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Ronald L. Rice Collection

Identifier: MG NWK Rice (Main)

Scope and Contents

Ronald L. Rice was the map archivist of the Canal Society of New Jersey when he donated this material in 2022. Rice has a long-standing interest in the history of the Morris Canal, which ran through Northern New Jersey for 102 miles for a century, until being decommissioned in 1924.

Rice conducts walking tours of the former canal path. Much of this material was used as research for these tours. The material was also used for a book Rice co-authored, Field Guide to the Morris Canal of New Jersey (a Greenway in the Making), published in 2015.

Included are news clippings, maps, photocopies of pages from books, notes, and other material related to the Morris Canal and associated topics.

Included in the collection are a few financial records from the former Essex County Jail on Lock Street in Newark. Rice discovered these documents while touring the abandoned jail site several years ago.


  • Publication: 1900 - 2000

Conditions Governing Use

Researchers wishing to publish, reproduce, or reprint materials from this collection must obtain permission.

Biographical / Historical

From the web site of the Canal Society of New Jersey:

In 1824 the Morris Canal & Banking Company (MC&BC) was chartered to build a canal that would carry coal, mined in Pennsylvania, to developing markets along the eastern seaboard. The canal would pass through the heart of New Jersey’s iron district and provide the long-needed transportation system that would create new commercial activity and enable rustic settlements like Dover and Rockaway to grow into thriving industrial towns. The canal opened for business in 1831 and then, in 1836, was expended from Newark to New York Harbor at Jersey City.

When completed, the canal extended 102 miles across the rugged highlands of New Jersey, from Phillipsburg on the Delaware River, uphill to its summit level near Lake Hopatcong, and then down to Jersey City. To accomplish this, a system of 23 lift locks and 23 inclined planes were built to overcome the impressive elevation change of 1,674 feet. The canal’s famous water-powered inclined planes were an engineering marvel that enabled canal boats to be raised or lowered up to 100 feet at a time.

Mule-drawn canal boats transported up to 70 tons of cargo and took five days to cross the state. In the heyday of the canal, hundreds of boats carried everything from coal and iron ore to agricultural products. As New Jersey’s first industrial transportation system, the canal promoted commerce and shaped the economic development of the northern part of the state.

By the early 1900s the canal had become obsolete. However, it took until 1924 to adopt a plan to close and dismantle the canal. The ownership of the canal’s vast water resources, including Lake Hopatcong, Lake Musconetcong, and Greenwood Lake, passed to the state of New Jersey. Today, the Morris Canal Greenway, a partnership between local communities and the Canal Society of New Jersey, seeks to preserve the surviving historic remains of the canal, interpret canal sites, and offer recreational opportunities to the public.


.21 Linear Feet (1 half Hollinger box)

Language of Materials



This small collection of material deals with the Morris Canal in Newark and the Newark City Subway, which was built in the bed of the canal after it shut down. It was donated by Ronald L. Rice, the map archivist of the Canal Society of New Jersey, who has a long-standing interest in the history of the now-defunct Morris Canal. The collection also includes some records from the former Essex County Jail on Lock Street in Newark, which once stood alongside the canal.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Donated by Ronald L. Rice, June 2022

Separated Materials

Morris Canal 1: Brochures: a binder containing brochures about the Morris Canal released by the Canal Society of New Jersey. Cataloged, and added to the book collection.

Several issues of two periodicals: On The Level and Relections on the Morris Canal. Added to the NJ Reference periodical collection.

Morris Canal Hike in Bloomfield by Ron Rice and Rich Rockwell [n.d]. Cataloged and added to book collection.

Map and Illustrations of the Morris Canal Water Parkway by the Morris Canal Parkway Association (1914; reprinted 1975). Cataloged, and added to book collection.

Processing Information

Rice donated the material in folders and a binder. The binder, which includes brochures about the Morris Canal, was separated from the collection and cataloged. The material in folders was refoldered. Rice's original organization was not changed.

Thomas Ankner
June 2022
Language of description
Script of description
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Repository Details

Part of the Charles F. Cummings New Jersey Information Center, Newark Public Library Repository

3rd Floor
Newark Public Library
5 Washington St.
Newark NJ 07102 United States