The HENRY L.
BONSALL School opened in 1914, during the
administration of Mayor
Charles H. Ellis, on Mount Ephraim Avenue in the Whitman Park
section of Camden, in response to the rapidly growing population in that
section of the city. It was one of many schools built in Camden during
the 32-year tenure of Dr.
James E. Bryan as superintendent of schools.
In 1912, the
board purchased land near Mount Ephraim Avenue
and Jackson Street, and on this
land, they erected the Henry L. Bonsall School, named for the school
district's long-time school superintendent, and appointed Mr. A. N.
Bean, a graduate of Dickinson College, as the school's first principal.
Because of ·numerous change orders and construction delays, the school
did not open until September 28, 1914.
Bonsall was for 35 years a journalist in South Jersey. He was born in
Philadelphia, in 1834, and at the age of 12, began working at the West
Jerseyman. By age 20, he was editing and publishing the American
Mechanic, a labor newspaper, in Philadelphia, and a few years later, he
was managing the Pennsylvania State Sentinel. Bonsall next established
the United States Mechanics Own, initially in Philadelphia, and then in
New York. At the outbreak of the Civil War, his paper had the largest
circulation of any labor journal in the country. He went to the war
front, and served as a war correspondent for the Philadelphia Inquirer.
At the end of the war, he founded the New Republic, a newspaper he
published in Camden. In 1875, he opened the Camden Daily Post, which merged with the Telegram in 1900. The combined
newspapers published under the new name of the Camden Post-Telegram. He
was also four times a member of the Legislature and for 11 years,
Camden's Superintendent of Schools. From 1898 to 1901, Bonsall was
Chairman of the Camden County Board of Elections. He died in his home in
Delair, New Jersey, in 1901, and was buried in the Evergreen Cemetery .
By 1921, it
was apparent that the school construction frenzy from the last decade
was still unable to keep up with the substantial, but slowing, influx of
immigrants and a steady stream of migrant southern Negroes into Camden.
This inundation coupled with the reduced need for young labor, swelled
the classrooms. To alleviate the overcrowding, the board initiated the
construction of new schools, additions to existing schools, and the
placement of portable classrooms on existing school property. (The
passage of federal immigration laws in 1921 and 1924 restricted the
number of European immigrants entering the United States, which led to
increased demand for African-American labor in the industrial North. The
south experienced a serious decline in cotton production that started
about 1923, and led to a large-scale movement of southern Negroes into
northern industrial centers, such as Camden.)
named Paul Davis the architect for additions to Whittier and Bonsall
Schools. Davis had previously been instrumental in designing Camden
High School, and had also been involved in the Parkside
School, George Washington School, and H.B.
Wilson school projects. The six-room addition to the Whittier was ready for students in
July 1922, and the Bonsall School addition was ready in October.
War II, Bonsall teachers and students were active in the War Bond and
stamp drives. The United Stats government award the Bonsall School a War
Minuteman Flag in February of 1943, for raising the largest amount in
total sale of war bonds and stamps, more than $92,480. The school topped
the $100,000 month the next month. It should be noted, with pride, that
New Jersey led the nation in per capital purchase of War Bonds and
stamps. By the end of the war Camden schools had collectively sold
$835,311.98 in bonds and stamps.
Bonsall school opened in September, 1914. It is considered a family
school, one in which pupils remain in the same school from kindergarten
through eighth grade. Today the school emphasizes the family in its
educational agenda, scheduling weekly classes and workshops for parents.
serves about 1,000 students from pre-kindergarten through 8th grade, in
its two buildings, the main building and an annex.
it must be noted that the complete deterioration of the
neighborhood that the Bonsall School serves has had its
effect. In 2003, Bonsall Family School, Camden High School and
East Camden Middle School were identified as three of the seven
"persistently dangerous" schools in New Jersey.