The Ashmead Collection is a 49-volume set of scrapbooks created by Henry Graham Ashmead during a two-decade long period, approximately between the years of 1890 and 1910. The collection is held at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania with the exception of volumes 1,5,43, and 48, which are presently missing from the collection. Currently the scrapbooks are catalogued as publications (Call Number V.97), although the definition of a publication generally excludes scrapbooks. The Historical Society treats them as manuscripts, despite their lack of manuscript annotations by the author.
Each volume consists of a hardcover book into which have been pasted newspaper clippings from local Philadelphia newspapers. To view a sample volume from the collection, click HERE. All of the newspapers represented within the collection, excluding the Philadelphia Inquirer, are no longer circulating. These include:
Philadelphia Gazette 1879-1908
Philadelphia Evening Bulletin 1847-1982
Philadelphia Inquirer 1829+
Philadelphia Press 1857-1916
Philadelphia Record 1870-1947
Philadelphia Times 1875-1902
Philadelphia Public Ledger 1836-1925
No thematic continuity exists among the ten volumes described in this project. The topics engaged by Ashmead within the articles and graphics depicted include: places, buildings, communities, historical events and anniversaries, notorious crimes, and famous Philadelphia personalities such as, Stephen Girard and Benjamin Franklin. I have included TWO images on the website as examples of the types of images typically found in the collection.
Several of the volumes contain a significant number of articles from the newspaper series called "Men and Things." This daily column ran in the Philadelphia Evening Bulletin and covered miscellaneous topics. Often, it discussed local historical events and people in an editorial fashion. Another similar series ran in the same newspaper and was called "Seen and Heard in Many Places." This series was signed "Megargee" while the "Men and Things" column was authored by "Penn."
It is difficult to determine the motivation of Henry Graham Ashmead in creating these scrapbooks. Ashmead was a noted historian and wrote an extensive and substantial history of Delaware County in 1884. He also collected newspaper clippings relating to the history of Delaware County and pasted them into four volumes of scrapbooks similar to the ones in this collection (Call Number V.583). One might venture that he created these scrapbooks to preserve the historical information published in the newspapers in a more permanent form. Oftentimes the articles on buildings he kept in his scrapbooks concerned the imminent demolition of a certain building or structure. It is possible that Ashmead was trying to preserve information he thought would be preserved nowhere else. In the introduction to the first volume of Historic Homes and Institutions and Genealogical and Personal Memoirs of Chester and Delaware Counties, Pennsylvania that Ashmead co-wrote with Gilbert Cope, it is written:
"In each generation, and at every stage of progress, the people of these historic Counties, Chester and Delaware, have had the service of men of the loftiest character and highest capability, in arms, in the arts of peace, in statesmanship, in affairs and in letters. It is to connect the active progressive men of the present generation with their illustrious ancestry that the present volumes have been undertaken..." (iv)
Ashmead also writes in the Preface to his history of Delaware County that his motivation for compiling such an exhaustive work was inspired by the interest in history awakened in cities across the country due to the Centennial celebration in 1876.
In fact, the majority of the little-known facts and trivia included in many of these articles most likely does not exist anywhere else in published form. This is what makes the Ashmead collection of scrapbooks such a valuable resource to researchers and supports the idea of facilitating their accessibility.