Peter Peroni and the Chambersburg That Was

Authored by Joshua Melissari

Stapled letters between Trenton Free Public Library Director and author Peter Peroni
Correspondence between Peter Peroni and Veronica Cary, circa 1979, courtesy of the Trentoniana Collection of the Trenton Free Public Library.

Pictured above is a copy of correspondence from 1979 between the director of the Trenton Free Public Library, Ms. Veronica Cary, and local Trenton sociologist and historian, Mr. Peter Peroni II. The initial letter from Mr. Peroni urges the library to purchase his book, The Burg: An Italian-American Community at Bay in Trenton, which Ms. Cary subsequently agreed to purchase. This book was the first formal academic study on the Chambersburg neighborhood located in East Trenton. At the time of the book’s publication, Chambersburg was a working- and middle-class Italian neighborhood in a city that was shifting to an African-American and Hispanic majority. In 1980, a year after the publication of Mr. Peroni’s book, the population of  Trenton was about 46 % Non-Hispanic White, 45 % African-American, and 8 % Hispanic (Gibson and Jung 2005, 79). By contrast, the demographic makeup of Trenton in 2019 was 14 % Non-Hispanic White, 48 % African-American, and 36 % Hispanic (Data USA 2019). Like many American cities, the flight of White residents to suburbia was a major cultural and historical shift and is reflected in the materials in the collection of the Trentoniana archive in the Trenton Free Public Library.

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