Preserving Monmouth County’s written history

Joint project puts Red Bank Register’s archive online

BY LINDA DeNICOLA Correspondent

Most people today don’t remember a time when the local newspaper provided the only source of information about what was happening in the community and, to a smaller extent, in the larger world.

The first issue of the Register was published June 27, 1878. The first issue of the Register was published June 27, 1878. Newspapers are the repositories of the past, and old issues can remind us of how much we have changed over time. InMonmouth County, one newspaper stands out as the voice of a community: the Red Bank Register, which was published from 1878 to 1991.

The Register started as a weekly newspaper with four pages and eventually became a daily broadsheet with highly regarded reporters and editors, before reverting to a weekly format and then closing for good in 1991 when the newspaper business went through many closings and consolidations. The newspaper was known as the Red Bank Register from 1878 through 1964; after that, it was known as the Daily Register.

Digitally archiving the Red Bank Register newspaper is a huge project, but one that provides a tremendous opportunity to make the past accessible well into the future. The Middletown and Red Bank libraries are undertaking the project of preserving Monmouth County history as reported in the Register.

The early years of the archive have already been completed and are up on the Web site With the application of the latest digital technology and the efforts of many individuals, users of the information superhighway will now be able to view online the entire archive of the community newspaper, said Nanette Knaster, public relations officer for the Middletown Public Library.

“To capture this time capsule of our region, Middletown Township Main Library and Red Bank Public Library have embarked on a collaborative effort to digitize the entire the Red Bank Register microfilm collection. Because of the complexity of this endeavor, the project has been broken down into four phases, the first of which has been completed,” Knaster said.

The first phase begins with the very first edition of the Red Bank Register, dated June 27, 1878, and continues through October 23, 1947, she said.

In that first issue, it is noted that the Red Bank Register was on sale at S.S. Sague’s news depot on Broad Street. The nameplate notes that the cost for the paper is $1.50 per year, and the first column on page one includes one-sentence briefs about who is doing what and where:

“Dr. E. Taylor, ofMiddletown, will haul out his steam yacht ‘Lulu’ at an early day.”

“The Rev. A. Sidney Dealy is spending a few days in town.”

“The proprietor of the VanTime’s Hotel at Fair Haven has a pet fox which attracts a great deal of attention.”

There is also a brief about the closing exercises forMrs. Finch’s Home School, an article about swordfish off Sandy Hook, a listing of what was happening in Colts Neck, and a column called “Notes from New York.”

Under the Colts Neck happenings, it is noted, “An old resident applied toMr. StuartA. Mathews, overseer of the poor, for assistance to reach his brother in Canada about two weeks ago.Mr.Mathews accompanied him to New York, bought a ticket for him, and saw him safely started on his journey.”

One hundred years ago, in the Feb. 19, 1908, issue, the front page reported the number of wills that were probated, residences that were sold, a masquerade ball, divorces and four Oceanport ice cutters who were hurt when a large cake of ice was dropped. The story is a comedy of errors, but not one that would be front-page news today. In addition, the story reports on the hazards of ice cutting, a job that doesn’t exist any longer.

“Accidents which followed each other in rapid succession one day last week laid up a party of four Oceanport ice cutters with injuries comprising a cut leg, a bruised foot, a strained back and frozen feet,” the article reports.

The article names the four men and goes on to explain: “A large cake of ice which Mr. Ferry was carrying dropped from the tongs and landed on his foot. The injured man dropped the tongs and jumped about on the ice on one foot, yelling with pain. Mr. Roades was near by. He was also carrying a pair of ice tongs. While he was watching Mr. Ferry’s antics, he felt a sharp pain in his leg. He had forgotten about his own tongs while he was watching Mr. Ferry, and the tongs had swung against his leg and had made two long gashes just above the knee. …

“In the meantime Mr. Haynes and Mr. VanBrackle had finished cutting the ice and had put it inMr. Garrigan’s ice house. In the early part of the day Mr. Haynes had been troubled with cold feet, but later they felt warm. When he got home they began paining him and a doctor who was called in told him they had been frozen.… After Mr. VanBrackle got home his back began to pain him. He had strained his back lifting heavy cakes of ice, and he was laid up for a time. All the injured men are now able to be about except Mr. Roades, who is still confined to the house.”

JoAnn Strano, assistant library director for theMiddletown Library, said the librarians are very excited about the archiving project.

“New technology enables us to not only preserve the information but also to index it. It will be so much easier to research the paper and retrieve information,” she said.

Strano explained that the libraries are working with an East Brunswick company called Innovative Document Imaging, which specializes in the digitization of microfilm. In addition, the company has Digi-Find-It, unique indexing software, she said.

“The exciting aspect of all this is that the newspaper can now be searched online by keyword or date, thus making it easy to retrieve historical information,” she said. “The company has equipment which can read and enhance the microfilm and then convert the images into Adobe PDF files. These files can then be read by an Adobe reader, which is freely available on the Internet.”

Strano said that the project is a collaborative effort between Middletown Township Public Library and Red Bank Public Library. A part of Red Bank Public Library’s contribution to phase one was a $2,000 donation from the Red Bank Rotary. Phases two and three have been funded by Middletown Township Public Library and will bring the project up to May 1973. Additional financial support is needed to complete the project in order to bring the digitization and indexing of the Red Bank Register to its final publication date of Nov. 13, 1991.

“An indexed digital local newspaper is of tremendous historical significance and will be a time-saving tool for all researchers,” said Middletown Library Director Susan O’Neal. “I’m excited and proud to offer this unique resource to the people of Middletown.”

She added that scholars, genealogists, students and the just plain curious will be able to access the archive to view the hard news and cultural landscape of the local area during specific time periods.

To continue the work of this historical project, interested individuals may make tax-deductible donations to the library. Checks for the RBR Archive may be mailed toMiddletown Township Public Library, 55 New Monmouth Road, Middletown, NJ 07748, or to the Red Bank Public Library, 84 W. Front St., Red Bank, NJ 07701.