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Newtown Historic Association collection on Newtown anniversaries


Held at: Newtown Historic Association [Contact Us]Centre Avenue and Court Street, Newtown, Pennsylvania

This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the Newtown Historic Association. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in their reading room, and not digitally available through the web.

Overview and metadata sections

Newtown traces its roots back to William Penn, who purchased 5,000 acres (20 km2) from the Lenni Lenape Indians in 1683. Situated where the Neshaminy River and the Newtown Creek meet, Penn named this land my "New Town," which gradually evolved to Newtown.

According to tradition, Penn had his surveyor Thomas Holme lay out Newtown in a fan shape of 16 tracts radiating out from a central square or common. Each land owner received a town lot of 20 to 50 acres that bordered on the common and a much larger country lot that ran from the town lot to the edge of the township. Newtown developed and prospered as an agricultural, industrial and trade center. Excellent examples of most styles of architecture can be seen in its buildings and structures.

Newtown served as the County Seat of Bucks County from 1726 until 1813, when the Court was moved to Doylestown. In 1838, the area comprising the commercial center, plus a number of homes, was incorporated into Newtown Borough. The Borough was enlarged four times since 1838 and now includes 640 acres.

Today, Newtown Township surrounds Newtown Borough and each has its own form of government. Newtown Borough is governed by a Mayor and a six member Borough Council, who are elected to serve four year terms. Newtown Township is governed by a five member Board of Supervisors; members are elected to serve 6 year terms.

An historic district was first established in 1969. In 1985, the Historic District was enlarged and added to the National Register of Historic Places. Today, Newtown still retains the much of its historic character.

Newtown Borough established anniversary committees and organized celebrations for its 275th, 300th, and 325th anniversaries in 1959, 1984, and 2009 respectively as well as for the U.S. Bicentennial in 1976. A significant part of these celebrations was the play "Sweet Land" about the history of Newtown, written by William Hodapp for Newtown's 275th anniversary, and staged for all three anniversaries. Richard S. Burdick wrote the 1983 version; the 2009 version was produced by Newtown Arts Company President Nancy Pickering with an epilogue authored and directed by Newtown resident James Banar. The play is "a compilation of 15 seven to nine minute historical vignettes pertaining to Newtown's past and present that were woven together to illustrate Newtown's rich historical tapestry." (Herring)


Quoted text from Herring, Jessica. "'Sweet Land' Brings the Rich History of Newtown to Life." The Advance. September 2, 2009. Accessed February 21, 2013.

Borough of Newtown. "History." Accessed January 29, 2013.

Mayer, Thomas. A History of Land Ownership Newtown, Bucks County, Pennsylvania 1683-1850. Bedminster, PA: Adams Apple Press, 1999.

Newtown Township. “History” Accessed October 10, 2013.

The collection consists largely of materials relating to "Sweet Land" and the productions of the play for Newtown's 275th, 300th, and 325th anniversary celebrations in 1959, 1984, and 2009 as well as for the U.S. Bicentennial in 1976. These include tickets, broadsides, playbills, objects, a VHS tape, several copies of the script, programs, watercolor designs for the stage scenery, photographs, multiple copies of sheet music from the 1984 production, and scrapbooks.

The collection also documents other aspects of the anniversary celebrations with materials such as correspondence, planning documents, financial papers including checks and receipts, insurance papers, ephemera, and scrapbooks of clippings, ephemera, and a small amount of correspondence.

Also included in the collection are materials relating to "Voices of Newtown," an oral history project conducted by the Newtown Tricentennial Committee in 1983 and 1984 for the town's 300th anniversary. The committee recorded narrative talks on the places and people of Newtown on audiocassette tapes. There are also a few typed partial transcripts of the audiocassettes and an index.

An item-level inventory for this collection is available in a database on-site.

Oral histories were a gift of the Newtown Tricentennial Committee. Many of the "Sweet Land" materials were a gift of Mr. and Mrs. Harold Smith. The Tricentennial Collection was donated by the Chairman of the Tricentennial Committee, Mary Ford.

Summary descriptive information on this collection was compiled in 2012-2014 as part of a project conducted by the Historical Society of Pennsylvania to make better known and more accessible the largely hidden collections of small, primarily volunteer run repositories in the Philadelphia area. The Hidden Collections Initiative for Pennsylvania Small Archival Repositories (HCI-PSAR) was funded by a grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

This is a preliminary finding aid. No physical processing, rehousing, reorganizing, or folder listing was accomplished during the HCI-PSAR project.

Detailed, computerized inventories of all of the items in this collection are available on site at the repository where this collection is held; please contact Newtown Historic Association directly for more information.

Newtown Historic Association
Finding Aid Author
Finding aid prepared by Celia Caust-Ellenbogen and Faith Charlton through the Historical Society of Pennsylvania's Hidden Collections Initiative for Pennsylvania Small Archival Repositories
This preliminary finding aid was created as part of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania's Hidden Collections Initiative for Pennsylvania Small Archival Repositories. The HCI-PSAR project was made possible by a grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
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