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Photo Exhibit at Dana Library: Newark's Ironbound in Late 1930's

For two months, visitors to Rutgers-Newark's Dana Library can look back in time to a very different Newark, during a trying time in the nation's history, the Great Depression.

"Faces of the Ironbound: Newark 1913 - 1939" is an extraordinary collection of some two-dozen photos by American photographer William Cotton, whose camera captured the lives of poor and middle-class Americans, especially children. The collection also includes a couple of self-portraits, and another photographer's view of Cotton at work. The exhibition will be on display at the Dana Library at 185 University Ave., Newark, from Oct. 3 through Dec.14.

For exhibition viewing hours, contact the Dana Library Administration by phone at 973/353-5222 or by email at

Cotton, a student of Berenice Abbott and Paul Strand, recorded the photos in "Newark 1937-1939" while supporting himself by working in the stacks at the Newark Public Library and in the federal food stamp project, before joining the W.P.A. (Works Progress Administration) during the Depression. "Cotton was a quiet and observant photographer who recorded working class people with the delicacy of one who is acutely acquainted with hard physical labor as well as intellectual engagement," according to Barbara Head Millstein, curator of the Brooklyn Museum of Art.

Cotton, a Paterson, N.J., native, graduated from Newark State Teachers College (now Kean College of New Jersey) in 1938, and continued to live and work in Newark. Cotton liked to roam the streets and photograph the people he saw, making him a "street photographer" before that term was coined, notes his wife, Cornelia Cotton, of Croton-on-the-Hudson, N.Y. The photographer died in 1992.

Cotton is one of those artists "who recorded the greatest social and economic changes of the last century," and his photos reflect "his own great sensitivity to the plight of impoverished children while recording their stoicism and dignity," says Millstein. Cotton's photos are part of the permanent collections of The Brooklyn Museum of Art and the National Gallery of Canada.

Dana Library is wheelchair-accessible, as is the Rutgers-Newark campus. Rutgers-Newark can be reached by New Jersey Transit buses and trains, the PATH train and Amtrak from New York City, and by Newark City Subway. Metered parking is available on University Avenue and at Rutgers-Newark's public parking garage, at 200 University Ave.

Driving directions are available online at:

Story by Carla Capizzi, Office of Campus Communications, Rutgers-Newark

Posted Oct. 16, 2000