by Amy Curry, Executive Director
July 20, 2021
Across the US in late 1945, and with the formal end of WWII just weeks before, civic and national pride were at a fever pitch. In consideration of all our country had been through and the sacrifices made by hundreds of thousands of civilians, it was well recognized that these were historic times. It comes as no surprise then that people were coalescing around an idea of preserving and celebrating history – our shared history. On a Tuesday night in early December 1945, Morris County Historical Society was formally established to do just that!
Temporary Chairman Melvin Weig, Assistant Research Technician at Morristown National Historical Park, was well-suited to both advocate for and lead the fledgling organization, which quickly amassed a membership of over 200 people. Early rolls read like a “who’s who” of the local community, and donations for the new collection came from as far away as Texas (including the Revolutionary War saber pictured above donated in 1946). As fate would have it, some of those very early donations would come to be featured in our current exhibit, A Storied Past: History that Made Morris County, 75 years later.
From 1946 to 1971, activities consisted of lectures, presentations, and “pilgrimages” (driving tours of Morris County focused around a theme). MCHS began publishing works and research, an exercise recently reinitiated by way of our weekly blog posts. Jacob Ford, Jr.’s gunpowder mill was investigated in the early 1970s (and again recently backed the power of 21st century technology and funded by one of the many dozens of grants received over the years).
Mary Crane Hone’s gift of Acorn Hall in 1971, however, proved the most significant turning point for our organization’s growth into one of NJ’s most respected historical societies. Home to our extensive collections, archives, and headquarters, the Hall is the backdrop for our exhibits and allows us the rare opportunity to illustrate mid-19th century cultural history surrounded by original fine and decorative arts.
Since 1971, our collections have grown to include over 15,000 objects, some priceless and absolute gems of local and state history. Our exhibits and restoration of historic resources have garnered local and state attention and grant funding. In addition to hosting hundreds of events at the Hall, MCHS representatives have presented at community events, conferences, and in front of the NJ Legislature. 75 years later, the vision of that December 1945 meeting is still going strong, and if past performance is any indication of future success, the next 75 years are going to be amazing!