Scrapbooks about Philadelphia-Area Places

Among the most informative resources about old places are notices and articles that appeared in newspapers, journals, and other ephemeral publications. Often these are items that date to the time buildings were erected, particularly for institutional buildings or prominently located commercial ones from the mid-19th century onward, but toward the close of that century one also finds a number of retrospective articles about places with strong historical associations, structures threatened with imminent demolition, or places, old or new, of curious and distinctive form.

Very few of these kinds of materials were indexed in the publications where they originally appeared, and searching for specific topics in some comprehensive way, even in a single serial, can be a painstaking and exhausting task. Luckily, several intrepid and industrious individuals in the past have already done so, not just indexing, but assembling their quarry in scrapbooks. They combed contemporary publications with all sorts of criteria, but several were particularly attentive to matters of history and change in their physical environment. More than a dozen scrapbook sets loacted to date show at least a substantial focus on place. They are listed here in roughly chronological order.

[Poulson] [Souder] [Westcott Mid-Century] [McAllister] [Canby] [S. C. Perkins] [Westcott Centennial] [Later Westcott] [Stauffer] [Martin] [Castner] [Ashmead] [Shaw] [Campbell] [H. Perkins] [Benson] [Davis] [Shoemaker]

Charles A. Poulson Scrapbooks, 10 vols., ca. 1853-1859
(LCP: photocopy in reading room)

This series of scrapbooks, titled "Illustrations of Philadelphia," comprises clippings, but especially prints from various sources, some of them, along with all the photographs, now removed to other parts of the Library Company collections. The numbered volumes do not follow a chronological sequence, with volume 1 having some of the latest sequences of dated clippings, volume 7 some of the earliest, and volumes 11, 6 and 2 including also a small number of scattered notices ranging from as early as the 1820s. Volume 3 is apparently missing. These especially trace the remaking of the downtown business district and the development of the first streetcar and railroad suburbs in West Philadelphia and Germantown. Probably more than 50% of the items concern new buildings rising, many giving descriptions and mentioning builders' and architects' names not known to have been recorded elsewhere.
There are indexes to the series in Poulson's own hand.

Casper Souder, Extra-Illustrated History of Chestnut Street, 4 vols., ca.1858-70

Casper Souder, Jr., one-time editor and proprietor of the Evening Bulletin, published this account of Chestnut Street in serialized form in 78 successive issues of Thompson Westcott's Sunday Dispatch, from April 1858 to October 1859. He assembled these in one large volume, adding images, clippings, and other mementos, proceeding from east to west. Some clippings dated as early as the 1790s. Souder included Rae's and Baxter's commercial panorama plates, in some cases cutting them up and placing pieces amid pertinent notes and clippings.
Later, he revisited the whole sequence in three volumes he labeled "Supplement."

Westcott Mid-Century Scrapbooks, 4 vols., 1848-1855
(HSP: Wq 744)

"Historical Scrap Book of Matters chiefly concerning the history of Philadelphia Pennsylvania and the United States." Mostly newspaper clippings , many concerning local places. No index, but largely chronological:

John McAllister Scrapbooks, 40 vols., 1854-1870s
(HSP: Wzz 5346)

Volumes 15 through 17 especially concern then contemporary Philadelphia, while volumes 12 and 13 concern Philadelphia in "the olden time."

George Canby's Public Buildings Scrapbooks, 1869-75
(HSP: We 461f and We 461)

Almost entirely about building of Philadelphia City Hall. Compiled by George Canby (1829-1907).

S. C. Perkins City Hall Scrapbooks, 30 vols., 1870-90
(HSP: We 46v; on microfilm XR 131:1)

Almost entirely about building of Philadelphia City Hall.

Westcott Centennial Scrapbooks, 2 vols., ca. 1875-76
(HSP: Wr 2985f)

Thompson Westcott Late Scrapbooks, 6 vols., ca. 1875-1886
(HSP: We28f; Wq7441)

This is one of the richest sets of scrapbooks, in which Westcott (1820-88), a newspaper editor and historian, assembled clippings related, as he explains in the manuscript title of his first volume, to "Buildings, Public Places, Public Things." Probably more than 75% concern new buildings rising, many giving descriptions and mentioning builders' and architects' names not known to have been recorded elsewhere. These provide some unmatched glimpses into the changing world of the post-Civil War city, recording epochal transformations in the commerical urban core, the expanding rowhouse belt around it, and the emerging suburban periphery.
Westcott usually identified the newspaper source and gave the date of appearance (often grabbing several clippings from different papers in a day), but sometime gave only the month, and provides indexes at the front of certain volumes.
Volume 1 covers roughly 1875-78, vol. 2 roughly 1874-79, vol. 3 roughly 1879-80. The enumeration of the volumes is not so neat as one might hope (one appears to be missing), and they are of different sizes, probbaly accounting for the different call numbers for the last three volumes. The next surviving volume bears the title, "Scrap book Vol. V, 1880-82, Matters relating to the City of Philadelphia." It has an index. The volume labeled "VI" runs from April 1882 to March 1885, and that labeled "VII" from April 1885 to October 1886. It is titled "Scrapbook, Philadelphia Matters, Apr/1885 - Oct. 1886"; it not indexed. In addition there is a loose title sheet in one of the volumes that reads "Scrap Book Vol IV, General Statistics and matters concerning the City of Philadelphia 1875 to 1880"; this may have come from what we have called the third volume, but appears to have introduced a missing fourth one.

David M. Stauffer Collection, 32 vols., ca. 1880-1910
(HSP: Wq 7451)

David McNeely Stauffer (1845-1913) created an extra-illustrated set of scrapbooks keyed to Thompson Westcott's serialized history of the city up to its consolidation, which had run in the Sunday Dispatch from 1867 to 1883. Stauffer assembled all sorts of illustrations, notices, and even autographs linked to mentions in Westcott's narrative, some dating to the 18th century. He sometimes added scenes he had drawn himself in pen and ink.

John Hill Martin Scrapbook, 1 vol., 1886-96
(HSP: )

"Some Sketches of Old Landmarks of Philadelphia, and also some Personal Sketches of Prominent Philadelphians." Good material on large West Philadelphia residences near present-day University City.

Samuel J. Castner Collection, 46 vols., ca. 1890-1920?
(FLP: A917.481 P536, on microfilm in the Microform Dept.)

This richly illustrated collection was assembled by Samuel Castner, Jr. (1843-1929). Purchased by the Free Library in 1947, comprises some 8,000 items, including many large prints and unique photographs alongside clippings. Most items date to the 19th century. The originals, in the Print and Picture Department, are organized in volumes focused on a place, building type, or theme. Readers are first directed to the microfilm copy, which gathers the 46 volumes among five reels. There is a card index initiated by Castner himself.
Included in reel one are:
Reel two:
Reel three:
Reel four
Reel five:

Ashmead's Scrapbooks, 45-49 vols., ca. 1885-1910
(HSP: V 97)

Somewhat smaller in format than many of the other scrapbook collections, "Ashmead's Newspaper Cuttings about Pennsylvania History" consists mainly of clippings pasted two columns across into volumes of state government reports from the 1870s on by Henry Graham Ashmead (1838-1920). Most articles date from the decades just before the turn of the century when line illustrations often appeared in daily papers, and there were fairly long illustrated weekly features about local spots of interest. Ashmead clipped rather widely, ranging into Bucks, Berks, and even Lancaster County on occasion, but the main strength of the collection was features from the Philadelphia Times, The Weekly Press, The Evening Bulletin, and the Philadelphia Inquirer. The contents do not follow any very clear order, although many volumes will follow the same newspapers chronologically for limited stretches.

In April 2003, Bryn Mawr senior Dawni Freeman examined the collection as part of a "Praxis" course, with the goal of modeling a way to provide researchers access to its content via the web. In her Images of Philadelphia: The Ashmead Scrapbook Collection Project, one can get a sense of the collection and and a more detailed index of some of its contents. Due to the extent of the collection and time-limit of a semester, we set some framing constraints, treating only its first ten volumes, and making the unit of indexing the illustrations in the articles. To search the collection by location (on a hot-linked map) or text string (through the browser), see the project's search page.
Dawni Freeman points out that Ashmead "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," (HSP, Call Number V.583).

Shaw's Scrapbooks, 24 vols., ca. 1890-1910
(HSP: Wzz 597)

This set, actually just five or so volumes from the set, also assembles illustrated features from the Philadelphia Times, The Weekly Press, The Evening Bulletin, and the Philadelphia Inquirer. One of the pertinent volumes bears the title "Old & New Philadelphia." These were compiled by Dr. Alex R. Shaw, and given to HSP in 1913 by his wife.

Shoemaker Germantown Collection, 2 vols., 1888-1904
(HSP: Ws 237)

Collected by Thomas H. Shoemaker in two volumes, one labelled "to 1895" and the other "1895 to 1904," these were a gift in 1936 of Mary W. Shoemaker. More than half appear to concern Germantown places or people and come from Germantown newspapers, although some concern other places in and around Philadelphia.

Jane Campbell Collection, 101 vols., ca. 1900-20
(HSP: card catalog room)

Volumes are organized around geographical areas as specific as streets or neighborhoods, or in some cases, building types or other topics. Each is indexed at its start, but a general index is integrated into the HSP graphics catalog.

Helen C. Perkins Collection, 80 vols., 1900-12
(HSP: card catalog room)

Volumes are organized around geographical areas as specific as streets or neighborhoods, or in some cases, building types or other topics. Each is indexed at its start, but a general index is integrated into the HSP graphics catalog.

Benson Scrapbooks, about 20 vols., ca. 1910-60s (Athenaeum of Philadelphia)

Mainly newspaper clippings, and some from other publications, few photos, mainly about place, collected by Rev. Benson, with a quirky index.

E. M. Davis Scrapbook, 1 vol., 1921-22
(HSP: Wq 923)

This volume, given by Mrs. E. M. Davis in 1932, assembled about 100 clippings with photographs from a regular feature form the Evening Public Ledger, in which old photographs sent in by readers were published under the caption "Can you recall this old view?" and captional notes were added. The volume was indexed and additional notes added by Anthony A. Roth in 1969.

url=; last rev. 11 July 93 jc