Community and Social Service History

Year Published: 
2013
Subject Matter Dates: 
1741 - 2013

HSP's collections include a broad range of materials representing philanthropic, service, self-help, and mutual benefit initiatives. From churches to ethnic associations to community service organizations to individual philanthropists, these collections offer unique resources for research.

Please refer to our online catalog for more information about our books, images, journals, manuscripts, maps, and other items in our collection. You can also contact a Reference Librarian for further assistance.

Benefit Societies

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, collection #MSS054), Russian Brotherhood Organization of the U.S.A., 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.

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, Ladies’ Dorcas Society of the Oxford Presbyterian Church, Second Baptist Church, and Volksverein of Philadelphia, as well as microfilm copies of the Mother Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church and Old Christ Church records. The Leon Gardiner collection of American Negro Historical Society records includes records of the First African Presbyterian Church and Second African Presbyterian Church, both of Philadelphia.

Community Service

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 Farabegoli Gurzau and Yam Tong Hoh. The Concerned Citizens of North Camden records document an unusually successful neighborhood revitalization group. The Jane Campbell scrapbooks and Helen C. Perkins 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.

Education

Education and literacy-related efforts are represented through the records of the Apprentices Library Company 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 Scholars, as well as the Pennsylvania Home Teaching Society and Free Circulating Library 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 on Emma Dean Walker Armstrong contains substantial information on the early history of Hampton Normal and Agricultural Institute in Hampton, Virginia.

Ethnic Organizations

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, Southeast Asian Resource Action Center (SEARAC), and United American Indians of Delaware Valley, Inc. The Leon Gardiner collection of American Negro Historical Society records contains materials from a number of African American civic, philanthropic, and mutual benefit organizations, as well as schools and churches.

Philanthropists

The Society has the papers of several wealthy Philadelphia philanthropists, notably Samuel Simeon Fels, Albert M. Greenfield, and John Wanamaker.

Relief and Service to the Poor

Collections of organizations dedicated to relief or services for the poor include 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, and Southwark Soup Society.

War-related Organizations

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 its Great Central Fair, and of the Union Volunteer Refreshment Saloon and Hospital (see also the Samuel B. Fales collection of Union Volunteer Refreshment Saloon papers), and the diaries 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 for War Relief. For World War II, there are the records of the Philadelphia chapters of American Relief for Poland and United Seamen’s Service (in the John F. Lewis papers). The Citizens’ Permanent Relief Committee records document disaster relief work. The Norman V. Lourie papers concern U.S. refugee policy in the 1970s and 1980s.

Updated 9/13/2013