Newark, the "Brick City," is located in Essex County, New Jersey. As of the 2000 census, the city had a total population of 273,546. It is an industrial city ten miles west of New York City, with convenient access to New York by road and rail. Its location on the Atlantic coast, at the mouth of the Passaic River, has helped make it a major container shipping port. It is the home of Newark Liberty International (formerly Newark Airport), the first airport to serve the New York metropolitan area.

Table of contents
1 History
2 Culture
3 Geography
4 Demographics


Early History

Newark was founded in 1666 by Connecticut Puritans led by Robert Treat, making it the third-oldest city in the United States, though not the third oldest settlement. Newark is the city's third name; previously, it was called Pasaic Town and New Milford.

Newark was a relatively large town in the colonial era, known for its good beers, ciders, and tanned leather goods. In religion, it stayed loyal to old Puritan ways longer than the communities of New England, and was very receptive to the Great Awakening. When the seminaries at Yale and Harvard showed disdain for Great Awakening evangelicalism, several Newark ministers led by Aaron Burr (father of US vice-president Aaron Burr) founded the College of New Jersey, later to be known as Princeton, in neighboring Elizabeth.

Industrial Era to WWII

Newark's rapid growth began in the early 1800s, much of it due to a transplanted Yankee named Seth Boyden. Boyden came to Newark in 1815, and immediately began a torrent of improvements to leather manufacture, culminating in the process for making patent leather. Boyden's genius would eventually allow Newark to manufacture almost 90% of the nation's leather by 1870, bringing in $8.6 million to the city in that year alone. In 1824, Boyden, bored with leather, found a way to produce malleable iron. Newark also prospered by the construction of the Morris Canal in 1831. The Morris canal connected Newark with the New Jersey hinterland, at that time a major iron and farm area. In 1826, Newark's population stood at 8,017, ten times the 1776 number.

The middle 19th century saw continued growth and diversification of Newark's industrial base. The first commercially successful plastic -- Celluloid -- was produced in a factory on Mechanic street by J.W. Hyatt. Hyatt's Celluloid found its way into Newark made carriages, billiard balls, and dentures. Edward Weston perfected in Newark a process for zinc electroplating, as well a superior arc-lamp. Newark's Military Park had the first public electric lamps anywhere in the United States. Before moving to Menlo Park, Thomas Edison himself made Newark home in the early 1870s, inventing the stock ticker in the Brick City.

Newark Smelting and Refining Works, Ed. Balbach and Sons, c. 1870. Newark Public Library

Nor was Newark entirely industrial. In the middle 19th century Newark added insurance to its repertoire of businesses; Mutual Benefit was founded in the city in 1845 and Prudential in 1873. Prudential, or "the Pru" as generations of Newarkers knew it, was founded by another transplanted New Englander, John Fairfield Dryden, who found a niche catering to the middle and lower classes. Today, Newark sells more insurance than any city but Hartford.

In 1880, Newark's population stood at 136,508, in 1890 181,830, in 1900 246,070, in 1910 347,000, a jump of 200,000 in three decades. (Cunningham, 201)As Newark's population approached a half million in the 1920s the city's potential seemed limitless. It was said in 1927:"Great is Newark's vitality. It is the red blood in its veins – this basic strength that is going to carry it over whatever hurdles it may encounter, enable it to recover from whatever losses it may suffer and battle its way to still higher achievement industrially and financially, making it eventually perhaps the greatest industrial center in the world". (quoted in Crabgrass Frontier, 275)

Headquarters of the Prudential in late 19th century.

Newark was bustling in the early to mid 20th century. It had four flourishing department stores – Hahne & Company, L. Bamberger and Company, L.S. Plaut and Company, and Kresge's (later known as K-Mart). "Broad Street today is the Mecca of visitors as it has been through all its long history," Newark merchants boasted, "they come in hundreds of thousands now when once they came in hundreds."

In 1922, Newark had 63 live theaters, 46 movie theaters, and an active nightlife. Dutch Schultz was killed in 1935 at the local Palace Bar. Billie Holiday frequently stayed at the Coleman Hotel. By some measures, the intersection of Market and Broad Streets – known as the "Four Corners" - was the busiest intersection in the United States, in terms of cars using it. In 1915, Public Service counted over 280,000 pedestrian crossings in one thirteen hour period. Eleven years later, on October 26th 1926, a State Motor Vehicle Department check at the Four Corners counted 2,644 trolleys, 4,098 buses, 2657 taxis, 3474 commercial vehicles, 23,571 automobiles. Beautiful new skyscrapers going up every year, the two tallest being the forty story Art Deco National Newark Building and the Lefcourt-Newark Building. In 1948, just after WWII, Newark hit its peak population, of just under 450,000.

Post-WWII Era

But, underneath the industrial hum, problems existed. In 1930, a City Commissioner had told a local booster club, the Optimists,

Newark is not like the city of old. The old, quiet residential community is a thing of the past, and in its place has come a city teeming with activity. With the change has come something unfortunate – the large number of outstanding citizens who used to live within the community's boundaries has dwindled. Many of them have moved to the suburbs and their home interests are there.

Most New Jerseyans attribute Newark's demise to post-WWII phenomena - the 1967 riots, the construction of the New Jersey Turnpike, I-280 and I-78, decentralization of manufacturing, the GI Bill, and the general pro-suburban fiscal order, but Newark's relative decline actually began long before that. In 1909, Newark had 20% of all jobs in NJ, by 1939 only 11%. The city budget fell from $58 million in 1938, to only $45 million in 1944, despite the wartime boom and an increase in the tax rate from $4.61 to $5.30. Even in 1944, before anyone predicted the rise of the Sunbelt or the GI Bill, planners saw problems on Newark's horizon.

Some attribute Newark's downfall to building so many housing projects, but Newark always had bad housing. The 1944 city-commissioned study showed that 31% of all Newark dwelling units were below standards of health, and only 17% of Newark’s units were owner-occupied. Vast sections of Newark were just wooden tenements, and at least 5,000 units failed to meet any thresholds of being a decent place to live, almost all being occupied by African-Americans. Clearly, bad housing predated government intervention in the housing market.

One theory, postulated by Kenneth Jackson and others, was that Newark, and other northern cities, had always had a situation where a poor center was surrounded by middle-class outlying areas. Newark only did well when it was able to annex middle-class suburbs. When municipal annexation broke down, urban problems developed, since now the middle-class edge was divorced from the poor center. In 1900, Newark’s mayor had had confidently thought out loud, "East Orange, Vailsburg, Harrison, Kearny, and Belleville would be desirable acquisitions. By an exercise of discretion we can enlarge the city from decade to decade without unnecessarily taxing the property within our limits, which has already paid the cost of public improvements." Of those towns, only Vailsburg would ever be added.

Although numerous problems predated WWII, Newark was indeed hamstrung by a number of trends in the post-WWII era. The FHA (Federal Housing Administration) redlined virtually all of Newark, preferring to back up mortgages in the lily white suburbs. Manufacturers set up in lower wage environments and could receive bigger tax deductions for building an entirely new factory in outlying areas than for rehabilitating and old factory in a city. Billed as transportation improvements, pure and simple, I-280, the New Jersey Turnpike, and I-78, harmed Newark as well. They directly hurt the city by tearing the fabric of the neighborhoods they went though, and indirectly hurt the city by allowing middle class people to live elsewhere.

Despite its problems, Newark did try in the post-War era. Prudential and Mutual Benefit were successfully enticed to stay and build new offices, and Rutgers-Newark and Seton Hall expanded their Newark presences, with the former building a brand-new campus on a 23 acre urban renewal site. The Port of New York Authority (Port Authority of New York – New Jersey made Newark the first container port in the nation and turned swamps in the south of the city into one of the ten busiest airports in the nation.

Even though it was not the sole cause of Newark's tragedy, Newark made some serious mistakes with public housing and urban renewal. Across administrations, the city leaders of Newark saw the federal government's offer to pay for 100% of the costs of housing projects as a blessing. While other cities were skeptical about putting so many poor and socially dysfunctional individuals together and thus were cautious in building housing projects, Newark avidly pursued federal dollars. Eventually, Newark would have a higher percentage of its residents in public housing than any other American city.

The Italian North Ward was one of the hardest hit by urban renewal. A 46 acre tract, labelled a slum because it was so dense, was torn down for multi-storey Le Corbusier-style high rises, to be known as the Christopher Columbus Homes. The tract had contained 8th Avenue, the commercial heart of the neighborhood. Fifteen small-scale blocks were reduced to three "superblocks." "As one First Warder put it, 'those projects killed the Ward. It was over after that.' Another First Warder, commenting on the project's size, put it even more bluntly: 'They built monsters down there.'" The Columbus Homes were never in harmony with the rest of the neighborhood, were abandoned in the 1970s, and torn down in 1994. (Immerso)

As pesticides and mechanization reduced the need for cheap labor in the South, 5 million of blacks migrated to northern cities between 1940 and 1970s, Newark being no exception. From 1950 to 1960, while Newark saw its overall population drop from 438,000 to 408,000, it gained 65,000 non-whites. By 1966, Newark was majority non-white, a faster turnover than most other northern cities experienced.

Southern Blacks and Puerto Ricans were moving to Newark to be industrial workers, just as the industrial jobs were drying up. Newark blacks left poverty in the South to find poverty in the North. Political power also lagged numbers for Newark's black community. In 1967, when 70% of Newark's students were black, Mayor Hugh Addonizio refused to appoint a black secretary to the Board of Education. More importantly, Mayor Addonizio offered, without consulting any residents of the neighborhood to be affected, to condemn and raze for the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey 150 acres of a densely populated black neighborhood in the central ward. (UMDNJ had wanted to settle in suburban Madison.)

The poverty and lack of political power contributed to a growing radicalization of Newark's black population. On July 12, 1967 there were scuffles between blacks and Police in the fourth ward. Damage for the night was only $2,500. However, following television news broadcasts on July 13, new, larger riots took place. Twenty-six people were killed, 1,500 wounded, 1,600 arrested, and $10 million in property destroyed. More than a thousand businesses were torched or looted, including 167 groceries, most never to reopen. Newark's reputation suffered dramatically. Tens of thousands of whites moved out. Middle class areas like Weequaic went from middle class white to black poor overnight. It was said "wherever American cities are going, Newark will get there first."

Post-Riots and Today

Newark saw a continued decline in the 1970s and 80s. Whites continued to move out of the city, and African-Americans and Puerto Ricans in the city became poorer and more socially isolated. Whenever the media of New York needed to find some example of urban despair, they traveled to Newark. In short, Newark had gone from being the city where they made everything, to the car theft capital of the nation.

A January 1975 an article in Harper's Magazine ranked the 50 largest American cities in twenty-four categories, ranging from park space to crime. Newark was one of the five worst in 19 out of twenty four categories, and the very worst in nine. Only 70% of Newarkers even owned a phone. The city ranked second worst, St. Louis, was much farther from Newark than the cities in the top five were from each other. The article concluded:

The city of Newark stands without serious challenge as the worst [city] of all. It ranked among the worst cities in no fewer than nineteen of twenty-four categories, and it was dead last in nine of them. . . Newark is a city that desperately needs help." (Harper’s, January 1975)

This isn’t to say that Newark had no achievements in the two and a half decades after the riots. In 1968, the New Community Corporation was founded, one of the most successful community building organizations in the nation. In 1987, the NCC would own and manage 2,265 low-income housing units.

Newark’s downtown also saw group in the post-riot decades. Less than two weeks after the riots, Prudential announced plans to underwrite a $24 million office complex near Penn Station – dubbed "Gateway." Today the Gateway hosts thousands of white-collar workers, though few live in Newark, and the buildings themselves were not designed with consideration for pedestrians.

Before the riots, there had been an issue over where the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey would be built, the suburbs or Newark. The riots, and Newark’s undeniable desperation, made definite that the medical school would be in Newark. However, instead of being built on 167 acres, the medical school would be built on just 60, part of which was already city owned. Today, UMDNJ does employ thousands of people in Newark, but a high percentage of them live outside the city itself, as do most of the medical students.

In terms of politics, Newark had elected one of the first African-American mayors in the nation in 1970, Kenneth Gibson, and the 1970s was a time of battles between Gibson and the shrinking white population. In North Newark, Anthony "Tough Tony" Imperiale represented the white backlash. Imperiale initially won fame by organizing the defense of the North Ward during the riots, and had an unsuccessful run at the mayorship.

Newark’s taxes steadily rose, even today the average Newarker pays over 13% of his income in taxes, versus about 8% for the average Chicagoan. Newark’s mayor, Kenneth Gibson admitted "Newark may be the most decayed and financially crippled city in the nation." The higher taxes may have been necessarily to pay for necessities like schools and sanitation, but they did nothing for Newark’s economic base. (Newark, 339) The State of New Jersey might have been more sympathetic, but it was hard to justify aid when Mayor Gibson and the city council were continually voting themselves raises.

Newark elected a new mayor in 1986, Sharpe James. James has been a tireless promoter of the city in the media and in the State Senate, but he is criticized for his high salary (over $200,000 a year) and the corruption that he tolerates.

In the 1990s Newark benefited from the soaring national economy and from huge increases in state aid for education. Its population drop was the smallest since the 1940s.

The New Jersey Performing Arts Center opened in the downtown area in 1997, and in just a few years has brought 1.6 million people to Newark who might never have visited otherwise. NJPAC is known for its acoustics and the diversity of entertainment, from "Itzhak Perlman to 'N Sync, Lauryn Hill to the Vienna Choir Boys, the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra Amsterdam to the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater." Newark also established a minor league baseball team, the revived Newark Bears, but the stadium has been less successful than NJPAC.

It is difficult to say how much of Newark’s 1990s Renaissance is real and how much is hype. Downtown contains an amazing amount of vacant property and is deserted at night. Elsewhere the crime rate has stayed high.

In any case, Newark does seem to have turned a corner.


Downtown Newark is not laid out on a grid, making it a pleasure to explore. Fans of Beaux-Arts can look at the Veterans’ Administration building, the Newark Museum, the Newark Public Library, and the Cass Gilbert designed Essex County Courthouse. Fans of Art-Deco can visit one of several 20s era skyscrapers, like 1180 Raymond Boulevard or the intact Newark Penn Station. Fans of gothic architecture can visit the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart by Branch Brook Park, one of the largest gothic cathedrals in the United States, and supposedly having stained glass to equal that of Chartres. For public sculpture, Newark has two works by Gutzon Borglum, Wars of America in Military Park and Seated Lincoln in front of the Essex County Courthouse.

The Newark Museum is overshadowed by museums in New York City. The museum would probably be more well known if it was located away from the great metropolis. The Newark Museum is a fine general museum, its American collection is first class, and its Tibetan collection is considered one of the best in the world.

Newark is also home to the New Jersey Historical Society. The NJHS rotates exhibits on New Jersey and Newark.

Newark is the location of one of the three campuses of Rutgers University; the New Jersey Institute of Technology; Seton Hall University's School of Law; and one campus of University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey.


Newark is located at 40°44'7" North, 74°11'6" West (40.735201, -74.184938)1.

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 67.2 km² (26.0 mi²). 61.6 km² (23.8 mi²) of it is land and 5.6 km² (2.2 mi²) of it is water. The total area is 8.36% water.


As of the census of 2000, there are 273,546 people. The population density is 11,400 per sq mile, or 21,000 per sq mile once airport, railroad, and seaport lands are excluded, one of the highest in the nation.

The racial makeup of the city is 26.52% White, 53.46% African American, 0.37% Native American, 1.19% Asian, 0.05% Pacific Islander, 14.05% from other races, and 4.36% from two or more races. 29.47% of the population are Hispanic or Latino of any race.

There are 91,382 households out of which 35.2% have children under the age of 18 living with them, 31.0% are married couples living together, 29.3% have a female householder with no husband present, and 32.2% are non-families. 26.6% of all households are made up of individuals and 8.8% have someone living alone who is 65 years of age or older. The average household size is 2.85 and the average family size is 3.43.

In the city the population is spread out with 27.9% under the age of 18, 12.1% from 18 to 24, 32.0% from 25 to 44, 18.7% from 45 to 64, and 9.3% who are 65 years of age or older. The median age is 31 years. For every 100 females there are 94.2 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there are 91.1 males.

The median income for a household in the city is $26,913, and the median income for a family is $30,781. Males have a median income of $29,748 versus $25,734 for females. The per capita income for the city is $13,009. 28.4% of the population and 25.5% of families are below the poverty line. Out of the total people living in poverty, 36.6% are under the age of 18 and 24.1% are 65 or older.