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Education In Plainfield - As Seen Through Historical Documents

This web-based exhibit presents an overview of education in Plainfield. Plainfield's citizens have always valued education, yet many of the city's schools that existed over the past 150 years no longer exist today. Thanks to the resources of the Plainfield Public Library, their histories have not been lost, they are just waiting to be rediscovered.


  • How many students were in the first Plainfield High School graduating class of 1870?
  • Was Stillman School named in honor of Charles H. Stillman or William M. Stillman?
  • What is "Takigrafy"?
  • In what year did the first African-American student graduate from PHS?

The answers to these questions will be found in the exhibit text below.


Booklet, Origin of the Free Public School System of New Jersey, 1927.

In the 19th Century, Plainfield was at the forefront of early public education in New Jersey. Plainfield had one of the very first public schools in the state, as a result of a law in 1848 that established a "free school open to all and supported by taxation." This was the first such law to be found in the New Jersey statutes. The first high school in Union County was built in Plainfield. Dr. Charles H. Stillman and Mr. Elston Marsh led the efforts to provide free education to the youth of Plainfield. Stillman was elected the first Plainfield Superintendent of Schools in 1847. That year he opened two schools in Plainfield, one was in a cabinet shop and the other was in a hat shop.

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Commencement Ticket, Plainfield High School. 1875 X100069


In 1870, eight students were in the high school's first graduating class. In 1890, the first African-American graduated from PHS.

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Stillman School. n.d. C11284


Stillman School was named in honor of Charles H. Stillman

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Irving School. n.d. x100003


The Irving School was built on West Fourth Street in 1888. In the 1950's the Irving School was one of only four schools in the district to have a school library.

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Some Rules To Remember. n.d. X100004


Although the school no longer exists, the Irving School's guide to using library books still offers good advice.

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Bryant School. 1913 C615


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Plainfield High School Dedication Program. 1906 X100005


The "new" high school shown above is still standing, although it is no longer the primary high school building.

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Plainfield High School Mandolin Club. 1906 X100010


Music has been popular among high school students, from marching bands to symphony concerts. The library's collections reveal how tastes in music have changed over the years.

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Baseball Schedule, Plainfield High School. 1921 x100008


Sports have always been popular with students. Football and baseball souvenirs have been saved by community residents and donated to the library's archives.

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Basketball Team, Plainfield High School. ca.1920 C40604


The library's collection contains hundreds of photographs of various sports activities by students and adults throughout the 1900's. You will note how much sports uniforms have changed over the years.

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Twirling Team, Plainfield High School. 1962 X100099

Twirling Team

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Chart of Public School Buildings. 1951 X100002


At mid-century a study was conducted of all the public school buildings in the district. This chart is found in the 1951 edition of "Know your Schools!" issued by the Plainfield School Plant Analysis Committee. The report closely examined school facilities to help ensure a safe environment for students. Note that Hubbard and Maxson Schools were still elementary schools. There were no middle-grade schools at this time.

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Plainfield High School. 1972 X100006

Plainfield High School

The present Plainfield High School opened in 1970. In 2004, 412 students graduated.

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Queen City Academy. 2004 X100011


Charter schools were authorized by the New Jersey State Legislature in 1995. Queen City Academy was approved as a charter school in 1999 and opened in 2000 with an enrollment of 72 students. By 2005 the student body had grown to 198 students
in grades K through 8.

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Union County College. 2003 X100023

Union County College

On September 20, 2003 Union County College's Plainfield Campus was rededicated in celebration of its tenth anniversary. The building was familiar to Plainfielders for many years as the home of the Plainfield Courier-News.

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Images of art or photographs found on this website are not to be used in any manner without the expressed written permission of the Plainfield Public Library Board of Trustees as delegated to the Library Director.
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