Lettering Walk in Newark

Flaking gold leaf business address. Newark, New Jersey. Photograph by Paul Shaw (

Flaking gold leaf business address in Newark. Photograph by Paul Shaw (2005)

Detail of the cast lettering on the facade of The Federal Trust Company building (1926).

Detail of the cast lettering on the facade of The Federal Trust Company building (1926) in Newark. Photograph by Paul Shaw (2005).

CooperType is holding the second annual Typographics conference between  June 13 and 23. To complement the tours scheduled for Sunday, June 19, I will be leading a lettering tour of Newark, New Jersey.

Sunday, June 19
10 am to 2 pm
$25; $20 for students
maximum of 15 people

Founded in 1666 by colonists intent on setting up a Puritan theocracy (new ark), Newark is the largest city in New Jersey and the state’s industrial center. Its population boomed from the middle of the 19th century until the Great Depression. At its height in 1930, Newark had 442,337 residents making it the 18th biggest city in the United States. Since then, the population has dropped precipitously, flattening out at about 277,000 today. Newark’s decline began with the Great Depression, was worsened by the general loss of manufacturing jobs in the North over the following two decades and then exacerbated by white flight, especially following the riots of 1967.

The result of this boom and bust is that Newark has a remarkable collection of outstanding buildings, both big and little, in its core. Many of them are in disrepair and various stages of decrepitude, but nevertheless they are still standing.* And in many cases they are replete with wonderful lettering from the first half of the 20th century of the sort that is rapidly disappearing in New York. Newark has Art Deco, ghost signs, neon, Lombardic capitals, classic Roman capitals, scripts and more. The usual panoply of any American city that was prosperous in the first half of the 20th century. The city even has its own small subway and light rail system with some excellent lettering.

Newark may be in another state, but it is closer to Manhattan than the farthest reaches of the Bronx, Brooklyn and Queens. It is less than an hour away from the downtown New York by PATH train.

To sign up for the tour email paulshaw@nyc.rr.com. Payment is either via PayPal or by cash. Information about the meeting point and planned itinerary will be sent out to participants a few days before the tour.

Detail of the sign for S. Klein, a major retailer in Newark.

Detail of the sign for the Newark branch of S. Klein, the New York City department store popularly known as S. Klein on the Square. The Newark store was closed in 1976 and the building demolished in 2013. Photograph by Paul Shaw 2005.

*This detail of the S. Klein department store sign is a reminder that even Newark has lost some of its glories in recent years.