Guide to the Records of Society for Promoting Useful Knowledge in the Town of Newark ca. 1914 MG 390
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Inventory prepared by Stephen Yautz as part of the “Farm to City” project funded by a grant from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission.
Finding aid encoded by Danielle Kovacs. February 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.
“For the purposes of promoting and executing such schemes as may appear to be useful and ornamental to the town,” the Society for Promoting Useful Knowledge in the Town of Newark was founded in 1787 by prominent Newark citizens such as Elisha Boudinot, Reverend Alexander MacWhorter, and Reverend Uzal Ogden.
Activities of the organization included the beautification of Newark, which involved the planting of trees, the improvement of roads, and the promotion of economic activity within the municipality. The Society was most instrumental, however, as a political lobbying group, in that when the Constitution was drafted, the group sponsored the public reading of the document to the public in Newark. Their efforts paid off, since the people of Essex County voted to approve ratification of the United States Constitution on October 12, 1787. On December 18, 1787, New Jersey became the third state to ratify the new federal constitution.
The last known meeting of the Society for Promoting Useful Knowledge in the Town of Newark was held on July 7, 1788.
This collection contains extracts from the record book of the Society for Promoting Useful Knowledge in the Town of Newark, covering the time span from April 16, 1787 to July 7, 1788. These extracts are typewritten transcripts derived from the original document. The transcript was composed, possibly by Robert M. Boyd, Jr., around the year 1914.
The records include the constitution and bylaws of the organization, as well as a membership list. Members included Elisha Boudinot, Jonathan Crane, Rev. Alexander MacWhorter, and his son, Alexander C. MacWhorter, as well as Uzal Ogden and Samuel Whitaker. At the first meeting, Rev. Alexander MacWhorter was elected President of the society, with Uzal Ogden as its Vice President.
The minutes, which are also included in the records, indicate that the society was active in improving the quality of life in Newark. For instance, the organization was responsible for the planting of trees throughout the town of Newark, and also looked to improve the condition of existing roads, and to build better, newer roads. At one point, the society considered petitioning the State Legislature to enact a law for the construction of a “new road from Hackensack ferry to Pawle’s Hook.”
The minutes also indicate that in September 1787, the society had an important role in enlisting the support for the newly-drafted United States Constitution. After discussion of the issue, it was decided that “the President [Reverend MacWhorter] in the evening of the following Monday should read the constitution publicly in the Presbyterian Church in this town, and should make such explanatory & recommendatory remarks thereon.”
The last entry in the records is dated July 7, 1788.
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For related collections on persons or institutions pertaining to the Society for Promoting Useful Knowledge in the Town of Newark, see:
This collection should be cited as: Manuscript Group 390, Society for Promoting Useful Knowledge in the Town of Newark Records, The New Jersey Historical Society.
This collection is the gift of Robert M. Boyd, Jr., 1914.