William Nicholson Jennings Photograph Collection

The Library Company of Philadelphia

1314 Locust Street, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19107 (215) 546-3181

Introduction] [How to Use the Collection] [Browse the Collection by Subject] [View Full Index of the Collection] [Bibliography]

An Introduction to William Nicholson Jennings and the Photograph Collection:

The Library Company of Philadelphia's Jennings' Photograph Collection was acquired in two accessions, one in 1978 and the other in 1981. The collection is comprised of more than 1400 eight-by-ten inch negatives that illustrate the Philadelphia region in the late 19th and early 20th-centuries. Throughout his career as a photographer, Jennings' used the camera as a scientific tool to capture the form of lightning and to provide visual documentation of the city's growth. He was the first photographer to take clear, aerial photographs of Philadelphia from an air balloon with Samuel Archer King in 1893. The city's morphing streets and buildings along with its grid planning are depicted in these balloon photographs (Silcox, 5-25). Many of his images of street views and new buildings in Philadelphia appear to have been shot from the top of other buildings, which allowed for a clearer, direct view of the sites. Structural form, rather than the hustle and bustle of street life, dominate his views of Philadelphia.

The Library Company collection houses a small number of his early balloon and lightning photographs compared to the significant number of negatives taken later in his career for the Pennsylvania Railroad Company. Railroad stations, construction sites and streetviews in and around the Philadelphia region appear repeatedly along with new building forms, especially the new steel and masonry towers hovering over the old rows in downtown Philadelphia. In the early twentieth century, Jennings free-lanced for several newspapers, such as the North American, the Inquirer and Leslie's Weekly and opened a small photographic studio taking post card photographs of Willow Grove Park and Philadelphia events, such as the Sesquicentennial celebration in 1926 (Silcox, 36-44).

As a whole, Jennings' Collection records Philadelphia's architectural and technological progress in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. His photographs provide a modern image of Philadelphia that counter the city's reputation as a "quaint maze of ancient brick and cobblestones." (Conheim, 1978)


How to Use the Collection:

The following index of the Jennings' Collection represents the most frequently reoccurring subjects within the Library Company's collection. The number of photographs within each category are listed to the right of the subject heading in parentheses. Each of the subject headings links to another page that will open in a new window and will provide specific information about each photograph. The title of each photograph was provided by the Library Company since Jennings' titles were not always complete. If you are searching for a specific subject or word, you can perform a full text search on any of these subject pages or the full index page. Many of the 'Hotels' and 'Apartment Buildings' photographs have been scanned and linked to their titles in blue to differentiate them from entries without linked photographs. For information about any other subject category or specific photograph, please contact The Library Company of Philadelphia.


Browse the Collection:

Each of the links below take you to a second window, which is formatted as follows:

Accession number LCP Title Type of Photograph Date, if known

Building Types:
Apartment Buildings (48) [linked images]
Banks (120)
Benevolent Institutions (9)
Bridges (54)
Churches (20)
Department Stores (32)
Dwellings (51)
Factories (39)
Government Buildings (33)
Hospitals (46)
Hotels (45) [linked images]
Libraries (7)
Monuments and Statues (18)
Museums (41)
Office Buildings (123)
Parks (13)
Railroad Stations (96)
Restaurants (7)
Schools (53)
Shops (8)
Stadiums (30)
Theaters (12)
Warehouses (23)
Johnstown Flood (1889) (56)
Sesquicentennial (1926) (13)
Associations (24)
Streetviews (80)
Bicycles (9)
Boats (2)
Scooters (8)
Locomotives (22)
Pennsylvania Railroad Company (298)
Type of Photography:
Aerial Photographs (23)
Balloon Photographs (17)
Lightning Photographs (2)


Index of All Photographs Listed Above
[1149 Photographs, Organized Alphabetically by Subject Heading]

url=jenningshome2.htm; last rev. = 15 April 04 lw. [comments or suggestions]