A Front Door:
This is an effort to bring together some resources -- images, documents, tools, and links -- for pursuing historical information about place in the five-county Philadelphia area: Bucks, Chester, Delaware. Montgomery, and Philadelphia counties. The project has been building incrementally, as opportunities have permitted, since 1997. The overarching idea is to use new media to more effectively disseminate information about place, to enhance cross-institutional access to documentary materials of this sort, to better connect people with the history of their environment, and to thus enrich their lives here.
[Link to background discussion] [Link to preliminary ideas about promising documentary resources]
A Back Door: working elements
in place, with a minimum of commentary.
Kids' Area: A Tour through historic Philadelphia helps kids to get to know the city as well as to look carefully at images and maps (and to have fun!!!.)
Our initial pilot project. These are views of commercial blockfronts in downtown Philadelphia dating from 1851 to 1880. About fifty large-scale plates were published, and a few dozen were prepared in manuscript. These have been scanned from originals at the Athenaeum of Philadelphia, the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, the Free Library of Philadelphia, and the Library Company of Philadelphia. Links to individual plates have been provided via an inventory of the known views, and presented graphically on index maps. There were three principal sets of these commercial panoramas of Philadelphia encountered so far:
Paintings, Watercolors, and Sketches
Watercolor and drawing collections:
- W. L. Breton views: A rich body of early watercolor views of the area are several dozen by William L. Breton, mostly from the 1820s and 1830s. These are distributed among the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, the Athenaeum of Philadelphia, the Library Company of Philadelphia, and other repositories. We have scanned and posted a good proportion of these.
Photographs of early watercolors: at the Library Company, in a scrapbook previously owned by photographer John Moran, are several 19th-century photographs of early watercolors, some probably by Breton, others indicated as being by Edward William Mumford.
- Views of Old Philadelphia, 1861. Folio 268 in the Joseph Downs Collection of Manuscripts and Printed Ephemera at the Winterthur Library, identified as "Taylor, Sketchbook, 1861," is a single volume with 57 unique pencil and wash sketches of Philadelphia-area locations, nearly all scanned and mapped here.
- B. R. Evans views: Scans of several hundred mid-to-late 19th-century watercolors by Benjamin Ridgway Evans views at HSP, LCP, and elsewhere. Also a link to the Philadelphia Historical Digital Image Library (PHDIL) website includes nearly 200 scanned watercolors by Evans. One can browse these specifically by scrolling down to select Evans's name under "creator."
- D. J. Kennedy views: We have mounted on this website a searchable database of perhaps the largest and most informative collection of watercolors and sketches of Philadelphia-area places, the David Johnson Kennedy Collection at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, numbering over 1000 views from the mid and late 19th century, often amply annotated. A Bryn Mawr College student has devised a website that offers a topical and locational sorting of the collection.
- Philadelphia Watercolors by T. H. Wilkinson: a set of 17 watercolors by Canadian artist Thomas Harrison Wilkinson (1847-1929), who visited Philadelphia in the late 19th century, from a private collection.
- Joseph M. Fox Collection, Bryn Mawr College: a collection of some twenty-six watercolors, mostly depicting downtown Philadelphia street views and dating from the 1910s. A Bryn Mawr student has built a map interface to this colleciton.
We have begun to gather lists and scans of individual oil paintings, watercolors, and drawings of Philadelphia-area places found in various repositories, working from published catalogues, inquiries, and various lists. These include:
- Wainwright paintings inventory: A compilation by Nicholas B. Wainwright, begun in the 1970s but left incomplete at his death. His manuscript consists of inventory sheets and black-and-white glossies in loose-leaf binders at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania.
- Building on Wainwright: a preliminary effort to expand Wainwright's inventory, presented [by topic] [by artist].
- The Schwarz Gallery, Philadelphia: several dozen oil paintings, watercolors, and drawings of area sites illustrated over the last three decades in the catalogues of The Schwarz Gallery are listed here [by catalogue] [by artist] [by location], most with scanned images from the catalogues.
- A working list of other scanned oil paintings from various repositiories.
Engraved and Lithographed Views
- Birch's Views: In 1800, William and Thomas Birch published their The City of Philadelphia, in the State of Pennsylvania, North America, as it appeared in the Year 1800, the most detailed depiction of the booming post-Colonial city. One may choose among these views using index maps and an inventory to the twenty-eight original plates, along with some variants from subsequent editions. These are aos explored, along with later images of their sites, at a webite devised for ushistory.org.
- J. C. Wild's Views: In 1838 John Caspar Wild and J. B. Chevalier publishedViews of Philadelphia, and its Vicinity, a volume of lithographs by Wild of buildings and landscapes in the city and on its its periphery. Each view was accompanied by a paragraph or more of descriptions, from which we have excerpted very brief snippets. One may view these by choosing from a map or list of these plates. The volume is found at several area research libraries. These plates were scanned from one at Bryn Mawr College Library, Special Collections.
- C. G. Childs's Views: Between 1827 and 1830, Cephas Grier Childs published a series of fascicules assembled into a volume titled Views in Philadelphia and its Environs, from original Drawings taken in 1827-30. One may view these plates by choosing from the same map or list cited above.
- Wainwright's Inventory: In 1958, Nicholas B. Wainwright published Philadelphia in the Romantic Age of Lithography, a list of nearly 500 lithographs, a small proprtion of which were illustrated. The Library Company of Philadelphia has provided word-processed versions, which we've marked up for the web in two searchable, digital versions, one given in Wainwright's sequence alphabetically by title, and a second ordered chronologically. We have begun to link items on these lists to images from various repositories. For further details or information on using or acquiring specific images, see our webpages for holdings by repository, linked below.
- Philadelphia downtown business buildings, 1886: 39 views of financial institutions from the borders of Burk & McFetridge, pub., "Philadelphia in 1886" (Philadelphia, c. 1885), from the Library of Congress.
- Frederick De Bourg Richards: This collection, which was made available for scanning by the Library Company of Philadelphia, consists of about 104 photographs taken in the 1850s by photographer Frederick De B. Richards. The scans are linked to a list, which one can browse or search using a text-string via the find feature of most browsers. Most of these photographs have attached commentary by the photographer himself.
- Robert Newell: Newell took these 225 photographs between 1865 and 1886. Many have been scanned and posted. These also are linked through a list that one can browse or search. This collection, at the Library Company of Philadelphia, stands out for its diverse selection of subjects, ranging from churches of all denominations to obscure hotels in Philadelphia. A second document is a rough sorting of these by a half-dozen topics.
- John Moran: Included in this collection at the Library Company are photographs taken by John Moran in the 1860s and photographs, drawings and watercolors collected by John Moran. These are also presented as a list. There are also at the Library Company a scrapbook that had been previously owned by John Moran, which also includes a number of photographs and watercolors apparently pasted in later, many depicting Library Company buildings.
- Philadelphia Suburban Homes, A set of over 150 large-format "photocollotypes" published by Wells & Hope Co. ca. 1885-95, depicting large Victorian houses distributed among Philadelphia's different suburbs. Examples of what may have been a multipart unbound portfolio issued in parts are found among various area collections. Most bear the houses' owners' and architects' names in red letterpress. This is a research project in process.
- Hotchkin's Suburban House Views: images from four richly illustrated books on suburban Philadelphia houses by Samuel F. Hotchkin, 1889-97:
[Germantown, Mt. Airy, and Chestnut Hill, 1889] [The Old York Road, 1892] [The Bristol Pike, 1893] [Rural Pennsylvania, 1897]
- The Frank H. Taylor Collection, Free Library of Philadelphia: a collection of 243 images of Philadelphia buildings, mostly of downtown business structures, donated in 1922 by Frank Hamilton Taylor. Most appear ot date from the late 1890s. A Bryn Mawr College student has built a website about this collection, including an inventory of its contents.
- The Jennings' Photograph Collection at the Library Company of Philadelphia is comprised of more than 1400 eight-by-ten inch glass and nitrate negatives that illustrate buildings and cityscapes of the Philadelphia region from the 1890s though the 1930s. A Bryn Mawr College student has built a website about this collection, including a subject index to its contents. Two specific subsets of the collection, images of hotels and apartment buildings, have links to scanned versions of individual photographs.
- James Dillon and Karl Lutz Collections, Athenaeum of Philadelphia: a list of several hundred 20th-century photographs of architectural subjects, ordered by general location
- Brightbill Postcard Collection: a richly annotated catalogue of several thousand Philadelphia-themed postcards collected by George D. Brightbill and now at the Library Company of Philadelphia.
- -- Link to: University City Historical Society, for a collection of more than two dozen postcards of West Philadelphia.
- -- Link to: The Vintage Postcards of Philadelphia Collection at the Free Library of Philadelphia.
- -- Link to: Historical Images of Philadelphia at the Free Library of Philadelphia
- -- Link to: The Philadelphia Historical Digital Image Library (PHDIL) website, a collaborative effort between Thomas Jefferson University and The Historical Society of Pennsylvania, includes some 3,000 images, many of them relating to TJU, medical subjects, or Philadelphia life.
- -- Link to Digital Diamond, to access selected digitized images of materials from Temple University Libraries' diverse archival and special collections. Of special interest will be images from the Evening Bulletin archive, mostly 1920s on, for digitized news photos from this defunct Philadelphia newspaper now held by Temple's Urban Archives.
- -- Link to the City of Philadelphia's Photo Archive web site, a searchable, GIS-linked database of photographs, many historic, from the City's collections. Presently about 35,000 are indexed, and nearly 1,000 digitized.
Some further tools for locating photos:
- -- Link to: The PACSCL guide to Philadelphia photo collections, a web-mounted set of descriptions of photographic holdings of area collections, provided by Temple University Libraries' Urban Archives.
- Aerial Photographs, an index to thousands of views, mostly from between the two world wars, held by the Library Company of Philadelphia and the Free Library of Philadelphia (as a text-string searchable table).
- -- Link to: an exhibition on the Victor Dallin Aerial Survey Collection at the Hagley Library, Winterthur, Delaware.
- Lantern Slide Collections at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, a partial index served as a database over the web.
Illustrations in Architectural Publications
A rich source of illustrations of buildings, almost exclusively architect-designed buildings, were the publications aimed mainly at a professional aarchitectural audience that began in the decade following the Civil War. A few short-lived ones were published locally, but a good number of area examples appeared in national and other regional journals. We working on two units of this sort:
Real Estate Atlases and Maps
Among the most useful records of place are the succession of real estate and fire insurance atlases published every few years since the late 1850s, whose large-format, color-coded plates collectively record the state of urban and suburban landscapes in painstaking detail at various dates. We've begun three projects:
- The Greater Philadelphia GeoHistory Network, with many maps, views, and surveys made between the 1680s and 1990s.
- Philadelphia Maps, 1683-1977 at the Free Library of Philadelphia.
- Sanborn Maps of Philadelphia, 1916-21, Penn State Libraries
- Philadelphia Maps, 1777-1954, Historic MapWorks (accessible from non-.edu domains only).
- Ernest Hexamer and William Locher, Maps of the City of Philadelphia, 7 vols., Philadelphia, 1858-62 (from the Free Library of Philadelphia). The earliest of the detailed downtown atlases. [scanned to the level of index maps only, except for Eastern Center City, which is scanned to the individual plate level]. See also, the same through The Greater Philadelphia GeoHistory Network.
- Eastern Center City, c. 1849, with old address numbers. Key to lithographed map of eastern portions of downtown Philadelphia, attributed to Robert Pearsall Smith, on 14 photostat sheets at the Free Library of Philadelphia.
- -- Link to Historical Maps of West Philadelphia, 1750 - 1930, from Office of Community Housing, University of Pennsylvania.
- Ellis Kiser, Atlas of Lower Merion, Montgomery Co., including part of Delaware Co., and Overbrook Farms, Wynnefield & Overbrook, Philadelphia: A. H. Mueller, 1896 (from Canaday Library, Bryn Mawr College). This covers the "Main Line" of the Pennsylvania Railroad, from Overbrook to Villanova . [scanned in full].
- -- Links to historic atlases of Lower Merion, PA, 1871-1961 and historic maps of Lower Merion, PA, 1681-1942, from the Lower Merion Historical Society.
- -- Link to Atlas of Cheltenham, Abington and Springfield Townships, Montgomery County, Penna., A. H. Mueller & Co., 1897, from Old York Road Historical Society.
- Lists of atlases of the five-county area and their repositories, which we present here in an interim form, ordered geographically by the counties,wards, or train lines they cover, and also chronologically.
- -- Link to: historic maps and city views from the American Memory project, Library of Congress.
- Class in Philadelphia in 1878: addresses from the 1878 Red Book mapped.
Holdings by Repository
We also list and link here some items and collections by their repositories, mainly unique items or whole collections, including:
Note:Unless otherwise stated, all images on this site are used here with the express permission of the repositories that hold them. None may be downloaded from this site for publication or reuse -- on paper, digitally, or in other forms -- without such permission from those repositories. All rights are also reserved regarding textual materials that appear here. By proceeding beyond this page into this website, you are affirming your agreement to abide by the conditions stipulated by each image provider before any republication, analog or digital, of their materials is undertaken.
Germantown: A part of this website documenting a four-block area of Germantown Avenue through images and information on past and present buildings, drawn from a variety of sources.
Western 'Wash West': a webbed version of an exhibition integrating several of these types of sources and focused on the area of Center City from 11th to just east of Broad street, and from South to just south of Market Street.
Apartment, Flat, and Hotel Locations in Philadelphia, 1890-1920: A Bryn Mawr College student's project drawing from multiple sources, including published tax assessments and social directories, that document several dozen buildings of these types.
- PA's Past, Digital Library -- PA State U.
- Philadelphia as it is the stranger's guide, 1845
- Philadelphia as it is in 1852, 1852
- A Guide on the North Pennsylvania Rail Road, 1859
- A Century After, 1876
- Illustrated Philadelphia business, city railway, and street directory, 1876
- Industrial and commercial resources of Pennsylvania historical, descriptive and biographical review, 1886
- Moses King, Philadelphia and Notable Philadelphians, 1902
- A Sampling of Old Philadelphia Guidebooks on-line, 1811-1916.
- 19th-century books and journals on Philadelphia subjects: selected direct links to parts of Making of America websites at Cornell U. and U. Michigan.
- Frank H. Taylor, ed., The City of Philadelphia as it Appears in the Year 1893, 1st ed. (Phila.: Geo. S. Harris, 1893) [via Google Books].
- George B. Tatum, Penn's great town: 250 years of Philadelphia architecture (Phila.: U. Penn. Press, 1961) [via Hathi Trust].
- Area diaries and journals:
- The journal of J. Warner Erwin, who noted his activities and observations almost daily from 1839 to 1854. Compiled and annotated by S. Hamill Horne.
- From the University City Historical Society website:
- Leon S. Rosenthal's History of Philadelphia's University City, 1963.
- Textual documents in digital form that might be found of wider interest. Little of this sort here yet, but this might be a place for recent reports generated digitally. One early example:
- The 500 Block of Market Street --Dr. Shan Holt, for Independence Natl. Historic Park, 1997
A small compilation of written observations about early Philadelphia, illustrated with images from the time. A placeholder for an idea of combining texts with illustrations or other forms of annotation to enrich such word-pictures.
Aids for accessing information about Philadelphia-area places.
Philadelphia City Directories, 1785-1867 [via archive.org]
Philadelphia City Directories, 1785-1867 [via Philageohistory.org]
1785 Philadelphia City Directories --compiled and edited by faculty and students at the University of Delaware.
1791 Biddle's Philadelphia Directory (Excel format) --Matt Ainslie, U. of Delaware
1861 McElroy's Philadelphia City Directory --Greater Philadelphia GeoHistory Network.
1890 Gopsill's Philadelphia City Directory (page by page as .pdf) via Ancestry.com
Philadelphia Historic Streets Index from PhillyHistory.org
1798 Federal Direct Tax for Philadelphia --compiled and edited by faculty and students at the University of Delaware.
Fire Insurance Records
- Index to surveys of the Franklin Fire Insurance and the Pennsylvania Fire Insurance Company
(searchable databases served from Bryn mawr College and PAB accessing 28,000 surveys, from 1820s to 1890s, held at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania).
- Surveys of the Philadelphia Contributionship Digital Archives
(searchable database created within PAB by Contirbujtionship, with full set of page views for surveys from 1752-1890).
- Index to Philadelphia Contributionship and Mutual Assurance Company surveys at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania
(scan of a file-card index by familysearch.org, accessing about 16,000 surveys; look in right-hand column for PC4 C1-C13 and choose one of the 13 links to card-scans, ordered alphabeticaly by street name).
- [ICNA ... Reliance ... United Firemen ... NJ via RC?]
1810 Federal Census for Philadelphia --compiled and edited by faculty and students at the University of Delaware.
1880 Federal Census and other genealogical sources -- via www.familysearch.org (LDS)
The Census of African-American Philadelphia, 1838:
- A Bryn Mawr College student's project that seeks to make this early census of African-American Philadelphia, conducted by Pennsylvania Abolition Society, "more accessible and to highlight the research possibilities that it may offer."
- Philadelphia deeds: grantor/grantee indexes and owner lists ordered by registry plat and lot number [i.e., 3-N-5, lot 125], via Philadox.
- Registry plats via www.phillyhistory.org (search by address, click on "Maps" tab.) [yes, too small, but will provide starting points]
- Briefs of Title, c. 1840-80: sampling, overview by a Penn grad student, and spread sheets by location (.xls) [track ownership and subdivision of some 19th-century rowhouse development parcels].
Real Estate Advertisements
A Bryn Mawr College student's project attempting to showcase "how real estate was advertised and portrayed in newspapers between the 1880s and the 1920s."
Philadelphia Maps and Geographic Information, including census and digital map data --U. Penn Library
Student papers: Finding Lists and web projects
- Ph.D. dissertations: from James Goode's index
- Master's theses: from various library searches
- BMC senior theses: in Cities, History, and Anthropology, 1977-94, from compilation at Bryn Mawr College.
- Student class projects:
- U. Penn. HP 600 papers: detailed, focused monographic documentation studies on Philadelphia-area places, directed by Dr. Roger W. Moss, 1981-96, collected at the Athenaeum of Philadelphia.
- INHP Commercial Block Historic Reconstruction Projects --Bryn Mawr College, Cities Program
- HSPV 04-600 Historical Documentation projects --U. Penn School of Design
- HSPV 05-600.
- BMC 05-306.
- Historic Structure Reports a partial gathering
Interconnected finding aids (some mentioned above by medium):
- Scrapbooks about Place at various institutions
- 19th-Century Lithographs: Searchable versions of N. B. Wainwright's inventory of Philadelphia lithographs
- PACSCL guide to Phila. photo collections
- Aerial Photograph Index, located at the Library Company of Philadelphia and the Free Library of Philadelphia
Surveys of area places of historic interest:
- ARCH - National Historic Landmarks & National Register in Pennsylvania --State of PA
- Philadelphia-area National Historic Landmarks-:- [national website]
- Philadelphia-area National Register properties and districts-:- [national website]
- Philadelphia-area HABS/HAER-surveyed properties -:- [national website]
- link to National Register nominations for PA properties, from ARCH, state of PA (full-text as .pdf).
- PCAIA list of area endangered buildings
- PCAIA list of area modern landmark buildings
Databases and other Searching Tools
[occasionally knocked off-line -- give another try, or email if it fails]
Databases with information on area places:
- link to Philadelphia Architects and Buildings database at Athenaeum of Philadelphia.
- Philadelphia Historical Commission records through 1986
- Lower Merion Conservancy Historical Properties
- Fire Insurance Records (28,000 records of 19th-century surveys at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania)
- link to The Philadelphia Contributionship Digital Archives.
Databases on area views:
- Lantern Slide Collection at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania
- David Johnson Kennedy Watercolors at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania
- Architectural illustrations in T Square Club annuals
Textual inventories of area views:
- Wainwright's list of area lithographs
- Wainwright's list of area oil paintings [forthcoming]
- PACSCL guide to Phila. photo collections
- Aerial Photograph Index
- James Dillon and Karl Lutz Collections
Integrated tools for searching the elements on this site:
CONNECTIONS to other sites:
EXTERNAL LINKS to some NEIGHBORHOOD WEBSITES:
- Blue Bell Hill : an online museum
- Roxborough/Manayunk/Wissahickon Historical Society
- University City Historical Society
- Central Germantown: a web resource
- Western 'Washington Square West': an on-line exhibit
- The Building of West Phila.: An Historical Survey of Suburban Architecture --Matt Gruebel, U. Penn OCD
EXTERNAL LINKS to PAGES about AREA SYSTEMS (when we started out, this was a category we had in mind)
SOME ANALOGOUS PROJECTS: