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Library of Congress to get journals from 19th Century Newark high school students

The Library of Congress is getting an historic donation from Newark’s Barringer High School — handwritten and illustrated journals from students in the 1800s when the school was known as Newark High School.

82-year-old Sal DiGerlando was an art teacher there from 1965 to 2010. He said the journals, unbeknownst to anyone, were locked in a safe. One day in 1969, he said, their last chapter was almost written.

“Nobody had the combination to the safe, and so they were gonna throw it out, and he (the principal) said, ‘No, I want to find out what’s inside it,’ and so they opened the safe and there they found these journals, so they could have been destroyed,” he said.

Pat Restaino was the principal at the time. He saw the safe being wheeled away. Restaino first considered sending the journals to Rutgers, but there was no climate controlled location there for the fragile pages. So they’re heading down to DC this summer.

DiGerlando and others have been working to digitize the journals since 2011 so the originals could be kept somewhere safe and on display.

The students wrote and illustrated their journals, giving us a glimpse into what their lives were like as school kids in the 19th century.

"This class took a class trip to the village of Belleville and along the way they found a stray horse and the teacher got on the horse and then the kids walked to the village of Belleville. Fascinating,” said DiGerlando.

He said bad behavior was not tolerated.

“They got flogged, flogging was the way they did it,” he said. “In the early 19th century, teachers were picked for their size more than their educational background because they had to be big enough to handle these kids.”

Janice Kirkel is a lifelong award-winning journalist who has done everything from network newscasts to national and local sports reports to business newscasts to specialized reporting and editing in technical areas of business and finance such as bankruptcy, capital structure changes and reporting on the business of the investment business.