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Preserving the Historic Landscape of NJ: The Walker Atlas at the Hoboken Public Library

20 Feb

Greetings from the local history department at Hoboken Library! I’ve been hard at work preserving some of our most delicate items before we begin upcoming library renovations, and I’d like to highlight one in particular this month that I’m very fond of!

In 1876, an atlas of Bergen County, New Jersey was produced by A.H. Walker and published by his successor, C.C. Pease, out of Reading Publishing House in Reading, PA. The Walker Atlas of Bergen County, as the book has come to be known, was only printed once, which has naturally added to its allure for collectors and historians alike. In particular, an intact Walker Atlas in good condition is a holy grail of sorts for people passionate about New Jersey history, as it provides both invaluable historical information about the development of Bergen County. Finding an intact Walker, however, is incredibly difficult due to the fact that the maps and illustrative lithographs were valued for their artistic merits and were often pilfered. Walker Atlases were frequently dismantled, their contents sold separately, often framed to be displayed as art on the wall.

When I first came on board as the local history librarian/archivist back in May of 2018, I noticed that we had a Walker Atlas in the collection. Once I was more settled in and had completed my first major project, digitizing the vertical files, I decided that my next move would be to protect the Walker Atlas that we had as best as I could before renovations, so I called in the best Walker Atlas expert I knew; the fact that he happens to be my dad should tell you pretty much everything you need to know about my family and what we’re interested in as people. Although we had a completely intact Walker, it was coming apart and the pages were incredibly brittle. Note for those of you with rare books of your own at home: keep them dry, but also keep them cool.

I wasn’t about to let this Walker take damage, and I wanted it to be in a condition that would allow it to be handled by researchers without putting it at risk. That’s where archival sleeves come in; Mylar archival sleeves act in a way similar to lamination, but they’re a lot less dangerous to the materials, as laminating exposes them to heat. Generally, archivists will tell you to avoid laminating things at all costs – instead, slide them into acid-free mylar sleeves, which are both removable (in case something better comes along) and don’t risk damaging the materials you’re protecting.

It hurt my heart to do it, but I had to remove what was left of the binding of the Walker Atlas. Sometimes the best thing you can do to preserve a book of historic importance is to take it apart, especially when it’s printed on acidic paper to begin with and the binding is falling apart on you. Once the pages were separated, I took each one and placed it in its own separate sleeve. The pages are acidic, so sleeving them separately from one another prevents them from breaking each other down more. With all 167 pages safely sleeved, I returned the dismantled but much safer atlas to its acid-free archival box, and it was good to go!

Our Walker Atlas is now available for researchers to see for themselves! If anyone is interested in viewing this amazing piece of 19th century New Jersey history, please make an appointment with the history department by emailing or calling the library and I’ll be more than happy to pull it out for you to peruse at your discretion! I’m very proud of it and I’m incredibly excited to share it with the researching public.

Stay tuned for another update from the history department next month!

Have a Hoboken History Related question?  Email us at reference @ hoboken.bccls.org

Written by:
Steph Diorio
Local History Librarian/Archivist at the Hoboken Public Library

Diplomacy and Baseball: A Peak inside HPL’s Vertical Files

25 Jan

This is the first in a series of monthly blog posts that give insight into Hoboken History by taking a look at materials in our History Collection.

Ambassadors profiles.jpg

Image Courtesy of the Jersey Journal

In the summer of 1988, a group of teenage boys from Hoboken was tasked with a very important diplomatic mission. The boys, all 14 and 15 years old, were members of a baseball team traveling to the Soviet Union to play the game abroad and hopefully improve relations between Soviet and American youth. The team, renamed the Hoboken Ambassadors for the trip, embarked on a multi-city tour of the Soviet Union, playing multiple Soviet teams (usually made up of players several years older than them), exploring the country, and eating unusual foods, and the entire journey was dutifully reported day by day in both the Jersey Journal and Hudson Dispatch.

Baseball in the Soviet Union wasn’t the most fun part of the trip – the Ambassadors went undefeated against players who were physically stronger and older than they were, but lacked the baseball experience that they had – but the boys reported that they greatly enjoyed meeting the people in the three cities they stopped at on their whirlwind tour, Moscow, Kiev, and Tblisi. This was perhaps the actual most important part of their trip, as they were serving as cultural envoys for the United States at a crucial time in the history of the Cold War (Perestroika was well underway and Reagan’s “tear down this wall” speech had occurred approximately one year before the tour). The Ambassadors all spoke to how meaningful the trip was for them and how friendly and accommodating the Soviets they met were, although there were definitely some things left to be desired: second baseman Rickey Huggins stated the first thing he wanted to do upon arriving home was “going to White Castle,” whilst infielder/pitcher Blair Degaeta Jr. planned to “go to Biggie’s and order a cheesesteak and fries.”

The Hoboken Ambassadors vertical file has been completely digitized and, along with 286 other subject files, can be found on the Hoboken Public Library website. To read the Ambassadors’ entire story chronologically, go here: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1W1t2Nnk4oLsC9lGNpa2eVk4L8j_60nvo/view

If you’re more interested in other historical subjects, all 287 vertical files can be perused at your leisure here: https://hobokenlibrary.org/history-collection/hoboken-vertical-files/

Hoboken Library cardholders can also access full back issues of new and older newspapers online including the Jersey Journal from NewsBank.

Love Baseball?  Stop by the library on Saturday, January 26 at noon, for A Society for American Baseball Research Meet Greet and Lecture.

Written By:
Steph Diorio
Local History Librarian/Archivist

Steph loves writing and talking about the collections under her care, so feel free to ask her to talk about any of the historical materials at the library and setup a research appointment.

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