Discovering the Ninth Street Market: A Treasure Hunt for Clues to the Past

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Discovering the Ninth Street Market: A Treasure Hunt for Clues to the Past

The Ninth Street Market is one of the nation’s oldest open-air markets, established around the turn of the 20th century by Italian immigrants who sold fruits, vegetables, and meats from carts and stands. The early commercial activities of the market were shaped by the factory life that surrounded the market.

Although the market was the social and commercial heart of the Italian community, it always reflected the larger ethnic mix of the neighborhood. The early market was populated by Jewish vendors who specialized in fabrics and household items. Today’s market is home to a variety of businesses that reflect the changing ethnic composition of the neighborhood. It maintains many of the same qualities of the early market and remains an important commercial and social fixture in South Philadelphia. On Saturdays, Ninth Street comes alive as street vendors hawk their wares and shoppers bargain for fresh produce.

This lesson is part of a suite of lesson plans associated with PhilaPlace, that explores the neighborhoods of Philadelphia.


Ethnic history

Big Ideas

Pennsylvania History
Perspective on Events

Essential Questions

How does continuity and change within Pennsylvania history influence your community today?
What role does analysis have in historical construction?


  • Textual evidence, material artifacts, the built environment, and historic sites are central to understanding the history of Pennsylvania.
  • Historical skills (organizing information chronologically, explaining historical issues, locating sources and investigate materials, synthesizing and evaluating evidence, and developing arguments and interpretations based on evidence) are used by an analytical thinker to create a historical construction.
  • People, places, and environments on Earth’s surface may be organized spatially.


  • Analyze the interaction of cultural, economic, geographic, political, and social relations for a specific time and place.
  • Articulate the context of a historical event or action.
  • Contrast multiple perspectives of individuals and groups in interpreting other times, cultures, and place.

End of Unit Assessment

The end of unit assessment will consist of a single first-person P.O.V. essay.  Students will, using the terminology learned in the unit, and drawing upon their experiences in class discussion, guided activities, readings, and field trip, synthesize a historical narrative in which they are setting up shop in the Ninth Street Market, and must use the concepts learned in the unit to flesh out their experiences.  They should describe the culture they may find in the market, the kinds of things they would “bring along” to such a diverse atmosphere, and use all of the concepts learned effectively to achieve a high grade.  More specific directions can be found in Lesson #3.