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Education In Plainfield - As Seen Through Historical Documents

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Many private schools have existed in Plainfield over the years, and the array of subjects taught has been far-reaching and surprising. As we look back, many of us would not recognize the names of some subjects. For example:
  • The School of Takigrafy, which existed in 1884, taught a form of shorthand invented by David Philip Lindsley and described in "The Hand Book of Takigrafy" in 1882.
  • A notice in the March 1, 1849 Plainfield Gazette invited ladies and gentlemen to a "lyceum program". It offered "a simple plan of work, four years of systematic home reading with occasional reports to a central committee" to enable participants to continue learning, as "it is never too late to learn."
  • 1878 saw the development of the Chautauqua Literary and Scientific Circle in Plainfield. In later years one could attend the Nancy Taylor Secretarial and Finishing School (1972) or the Switchboard Training School (1971). Telephone companies and most large companies had switchboards, which were operated manually by trained telephone operators.

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    Admission Ticket, Leal's School Football Team. 1904 X100007

    Leal's School Football Team

    Although the Wardlaw-Hartridge School is no longer located in Plainfield, it has a long history in our city. Founded in Plainfield as The Leal School for Boys in 1882, the school later became known as the Wardlaw School, after Charles Wardlaw purchased the school in 1916.

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    Hartridge School Play. 1939 C20403

Hartridge School Play


The Misses Scribner and Newton's School for Girls opened in 1884 and later became The Hartridge School when Miss Emelyn Hartridge became the school's Head and owner in 1903.

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Diploma, Muhlenberg Hospital Training School for Nurses. 1906 X100021

Muhlenberg Hospital Training School for Nurses

The Nursing Training School at Muhlenberg Hospital was established in 1894.

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Eliza E. Kenyon. 1908 X100012

Eliza E. Kenyon

Miss E. E. Kenyon was a major force in the education of "Young Ladies and Children" for many years. School scrapbooks owned by the library document some of that history.

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Miss Kenyon's Seminary. ca. 1910 X100013

Miss Kenyon's Seminary

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Postcard, Open Air School. n.d. C600

Open Air School

Cold showers were a part of the daily routine at the Open Air School for Anaemic Children which was opened by the
Anti-Tuberculosis League. Located on Muhlenberg Place, the school is believed to have come under the control of the
Plainfield Board of Education at a later point and closed around 1924.

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St. Mary's Parochial School. 1926 X100014

St. Mary's Parochial School

Education by religious institutions has been of great significance in Plainfield from its very earliest days. Quakers (members of the Religious Society of Friends) were the first teachers in the area. Roman Catholic, Baptist, Presbyterian, Seventh-day Adventist, and Hebrew schools are just some of the religious institutions that have prepared Plainfield youngsters for their careers.

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Hebrew Institute. 1926 X100015

Hebrew Institute

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French School. 1939 C20414

French School

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Muhlenberg Hospital Classroom. ca. 1953 X100022

Muhlenberg Hospital Classroom

The Plainfield Public Library houses a large amount of materials from the Muhlenberg Hospital Nurses Alumnae Association, including photographs, publications, documents and other records.

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Catalogue, duCret School of Art. 2002 X100016

duCret School of Art

Instruction in music, art, and dance has long been available to children and adults in Plainfield. The duCret School of Art began as the Van Emburgh School of Art in 1926 seeking "to prepare students for entry into a career in the visual arts."

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Donovan Soumas and Student. 2004 X100017

Donovan Soumas and Student

The Soumas Heritage School of Music opened in April 2000 and quickly achieved a fine reputation, offering adults and children instruction in voice and a large variety of musical instruments.

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All images shown are from materials held by the library, with some present-day photographs taken especially for this exhibit. Additional education-related images of schools and students may be viewed through the library's website.

Senior Librarian Jane Thoner researched the information and images for this exhibit and acquired additional material through contacts with school administrators and members of the public. We thank her for her perseverance and all of those who shared memories and memorabilia.

Viewers who can provide additional information or clarification about images and facts are invited to contact the Local History Room librarians at the Plainfield Public Library, 908-757-1111 ext.136.

Funding for this web-based exhibit has been made possible by the New Jersey Historical Commission, a division of Cultural Affairs in the Department of State, through a grant administered by the Union County Division of Cultural and Heritage Affairs. 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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