Fondly, Pennsylvania is HSP's main blog. Here you will find posts on our latest projects and newest discoveries, as well articles on interesting bits of local history reflected in our collection. Whether you are doing research or just curious to know more about the behind-the-scenes work that goes on at HSP, please read, explore, and join the conversation!
I decided apply to the Historical Society of Pennsylvania because of the opportunity to work remotely all the way from Racine, Wisconsin. I work fulltime and I didn't want to try to figure out when to take a day off to physically work at another repository, especially when this is my only source of income. I’m enjoying the distance internship because I have the opportunity to work whatever hours during the day or night. This kind of flexibility is exactly what I need during my hectic school and work schedule.
I am learning new things each day as I am working with one other student through this internship. The digital aspect of the internship is what compelled me to apply in the first place. I am hoping to find a career placement within the digital humanities after I’m graduated.
Although the digital prospects are enticing with being able to work at any hour, it has also been a struggle of staying on top of the work and finding time in between my homework and my work to devote to the internship. My biggest issue this semester is learning proper time management in order to devote my full attention to the Madeira Collection. Slowly, I have been gaining control of the system and have been progressing at a steady rate.
I’ve had concerns that I haven’t been describing things correctly. Of course I’m interested in learning how to describe these items, step by step, in the most correct manner possible for future generations of viewers. It’s a heavy weight upon my shoulders and I’m glad that I’ve had direction throughout this semester to check and doublecheck all the work I’ve done. The work is fulfilling in that I can see that progress I have made.
Earlier this year, I completed a very interesting collection, and one that had been adopted: the James Gibson papers (Collection 236). James Gibson was a lawyer from Philadelphia who, in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, worked with several companies that dealt with the speculation in and distribution of Northern and Western Pennsylvania lands. These companies included the Holland Land Company (though they worked extensively in Western New York), the Pennsylvania Population Company, and the Asylum Company.
My research on Gibson didn’t turn up much, and it's still a little unclear what exactly he did for these companies beyond, if anything, provide legal counsel. His collection of papers isn't comprehensive, but they do shed light on the settlement of these then-wild lands of the state. In 1792, the Pennsylvania General Assembly passed an "act for the sale of vacant lands within this Commonwealth." At least some of these lands, particularly those in western Pennsylvania, were to be given to Revolutionary War soldiers. It's possible that Gibson played a role in making sure that these lands were properly distributed. We don’t know from the collection if Gibson profited from the lands himself, since speculation of Western Pennsylvania lands was a popular hobby among Philadelphia's elite at the time.
In Gibson's collection, researchers will find quite a bit of information on the behind-the-scenes dealings of land speculators and state officials, such as Allegheny County Commissioner and Revolutionary War captain Ebenezer Denny, Dutch financier Théophile Cazenove, and Judah Colt, and early founder of Erie, Pennsylvania. Additionally, the collection contains plenty of interesting history on the settlement of Western Pennsylvania during the late 1700s and early 1800s, particularly in term s of the Pennsylvania Population Company's work. There's also a small amount of Gibson's personal papers, including letters to his wife, but the collection contains little else on Gibson himself.
The James Gibson papers represents just one of HSP's many collections that are up for adoption. When you adopt a collection, you help pay for that collection to be processed according to current archival standards and for the creation of its finding aid, which helps aid in accessibility. Plenty of other adopt-a-collections can be found in our Shop, but here's a quick sampling of what we have there:
American Society for Testing Materials Records (Collection 3574)
This collection of records documents the work of one ASTM committee that, around the turn of the 20th century, tackled the problem of frequent breaks in railroad tracks. From their work, a new type of steel was produced that became the industry standard in railroad track construction.
Contemporary Club records (Collection 1981)
The Contemporary Club of Philadelphia was founded in 1886 as a scholarly society devoted to discussions on current events. The club presented papers from and served as host to local and national political, literary, and artistic figures.
William Redwood records (Amb .7526)
William Redwood was a, 18th century merchant who worked in Newport, Rhode Island; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; and Antigua, West Indies. His records provide detailed accounts of his work, his plantation workers, and the many goods that he traded.
Judith Shuman Eden papers (Collection 3657)
Eden, a Philadelphia resident and activist, served on the Zoning Board of Adjustment under Mayor John Street and was later appointed to the Zoning Code Commission by Mayor Michael Nutter. Her papers cover various city-wide issues during the 1990s and 200s, such as homelessness, graffiti, parking, Broad Street revitalization, parks/public lands, and vacant lots/property
Stiefel family papers (Collection 3516)
In 1903, members of the Stiefel family set up a movie theater in Philadelphia, the Fairyland on Market Street, and later opened theaters elsewhere in Pennsylvania, and in Baltimore, New York, Washington DC, and California. Their papers document the family's involvement in the local and national entertainment business.
Recently, I was called down to the library to assist with a particular patron who had a question about a collection I had processed. During our conversation, he asked me about being an archivist at HSP. What fun it must be, he posited, to roam the stacks looking at various historic wonders of the greater Philadelphia area! I told him that it certainly was an interesting job, but that my days, alas, were not filled with treasure-hunting, but rather a seemingly never-ending variety of duties that, on any given day, may or may not involve finding fun historic stuff. (I thought about directing him to my "Day in the Life" blog post but wasn't able to quite work in the plug.)
The conversation then turned back to his work. He was a historian doing research at HSP for a journal article. I inquired further and then he abruptly asked, "As an archivist, you must be a historian, right?" I paused, politely said no, and he went on to excitedly expound upon some his discoveries.
That question, or rather assumption that "archivist" equals "historian," is one I've encountered frequently. To put it plainly and from what I've witnessed during my time at HSP, historians usually specialize in a particular historical "thing," an era, an event, a person, an invention, etc. Some have advanced degrees in history and have published works on their specialized topics. Others have years of field work under their belts, going from one institution to the next gathering information on a certain topic. One of my jobs is to help the historians find what they're looking for. I am interested in history, but I would not call myself a historian.
My work at HSP has involved a sizeable amount of historical research for finding aids, research inquiries, and other tasks. I have certainly become more knowledgeable about the history of Philadelphia and Pennsylvania, but that knowledge doesn't magically turn me into a historian. I suppose one could call me a jack-of-all-histories. Whether I'm working on a collection of 18th century political documents or a series of posters produced during World War II, I'll need to do some background research to better understand the collections. I therefore know a little bit about a lot of things. If you want information about our collections, I can probably help you. If you want some help deciphering old handwriting, I've might be of assistance. If you want to know the difference between a daybook, journal, and ledger, I can help you with that. But if you want an in-depth discussion on the economical impact of the discovery of oil in western Pennsylvania in the 1850s, well…I know where it happened, but you should probably seek out a historian for real answers. I'm a custodian of history along with librarians, collections managers, museum registrars, and all the other people who work in our nation's cultural history and heritage organizations. I am an archivist. How can I help you direct your search?
As Dana and I have mentioned in previous posts, we're currently conducting research and writing annotations for the people and organizations that are featured in the Bankers Trust Company story. We have recently begun focusing on some of the story's key players. One such pivotal figure is Samuel H. Barker, a very close business associate of Albert M. Greenfield.
Samuel H. Barker served as president of Bankers Trust Company from the time of the bank's incorporation in December 1926 until its closure on December 22, 1930. He also served as a director for a time.
Along with Greenfield, Barker played an instrumental role in the bank's founding. Previous to the creation of Bankers Trust, it appears that Barker had served for some time as a business consultant to Greenfield, or was part of a business syndicate that included the real estate magnate. The following letter from Barker to Greenfield, written on July 29, 1926- several months before Bankers Trust was incorporated- documents Barker recommending that Bankers Trust Company purchase the Bank and Trust Company of West Philadelphia. This aquisition, which occurred a few months later, led to the bank's incorporation.
As president, Barker played a pivotal role in the bank’s fast-paced growth. He also made significant efforts to reopen Bankers Trust Company after it closed and was placed into the hands of the Pennsylvania State Banking Department. Along with bank depositors, stockholders, and officers, he helped to develop a reorganization plan which ultimately failed to save the bank from liquidation.
Bankers Trust Company's Germantown branch building, which opened in September 1930- three months before the bank closed- was named after Barker.
Barker was also instrumental in the founding of Bankers Securities Corporation, an investment firm that he established with Greenfield in the spring of 1928. Bankers Securities became extremely successful; it was worth $31 million not even a year after it was founded. Barker served as president of Bankers Securities from its founding until 1931 when he became ill.
From an old established Quaker family, Samuel was born in Wyncote, Pennsylvania on Feb. 20, 1872 to Wharton and Margaret Corlies Barker. Samuel’s father, Wharton Barker, had also been a banker, as well as a publicist, and Populist candidate for President in 1900. Samuel’s brother, Rodman Barker, served as John Wanamaker’s chief financial officer.
Barker received a degree in biology from the University of Pennsylvania in 1889, but began a career in business almost immediately upon graduating. In 1890 he began working as a clerk in his father’s banking firm, Barker Brothers & Co. Barker also helped publish his father’s weekly newspaper, The American, which focused on national and economic issues.
In 1901, Barker became a financial reporter for the newspaper, the Philadelphia North American. The following year he became the paper’s financial editor. In that same year married Ada Mae Long with whom he had four children. Barker served as the North American’s financial editor until 1925. During his time working for the newspaper, he also worked as a financial advisor.
Barker succumbed to a lengthy illness and died at the age of 67 at the home of his brother Rodman in Roxborough on September 13, 1939.
With 21 million manuscripts and hundreds of thousands of graphical items in HSP's collections, choosing what materials to digitize and make accessible via the Digital Library is a daunting challenge. To assist us in this endeavor, we recently revamped our Digital Collections and Humanities Internship to focus on describing and digitizing one entire collection. Throughout the spring, Digital Center staff nominated collections for digitization, considering such factors as research value, visual appeal, and types of materials. Ultimately, the Edith Madeira papers  emerged as the clear favorite and became the project of our summer intern, Arek.
HSP acquired the Edith Madeira papers  in 1975 and the collection was processed in 2008 through a generous donation from Dorothy Del Bueno. Born in Philadelphia in 1865, Edith Madeira served as the chief nurse for the American Red Cross Commission to Palestine from June 1918 to January 1919. After British forces invaded the Turkish-occupied Middle East during World War I, the demand for medical and social services among the region's civilian populations led to the creation of the Red Cross Commission to Palestine. As chief nurse for the Commission, Edith Madeira oversaw the nursing staff, which worked in over fifty-four towns, villages, and refugee camps extending from Port Said, Egypt to Acre on the northern coast of Palestine. The Commission's operations included twelve hospitals and sixteen dispensaries run by nurses, surgeons, sanitary engineers, and additional staff, including social workers and teachers.
The collection primarily consisits of Madeira's correspondence chronicling her experiences in the Middle East, as well as biographical notes and her nursing diploma and license. One of the items that made the Edith Madeira papers  an attractive candidate for digitization was Madeira's scrapbook of her journey to Palestine and her service in the region. To reach Palestine, Madeira traveled by way of Cape Horn, the Indian Ocean, the Red Sea, and the Suez Canal before reaching Port Said on June 11, 1918. The scrapbook includes striking photographs of Cape Town and the Egyptian Pyramids, as well as refugee camps and the Red Cross hospital in Jerusalem. Even more intriguing are the items of ephemera scattered throughout the scrapbook, such as dried flowers, postcards, and, most notably, a palm leaf with a prayer scrolled on it.
While HSP's Digital Library now includes over 50,000 images, many of these images offer users only a small snapshot of a collection's holidings. Digitizing and describing an entire collection is a time-intensive effort and we were fortunate to have our intern, Arek, assist us with the digitization of the Edith Madeira papers . Over the course of his two-month internship, Arek created new image records and described materials so they would be discoverable to users searching the Digital Library. Arek then digitized the materials using both an Epson scanner and Hasslblad camera and edited these images in Photoshop. This fall, distance interns from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee will add additional descriptive information, as well as georeference key locations and places. For both on-site and distance interns, the Digital Collections and Humanities internship provides hands-on experience in an archives environment similar to that of an entry level digital humanities position. At the same time, interns play a vital role in the development of HSP's digitization program by allowing us to make more materials accessible online. Look for future updates on new collections our interns have digitized and visit our website for additional information, including how to apply, for a Digital Collections and Humanities internship.
One of the projects currently underway in the HSP archives is the processing of the Woodlands Cemetery Company records, which document the growth of the historic cemetery from its founding in the 1840s through the 1980s. Although still an active cemetery, the WCC has donated some of its records to HSP to be processed, conserved, cleaned, and permanently housed here. All of this work is funded by a donation from Philip Price Jr., the most recent in a long line of Price family members to be heavily involved in running and preserving the cemetery.
The cemetery sits on west bank of the Schuylkill River, the site of the estate purchased by famous Philadelphia lawyer Andrew Hamilton (c. 1676 – August 4, 1741), and later inherited by his grandson, William Hamilton (1745-1813). If you’ve ever been to HSP’s reading room, you’ve probably looked at items from our collections under the benevolent eye of William and his favorite niece. William renovated the Woodlands mansion and modeled it after Europe’s most modern estates, making it one of the first fully-realized examples of Federal style. His estate also boasted a greenhouse and landscaping that attracted botanists from Europe and botany students from the University of Pennsylvania. In the 1840s, a group of prominent Philadelphia businessmen came together to purchase the estate, at that point fallen into neglect, and to create the Woodlands Cemetery.
So, what exactly will you find in the papers of a cemetery? You’ll find the expected: burial records, price lists, maps of the grounds, lists of lot owners, and letters from people about caring for relatives’ graves. But as with nearly all archival collections, this one had a few surprises, like the personal papers of a few Price family members. Within the Price family papers I found a small box with the Imperial seal of Japan on the outside, which opened to reveal a silver cigarette case and a note. The note explains that this case was given to Eli Kirk Price Jr. (president of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, 1926-1933) by Prince Takamatsu of Japan, during a private dinner at the PMA in 1931. This part of the collection also includes a few boxes of material about Fairmont Park, especially its activities during the 1950s and 1960s, when Philip Price Sr. was a commissioner. There's actually so much material from the Price family that isn't related to the Woodlands Cemetery, that it's going to be turned into it's own collection: The Price Family papers.
The Woodlands records also include burial records from some of the more famous residents of Woodlands Cemetery, like Anthony Drexel Biddle Sr. (d.1948) and Thomas Eakins (d.1916). It also has records from those of slightly less fame, like author Timothy Shay Arthur (1809-1885), who wrote a very popular novel about the horrors of alcohol called Ten Nights in a Bar Room and What I Saw. (Although it was popular, this may be a book that hasn’t aged well. The entirety of one review on Good Reads is, “Ugh.")
But even though the Woodlands collection contains records of famous men and women and documents some important aspects of Philadelphia’s history, its strength is in how it documents the lives and deaths of Philadelphia’s commoners. Burial records are the last traces that an individual leaves behind, so even these ordinary documents have some poignancy to them. You can tell who paid for a funeral and who made the arrangements. You can tell if they haggled over the price. You can see who the decedent wanted to be buried near. You see parents burying their babies and children burying their parents. In some cases, you can piece together a story, like with these two burial permits submitted three days apart.
But I don’t want to suggest that this collection is gloomy or depressing. It’s invaluable for genealogists and West Philadelphia historians, for one thing. And for another, it’s a testament to how a small group of determined citizens can rally together to preserve and support what was once only a dilapidated piece of land. And its evidence that at one time Philadelphia was home to a man named Frederick Giggles.
Oh, and his wife, Alice Giggles.
The Historical Society of Pennsylvania is excited to unveil several new Digital Library features and services. Looking for an interesting illustration for your next book or an eye-catching image to display in your home? Now digital images, archival prints, and permission to reproduce, publish, exhibit, and distribute these materials are available directly through HSP’s Digital Library, a growing online repository of over 50,000 images. Just register a Digital Library account to create image galleries, communicate with our Rights and Reproductions staff, and purchase digital images and archival prints. Here’s a quick overview of some of the highlights:
New Rights and Reproductions Services
In addition to digital images, patrons can now purchase high-quality archival prints of HSP's collection materials. From the David J. Kennedy watercolors to the WPA Posters collection, HSP’s diverse graphical materials are all available as stunning, high-quality prints perfect for exhibitions, gifts, and personal display. Print sizes range from 8 x 10 to 24 x 36 inches and are produced on both matte and glossy paper using the Epson Stylus Pro 7900.
An archival-quality reproduction is printed on the Epson 7900.
Still need a digital copy? In addition to our standard 300dpi TIFFs, structured pricing is available for higher-resolution digital files up to 2400dpi. And educators, take note: for classroom use, all images in the Digital Library are now available for purchase as web-quality JPEGs for just $2 per image. Click here for a summary of all reproductions pricing and services.
Create a Digital Library Account
Patrons can now purchase and license digital images and archival prints directly through HSP's Digital Library by registering a free online account. With an account, you can create image galleries, message HSP's Rights and Reproductions staff, and purchase image reproductions and usage rights. For more information about creating an account, messaging, and other features, visit our FAQ.
When you’d like to purchase a digital image or archival print, HSP’s Digital Library the central hub for rights and reproductions communication and services. Just click the "Purchase" link above an image to add it to your gallery, then select the format and usage rights you wish to purchase. Simply submit your order using the “Purchase or Inquire about Items” link. HSP’s staff will review your order and send an invoice directly to your Digital Library account. Order payment and image delivery is also handled through your account. For more information about messaging and other features, visit our FAQ.
Own a piece of history: Over 50,000 images available for purchase.
We encourage you to visit the Digital Library to explore these features and other new tools and services. For more information about creating an account, using your gallery, and purchasing digital and print reproductions, check out our series of short video tutorials. Have additional questions? Create a Digital Library account and send us a message. We look forward to hearing from you and fulfilling your reproductions needs!
When William Penn established Philadelphia in 1682, he and his settlers no doubt sailed around several islands in the southern part of the Delaware River. Today a few islands still exist in this region, such as Petty's Island and Pea Patch Island, the site of Fort Delaware. But this expansive waterway between southern Pennsylvania and southern New Jersey also once included several islands where the Delaware and Schuylkill River met – Mud Island, Little Mud Island, Hog Island, and League Island. Located just off League Island were once sandbars known as the Horseshoe Shoals.
The landscape of the Delaware River has certainly changed over time. Its ebb and flow has washed away some landmasses, such as small islands called Gibbet and Bush, while creating others. The shorelines of both New Jersey and Pennsylvania have been affected as well. Two former islands, Carpenter's and Province, naturally evolved into the mainland. But some of the change was promoted and produced by man. Mud and Hog islands were eventually backfilled, Mud Island being the home of Fort Mifflin and Hog Island now the site of the Philadelphia International Airport. League Island is now the site of the Navy Yard, but it wasn't always the Navy Yard. Its transformation from island to industry occurred in the early 1830s.
While doing some research in HSP's collections, I came across a fascinating booklet attesting to League Island's (and Philadelphia's other islands) interesting history: Letters and Documents relative to the Application to Connect League Island with the Main Land (1837). It contains transcribed and printed letters between Charles Wharton Jr. and Richard Delafield, Captain of U. S. Engineers, and others, concerning Wharton's desire to build a causeway to connect League Island to Philadelphia at Broad Street, which, back then, terminated at the Delaware River.
Wharton was a businessman with interests in the iron industry, so why did he care to have League Island connected to Philadelphia? In one of his letters he stated he would "build piers on the south side of League Island, at the termination of Broad Street, for the particular accommodation of the coal and western trade of the state." (6 January, 1837, p. 6). He was very concerned about how the piers, as well as direct connection from mainland to island would affect shipping and navigation, and he wrote to Delafield for advice. Delafield offered wonderfully detailed letters to Wharton about the history of the river and its islands and noted several acts that would allow Wharton erect a causeway and piers. By 1837, there was very little water separating League Island from Philadelphia since the "narrow channel," Delafield noted, "was shoaling constantly." (20 December 1836, p. 4). Delafield supported Wharton's plans, as did Navy Commodore Charles Stewart, to whom Wharton also wrote. Stewart eagerly supported the causeway, noting "it may finally prove beneficial to that of the Schuylkill," and that the piers and wharves would help shippers secure "commerce from ice in the winter" and would accommodate "vessels with a good harbor in all violent north and easterly gales." (7 January 1837, p. 10). The state eventually approved Wharton's plan, and so began League Island's industrialization.
League Island's history changed once again in the 1860s when the U. S. Navy, which had been based in a yard on Front Street of the Delaware, sought new land for a new yard. According to the booklet League Island Navy Yard: Its advantages as a naval station, dock-yards and shelter for the United States Navy, League Island was chosen as one of the possible sites, and was accepted by the Navy in 1868. A few years later, in 1871, the new Navy Yard was erected. The eastern portion of the small channel that still separated the island from the mainland was eventually filled in order to make room for a new airfield, Mustin Field, while a western portion of the channel was kept as a reserve basin for ships. Views of the yard, even with the coming and going of two world wars, remained largely unchanged until the 1960s. The construction of a new interstate highway, I-95, forever changed the site of southern Philadelphia on the Delaware.
The U. S. Navy ceased operations at the yard in the mid 1990s, and by 2000, the land was once again owned by the city of Philadelphia. Today, gatekeepers at the Navy Yard continue to salute the patrons that enter the yard, no matter if they're heading to the Tasty Baking Company, Urban Outfitters, GlaxoSmithKline, or another of the many business that currently reside there.
A couple months ago, HSP lauched a new blog, Roots and Branches, to help highlight HSP's genealogy and family history resources. I just wrote a post for the blog on a new collection we receivedly received, the Vauclain family papers and genealogical research materials (Collection 3666). This collection is a fantastic resource for genealogists as well as those researching Philadelphia's Vauclain family.
Roots and Branches already has some great posts and new content will be uploaded monthly, so be sure to check back in for more genealogical stories from HSP!
As an intern for the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, I’m spending this summer researching people connected to the story of Bankers Trust Company, the first large Philadelphia bank to default during the Great Depression. I’m currently writing a brief biography about George Wharton Pepper (1867-1961), a lawyer, law professor, author, and Republican senator. Although he was seeking re-election in 1926, the assorted quotations printed in his promotional pamphlets (“His Convictions Based on Truths”) still read like sound bites from this election year, and he had good one-liners, for example:
“Talk not based on facts is moral filibustering.”
He also had some pretty strong convictions about the filibuster, which he writes about at length in a chapter in his book Men and Issues called “Kill the Filibuster.” Pepper wrote with an impressive command of language and a witty sense of humor. He once delivered a self-deprecating defense of the Senate that was reviewed in The New York Times with the headline: “Places Senators Among Best Hated: George W. Pepper Says He Once Thought That Lawyers Were Most Unpopular.” In his autobiography, Philadelphia Lawyer, Pepper also humorously reflects on his political positions (a former Democrat who joined the Republican Party): “Having voted for [Grover] Cleveland in 1888 when he lost, I now found myself backing a losing candidate [Benjamin Harrison] on the other side of the fence. So far my batting average was not high.”
From left to right: J.P. Morgan, George Wharton Pepper, Teddy Roosevelt, and Flavel Sweeten Luther, recipients of honorary degrees from Trinity College in 1918 with Trinity College president, Luther (Record photo morgue)
Despite his jokes, Pepper was a versatile, multifaceted man with an actually decent batting average. An accomplished scholar-athlete at the University of Pennsylvania, he also provided counsel for the National League of Professional Baseball Clubs in the Federal League Baseball case in 1922. Thanks to Pepper, the United States Supreme Court held that professional baseball was not considered interstate commerce under the Sherman Antitrust Act—saving the defendants $240,000 in damages (over $3.1 million today).
Beyond baseball, Pepper was also very invested in religious matters and wrote lectures on preaching in addition to legal subjects. He was a prominent leader within the Protestant Episcopal Church and the first layman ever chosen as Lyman Beecher lecturer at Yale Divinity School. He also played an important role in financing and constructing the National Cathedral in Washington, DC.
The man even has his own theme song:
So how does Pepper relate to Bankers Trust? In November 1931, after the bank had closed, Pepper sat in the jury box to hear Bankers Trust’s double liability case, where depositors petitioned to bar stockholders from sharing in liquidation proceeds. Pepper attended on behalf of a group of attorneys representing stockholders in various trust companies in other double liability cases. In the case of Bankers Trust, such liability was not found, and the petition was refused.
Because Pepper was a senator and an extremely accomplished Philadelphian, more is known about him today than some of the other people connected with Bankers Trust. Still, I’ve had a fantastic time researching all of these figures, attempting to ascertain each person’s unique character, and connecting them to the larger national narrative of the Great Depression.