiences and critics to respond with objectivity to his works. Throughout most of his career, his method in poetry, drama, fiction, and essays was confrontational, and calculated to shock and awaken audiences to the political concerns of black Americans. For decades, Baraka was one of the most prominent voices in the world of American literature.
  • Recipient of the PEN/Faulkner Award, a Rockefeller Foundation Award for Drama, and the Langston Hughes Award from City College of New York.

William Carlos Williams (1883-1963)

  • Nicknamed "the Poet of Paterson"
  • Entry from the NJ Hall of Fame External: Born in Rutherford, Williams began writing poetry at Horace Mann High School, where he also made the decision to become a writer and a doctor. He received his M.D. from the University of Pennsylvania then returned to Rutherford, where he practiced medicine throughout his life. Williams also embarked on a prolific writing career, publishing poetry, novels, stories, essays, plays, autobiographical works and letters. His many awards include the first National Book Award for poetry, the Bollingen Prize, and a Pulitzer Prize. Allen Ginsburg and the Beat Poets of the 1950s and 1960s regarded him as an important mentor.

James Fenimore Cooper (1789-1851)

  • Entry from the NJ Hall of Fame External: James Fennimore Cooper was born in Burlington, NJ and was a popular and prolific American writer of the early 19th century. His historical romances depicting life on the early American frontier that included Native American narratives created a unique form of American literature. Cooper’s most notable works are the Leatherstocking Tales, a series of five novels, each featuring the main hero Natty Bumppo—The Prairie, The Pioneers, The Pathfinders, The Deerslayer, and The Last of the Mohicans, which is considered his masterpiece.

See also:

The following titles link to fuller bibliographic information in the Library of Congress Online Catalog. Links to additional online content are included when available.

Earle Horter. Visit Historic New Jersey. Clara Barton School, Bordentown. 19--. Printed Ephemera Collection. Library of Congress Rare Book & Special Collections Division.

Brief History of Education in New Jersey

As was the case in most regions prior to the 19th century, the only children who received an education were those whose families could afford to hire a tutor, or who learned from their local religious leaders. Throughout the 19th century however, various advancements were made in establishing free public education for children funded by the state. In the 20th century, education continued to expand as demand for secondary education grew.

Below we highlight some significant New Jersey educators and institutions with material in the Rare Book & Special Collections Division.

Notable Educators

Clara Barton (1821-1912)

  • Dubbed the "Angel of the Battlefield" for her work as a nurse during the Civil War; following the war, founded the American Red Cross.
  • Opened the state's first free public school, which grew to enroll 600 students under her leadership.
  • Clara Barton: A Resource Guide (Research Guide)
    This resource guide compiles links to digital materials available throughout the Library of Congress website. In addition, it provides links to external websites focusing on Clara Barton and a bibliography containing selected works for both general and younger readers.
  • Clara Barton Papers (Digital Collection)
    The papers of nurse, educator, philanthropist, and lecturer Clara Barton (1821-1912) consist of 62,000 items (81,608 images), most of which were digitized from 123 reels of previously produced microfilm. Spanning the years 1805-1958, with the bulk dating from 1861 to 1912, the collection contains correspondence, diaries and journals, reports, addresses, legal and financial papers, organizational records, lectures, writings, scrapbooks, biographical material, printed matter, memorabilia, and other papers.

Margaret Bancroft (1854-1912)

  • Founded the "Haddonfield School for the Mentally Deficient and Peculiarly Backward" in 1883, an institution that developed innovative ways of teaching children with various developmental disabilities. In 1904 the school was renamed the Bancroft Training School, which still exists today.

Dorothy Cross (1906-1972)

  • Archaeologist, anthropologist, and public educator, Cross did much of her archaeological work in New Jersey, where she studied New Jersey prehistory and Native American sites.
  • State Archaeologist for the New Jersey State Museum.
  • In 1936, Cross was supervisor of the Indian Site Survey of New Jersey, after which she published Archaeology of New Jersey.

Notable Institutions

Rutgers University

Princeton University

The following titles link to fuller bibliographic information in the Library of Congress Online Catalog. Links to additional online content are included when available.