Views of Old Philadelphia:
The Brightbill Postcard Collection


The Collection

George D. Brightbill, Associate Archivist of Temple University's Urban Archives from 1990 to 1999, assembled this collection to serve as the foundation for a history of postcard publishing in Philadelphia. When Brightbill retired from Temple in 1999, he donated his collection of thousands of postcards and related materials to the Library Company of Philadelphia, along with his own carefully compiled finding aid.

The collection is organized into four series. The first series, the largest, arranges postcards into a long detailed inventory ordered by subject. That inventory has been divided up here into separate web documents linked to their subject headings, given in the table below.

Only more general information is provided for the other three series. The second series contains a small group of "real photo" postcards (usually unique original photographs on cards, generally portraits of individuals) produced by Philadelphia-area studios. The third series consists of pamphlets dealing with postcards, especially those in the first series. The fourth series consists of miscellaneous oversize postcards. These other three series are not fully catalogued in the inventory, but are discussed in the Series Description.

Brightbill devised two appendices, one giving Printer and Publisher Codes and Addresses, the other on Printer and Publisher History. On the website is also a small sampling of digitized images of the postcards, meant to give a better idea of what the collection's contents actually look like.


sample postcard

A typical "Greetings from Philadelphia" postcard, with sketches of City Hall, the Sunken Gardens, the Washington Monument, the Statue of a Dying Lioness, and the Academy of Fine Arts, along with an attractive woman.

See more postcards.

Using the Website

Brightbill's detailed inventory is divided into 172 topical sections linked to a sequence of 172 subject headings. One may browse through these, or may focus within any of the following fourteen overlapping categories of subject headings:

Fairmount Park (35 headings) Schools & Universities (17 headings) Businesses & Industries (10 headings)
Hotels & Restaurants (12 headings) Houses of Worship (7 headings) Transportation (25 headings)
Public Spaces (6 headings) Public Buildings (18 headings) Events (6 headings)
Historic Places (18 headings) Misc. Buildings (12 headings) Assorted Postcard Series (7 headings)
Germantown (7 headings) Views of Philadelphia (2 headings)  

For example, Schools and Universities includes index items like "Germantown - Schools" and "Girl's Normal School." The category Germantown also features "Germantown - Schools," but includes "Germantown - Buildings" as well.

The detailed inventories themselves are rich with information, much of it rendered in an elaborate set of codes and abbreviations. Guides to the codes and to the publisher names will each open in additonal browser windows, allowing them to remain at hand as one scrutinizing the inventories.

The guide and the sample images are posted on the web here with the permission of the Library Company of Philadelphia for this purpose only. Any further republication in any form requires the prior permission of the Library Company. For some of the most recent postcards, postdating 1923, some copyright protections of the original creator may also still be in effect. Even with the Library Company's permission, it would be the user's responsibility to determine the status of these and to observe such rights.

Introduction to the Collection

Brightbill's 172 Subject Headings

Explanations of Codes in Inventory

Publisher Codes & Addresses

Printer & Publisher History

Sample Images

This page was devised by Cary Cuper, BMC 2000. [return to Places in Time homepage] [Comments]
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last updated 27 july 2000 cc