Community and Social Service History
The Society has a broad range of materials representing philanthropic, service, self-help, and mutual benefit initiatives.
RELIEF AND SERVICE TO THE POOR
Collections of organizations dedicated to relief or services for the poor include the records of the Almshouse of Philadelphia, Bureau of Unemployment Relief, Home Missionary Society, Indigent Widows and Single Women’s Society of Philadelphia, Magdalen Society of Philadelphia, Northern Dispensary of Philadelphia for the Medical Relief of the Poor, Orphan Society of Philadelphia, Philadelphia Society for Organizing Charity, Union Benevolent Association of Philadelphia, and Southwark Soup Society.
Education and literacy-related efforts are represented through the records of the Apprentices Library of Philadelphia (the first free circulating library in the U.S.), Aspira, Inc. of Pennsylvania, Civic Club of Philadelphia, Philadelphia City Institute, Philadelphia School of Design for Women, and White-Williams Foundation, as well as the Pennsylvania Home Teaching Society for the Blind lantern slides. The Leonard Covello Papers document the career of an innovative educator in New York City. The Mary Anna Longstreth Collection contains substantial information on the early history of Hampton Normal and Agricultural Institute in Hampton, Virginia.
Many collections document war-related service, aid, and relief organizations. For the Civil War period, these include records of the United States Sanitary Commission and Fair and of the Union Volunteer Refreshment Saloon (see also the Samuel B. Fales Collection), and the diary of Susan Ritter Trautwine MacManus, a Moravian evangelical who worked with wounded Union soldiers. World War I-era collections include records of the American Red Cross Pennsylvania-Delaware Division, National League for Woman’s Service, and Pennsylvania Railroad Women’s Division of War Relief. For World War II, there are the records of American Relief for Poland and United Seamen’s Service (John F. Lewis Papers). The Citizens’ Permanent Relief Committee Papers document disaster relief work. The Norman V. Lourie Papers concern U.S. refugee policy in the 1970s and 1980s.
The Society has the records of a number of benefit organizations based in specific ethnic communities, which provided insurance, loans, scholarships, and other benefits to members. These include the Ancient Order of Hibernians, French Benevolent Society of Philadelphia, Ladies Pennsylvania Slovak Catholic Union, Pennsylvania Slovak Catholic Union, Polish Union of the United States (see also the Henry Dende Papers), Russian Brotherhood Organization, Russian Orthodox Catholic Mutual Aid Society, Society of the Sons of Saint George, Swiss Benevolent Society of New York, and Workmen’s Circle Philadelphia District.
Other ethnically based community service and philanthropic organizations include the American Hellenic Educational Progressive Association, Aspira, Inc. of Pennsylvania, Council of Spanish-Speaking Organizations, Latino Project, Loyal Orange Institution (several collections), Southeast Asian Resource Action Center (SEARAC), and United American Indians of the Delaware Valley. The American Negro Historical Society Collection contains records of a number of African American civic, philanthropic, and mutual benefit organizations, as well as schools in churches.
A number of collections from Philadelphia churches and church-related organizations document community service or benefit activities, among them the records of the Old First Reformed Church, Oxford Presbyterian Church Ladies’ Dorcas Society, Philadelphia Volksverein, and Second Baptist Church, as well as microfilm copies of the Mother Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church and Old Christ Church records. The American Negro Historical Society Collection includes records of the First African Presbyterian Church and Second African Presbyterian Church, both of Philadelphia.
The Society has the papers of several wealthy Philadelphia philanthropists, notably Samuel Simeon Fels, Albert M. Greenfield, and John Wanamaker.
Representing a range of other community service activities are the records of the Children’s Aid Society, Civic Club of Philadelphia, Lighthouse, and National Center for Urban Ethnic Affairs, as well as the papers of Elba Gurzau and Yam Tong Hoh. The Concerned Citizens of North Camden Records document an unusually successful neighborhood revitalization group. The Jane Campbell scrapbooks document a number of philanthropic organizations. Published holdings include pamphlets, reports, and circulars from a variety of charitable, service, and fraternal benefit groups, both church-based and secular.
SEE ALSO the subject guide on Politics and Government, which encompasses records of organizations focused on electoral, legislative, regulatory, or constitutional affairs.