Illustrated Journals and Travelers' Observations

These are the beginnings of a collection of selections from late 19th century journals and other written records about the city of Philadelphia. Travelers often wrote of their sometimes opinionated observations about the city, its buildings, its climate, and its people. There is a substantial body of such writings, much of it from French and British visitors that has been translated and published over the years. Any local library will have some volumes, and the American Philosophical Society in Philadelphia has a large collection.

Philip Stevick has recently published Imagining Philadelphia; Travelers' Views of the City from 1800 to the Present (Philadephia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1996), an excellent collection of observations and memories of the City of Brotherly Love, sometimes full of praise, sometimes biting. Stevick's book was the inspiration for this part of the Iconography Project, and we are currently working with him to add several selections from Imagining Philadelphia to this site. Clearly, these travelers created records of great import, for they captured an impression of what the city was actually like in a given year, on a given day. They provide a key to understanding the actual experience of the city in a time quite different from our own. If these words and memories could be combined with images taken at the same time, perhaps a more complete documentation of Philadelphia in the late 19th century could be made. As one might expect, the illustrations these travelers originally made have been lost, if indeed there were any to begin with. So we have taken the liberty of assigning various etchings, paintings, and sketches to a small selection of travelers views. The first two, from Sir Henry Singer Keating of Britain, and a Frenchman named Montule, are from the collections at the American Philosophical Society. The Chestnut Street selections are still under construction for this site. All have been illustrated with images from William and Thomas Birch, John Caspar Wild, and Cephas Grier Childs.

Sir Henry Singer Keating, 1830
Comments about major 19th century tourist sites--Bank of the United States, Waterworks, Eastern State Penitentiary

Montulé, 1821
Comments about city streets and plan, Market Street in particular

Chestnut Street Collection
(Under construction)

Last updated 31 June, 1998
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