Guide to the Oakes Family Papers 1837-1865 MG 1622


Descriptive Summary
Historical Note
Scope and Content Note
Access Points
Related Material
Administrative Information

Container List

Letters, newspaper clippings, calling cards, and ledger.

Guide to the Oakes Family Papers
MG 1622
The New Jersey Historical Society
52 Park Place
Newark, New Jersey 07102
Contact: NJHS Library
Phone: (973) 596-8500 x249
© 2004 All rights reserved.
The New Jersey Historical Society, Publisher
Inventory prepared by Douglas Baldwin.

Finding aid encoded by Julia Telonidis. September 2004. Production of the EAD 2002 version of this finding aid was made possible by a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Finding aid written in English.

Descriptive Summary

Creator: Oakes Family
Title: Oakes Family Papers
Dates 1837-1865
Abstract: Contains letters, newspaper clippings, calling cards and a ledger, spanning the years 1837-1865, pertaining to the Oakes family, owners of the Oakes Woolen Mill, located in Bloomfield, N.J.
Quantity: .03 linear feet (one folder)
Collection Number: MG 1622

Historical Note

David Oakes, who would eventually build the Oakes Mills in Bloomfield, NJ, was a first generation American born in Franklin, N.J. on January 26, 1809. He was the son of Thomas Oakes, who migrated from England in 1802, and Rachel Kingsland Oakes, descendant of one of the original families to colonize the Newark/Bloomfield area. David moved with his parents to Bloomfield, N.J., at age two. However, in 1826, he moved to Orange, N.J. to apprentice as a finisher of woolen goods. Upon finishing his apprenticeship, in 1830, he built his own textiles factory. During this time, he wed Abigail Baldwin Oakes. After a fire in 1836 destroyed this factory, he erected a second, specializing in flannel, yarn, and blanket production. In 1842, his factory shifted it’s production focus to tweed. Then, in 1860, the thriving business erected its first brick building. Throughout the early years of the company, they produced both police and fire uniforms. Furthermore, during the Civil War, they began producing materials used to make military and service uniforms for the Union Army. David, originally a Whig, became a Republican and was against the institution of slavery.

In 1878, David Oakes passed away, leaving his business to his sons Thomas Oakes (b. June 6, 1838) and George A Oakes. Thomas would take the lead in regards to running the family business. In 1865, he married Juliet Maxfield Oakes. The couple had four children together. He continued to run the business into the 20th century, until his death in 1924. At that time, his oldest son David (b. May 26, 1869) then took over as president of Oakes Mills. His other son, George, would serve as vice president.

The business did well into the 1920s and 1930s. Later on, the development of synthetic fibers and improved production technologies eventually hurt the business, causing it to finally close in 1945. In 1947, the factory and its land were broken up and auctioned, ending its over 100 years of existence as a part of the Bloomfield landscape. However, despite its eventual demise, the factory would always be known and remembered for its superior product quality.

During their lives, both David and Thomas Oakes were active and important members of the Bloomfield community. David served on the Board of Trustees at the Bloomfield First Presbyterian Church, was a member of the first Board of School Trustees, and was a member of the State Legislature in 1860-1861. Furthermore, David was also involved in the first railroad project to serve Newark and Bloomfield. It is interesting to note that David served in the Bloomfield school board when Bloomfield became one of the first municipalities to enact a free school town law (in 1849) allowing free access to schooling, without any form of tuition requirement.

His son Thomas was also an active community member, also serving on the local school board as its president, as well as serving as president of the National Bank of Bloomfield, and president of the United Jersey Railroad and Canal Co.

During David Oakes’ life, he would build the family home, located on Belleville Ave, that would come to be affectionately known as Oakside. The mansion, purchased by the town of Bloomfield, now stands as the Oakside Bloomfield Cultural Center, a public resource for cultural information.

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Scope and Content Note

This collection contains three personal letters between members of the Oakes family, a few newspaper clippings concerning wool, meal and flour prices, two business cards, a few stamped envelopes, as well as a school roster. The three letters were written between the years 1856-1865 and represent correspondence between brothers Thomas and George A. Oakes, as well as between Thomas and his father David Oakes. There is mention of both business matters and mention of the death of a mutual acquaintance in the letters between the brothers. Of interesting note, in regards to the 1857 letter, is the mention of a show performed by ‘three darkies’ in which one of them, a female, could have ‘passed for a darkie but was nearly as white as I am’.

One of the documents included in this collection is a local school roster for three school sessions between 1848-1849. Although the identity of the school for which this roster was used is undeterminable, it most likely was for a school in the Central Union school district in Bloomfield. That district was formed from the merge between the Central and Union districts in 1849, which partially occurred due to the first free public school law enacted that year.
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Access Points

The entries below represent persons, organizations, topics, forms, and occupations documented in this collection.
Subject Names:
Oakes family.
Subject Organizations:
First Presbyterian Church (Bloomfield, N.J.).
Oakes (Thomas) and Company (Bloomfield, N.J.).
Subject Topics:
Military uniforms.
Oakes family.
Public schools–New Jersey.
Textile fabrics–New Jersey.
Textile industry.
Textile mills.
Uniforms industry–United States.
Wool industry–New Jersey.
Subject Places:
Bloomfield (N.J.)
Document Types:
Letters (Correspondence).
Visiting cards.

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Related Material

For related collections, see:

Manuscript Group 302, Osgood and Company (Little Falls, NJ)

Manuscript Group 689, Tracy Worsted Mills Company (Philadelphia, PA)

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Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

This collection should be cited as: Manuscript Group 1622, Oakes Family Papers, The New Jersey Historical Society.

Acquisition Information

Purchased by the New Jersey Historical Society

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Black, Sally and Riggin, Margaret (compiled by), Excerpts from Early Bloomfield, N.J. Newspapers; Historical Society of Bloomfield; New Jersey; co. 1982

Brown, William (ed.), Biographical, Genealogical and Descriptive History of the State of New Jersey; New Jersey Historical Publishing Co.; co. 1900.

Shaw, William (compiled by), History of Essex and Hudson Counties, New Jersey; Volume II; Everts and Peck; Philadelphia, PA; co. 1884.

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Container List

Letters, newspaper clippings, calling cards, and ledger.

Box Folder Title Date
1 1 Letter from Thomas Oakes to his brother, George A. Oakes. 1856 Jun 14
1 1 Letter from George A. Oakes to his brother, Thomas Oakes. 1857 Jun 23
1 1 Letter written by David Oakes to his son, Thomas Oakes and daughter-in-law Juliet Maxfield Oakes. 1865 Oct 22
1 1 Three (3) newspaper excerpts with reference to wool, flour, and meal prices, as well as local advertisement for textile producers. 1865
1 1 Five (5) letter envelopes with three cent U.S. postage stamps affixed. Dates Unknown
1 1 Two (2) calling cards belonging to David Oakes. Dates Unknown
1 1 List containing names of teachers and students for three consecutive school sessions at a school in Bloomfield, N.J. The name of the school in unknown. 1848

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