Small Repositories Subject Guide: Community and Social Services

Small repositories hold a significant amount of collections that relate to education, service organizations, religious institutions, and orphanages. Also included are collections from Eastern State Penitentiary, the world's first true "penitentiary," that opened in Philadelphia in 1829.

The Hidden Collections Initiative for Pennsylvania Small Archival Repositories (HCI-PSAR), a project of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania with funding from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, is uncovering the hundreds of hidden collections held by the many small archival repositories in the five-county Philadelphia area. Some of the collections cataloged in the HCI-PSAR project are summarized in this subject guide, which is designed to facilitate and encourage research at small repositories. The guide is not comprehensive but will serve to highlight underutilized collections and reveal the depth and breadth of resources available at small repositories.

Finding aids to all small repository archival collections surveyed in the HCI-PSAR project are available at our finding aid website, hosted by the Philadelphia Area Consortium of Special Collections Libraries. Finding aids are being added on an ongoing basis, so check back frequently.

Education
Service organizations
Orphanages
Religious institutions
Prisons

Education

Crefeld School Collection, 1965-2011 (CHHS.2002.228)
Chestnut Hill Historical Society
7.25 linear feet
The Crefeld School, located in the Chestnut Hill neighborhood of Philadelphia, was established in 1970 as a secondary school providing a "Progressive Education" focused on hands-on education and experiential learning. The Crefeld School Collection, 1965-2011, includes Board materials, financial records, administrative files, correspondence, yearbooks, and several scrapbooks.

Langhorne Library Company records, 1800-1971 (HLA.04)
Historic Langhorne Association
2.5 linear feet
The Attleborough Library Company, renamed the Langhorne Library Company after Langhorne Borough's incorporation in 1876, was chartered in 1802. The library company served as a private, subscription-based library until 1960, when it opted into the public system. The Langhorne Library Company records, 1800-1971, consist of minute books, circulation registers, book catalogs and registers, financial records, subscription books, legal papers (including the 1802 charter), and miscellaneous articles, news clippings, and circulars.

Lower Merion School Board minute books, 1834-1856, 1892-19131834-1913 (LMHS.22)
Lower Merion Historical Society
1 linear feet
The Lower Merion School District was the first in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania to apply to establish free "common" public schools under legislation passed in Harrisburg in 1834. The Lower Merion School Board minute books, 1834-1856 and 1892-1913, consist of four volumes.

Union Library of Hatboro records, 1755-2009 (ULH.04)
Union Library of Hatboro
19.4 linear feet
In existence since 1755, the Union Library of Hatboro of Montgomery County, Pennsylvania still operates as a lending library under its original charter. The Union Library of Hatboro records, 1755-2009, contain administrative, financial, and event records of the library.

Westtown School records, 1682-2013 [bulk 1799-2013] (WTS.01)
Westtown School Archives
600 linear feet
Westtown School in Chester County, Pennsylvania is the oldest continuously operating coeducational boarding school in the United States. It was founded by the Philadelphia Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) in 1799 with the goal of educating Quaker children in an environment that fostered moral development consistent with their religious ideals. The Westtown School records, 1682-2013 (bulk 1799-2013), include records created by Westtown Boarding School, including its various administrative offices, Board of Trustees, faculty, and students. It is organized into nine series: "19th century records," "20th century records," "Board of Trustees," "Farm and Orchard," "Student papers," "Westtown Old Scholars Association and Westtown Alumni Association," "Subject files," "Special formats," and "Publications." Inventories for some sections of the collection are available on site.

Service organizations

Kiwanis Club of Jenkintown, 1949-1996 (OYR.07)
Old York Road Historical Society
9.5 linear feet
The Kiwanis Club of Jenkintown was officially chartered in 1949. The Kiwanis Club of Jenkintown records, 1949-1996, comprises administrative, financial, and membership records, as well as publications.

Germantown Relief Society records, 1873-1953 (GHS.10)
Germantown Historical Society
2.5 linear feet
The Germantown Relief Society, founded in Philadelphia in 1873, was the first society in the United States to organize charitable work. It aimed to make sure charity reached those who needed it most, and avoid wasting effort on those who did not really need it. The Germantown Relief Society records, 1873-1953, consist of minute books, financial records, correspondence, scrapbooks, and other records.

Orphanages

Foulke and Long Institute for Orphan Girls records, 1857-1948 (GHS.14)
Germantown Historical Society
4.75 linear feet
The Foulke and Long Institute for Orphan Girls was established in Philadelphia in 1882 for orphaned daughters of soldiers, firemen, and others sacrificed for the public benefit. In 1888, Foulke and Long merged with the Industrial Home for the Training of Girls in the Arts of Housewifery and Sewing. Foulke and Long moved to the Germantown neighborhood of Philadelphia in 1913, where it remained until the institute merged with the Youth Study Center of Philadelphia in 1960. The Foulke and Long Institute for Orphan Girls records, 1857-1948, are primarily comprised of administrative, financial, and pupil records for the Foulke and Long Institute, with some materials from the Industrial Home for Girls. There are Admission and Dismission Committee records, meeting minutes, account books and ledgers, and many other document types.

Religious institutions

Hatboro Baptist Church records, 1739-2003 [bulk 1920-2000] (MS.05)
Millbrook Society
33 linear feet
On September 8th, 1835 the Hatboro Baptist Church in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania met for the first time in the Loller Academy with twenty-two members. On May 31st of the following year, the Hatboro Baptist Church was received into membership of the Central Union Association during its 4th annual session. Hatboro Baptist Church records, 1739-2003, contain materials related to the administration and activities of Hatboro Baptist Church, as well as some vital records.

St. James' Episcopal Church records, 1788-2012 (SJ.01)
St. James Community History Center
4 linear feet
St. James' Episcopal Church, Collegeville is located in Lower Providence Township, Montgomery County, Pennsylvania. It is also referred to as St. James' Church, Perkiomen and St. James', Evansburg. The congregation, still active as of 2012, traces its origins to early worship services conducted in 1700 by the Reverend Evan Evans. The St. James' Episcopal Church records, 1788-2012, include parish registers and vital records, vestry minutes, church financial and administrative records, women's groups records, and materials from "Colonial Christmas" events.

Thomas B. and Francis R. Taylor papers (OYR.1992.002)
Old York Road Historical Society
5 linear feet
Francis R. Taylor (1885-1947) was a prominent Philadelphia lawyer and banker who was active in the Society of Friends with an interest in history. Francis' father, Thomas B. Taylor (1852-1911), was a Philadelphia attorney and conveyancer. The Thomas B. and Francis R. Taylor papers, 1880-1945, include records created by each of the men. Thomas' records include letterbooks and records of his work as a lawyer. Francis' records include correspondence, materials relating to Quaker educational institutions, and a biography of William Savery (Philadelphia tanner and Quaker minister, lived 1750-1804). There are also materials relating to the purchase and maintenance of the property "Brooklawn."

Prisons

State Penitentiary for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania records, circa 1830-1970, 31 linear feet (ESP.01)
Eastern State Penitentiary Historic Site, Inc.
31 linear feet
When it opened in 1829, the State Penitentiary for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania ("Eastern State Penitentiary") was the world's first true "penitentiary" in the sense that it was designed to inspire true feelings of penitence in the hearts of inmates. Initially characterized by its system of strict isolation and grand architecture, more than 300 prisons on five continents were modeled after Eastern State Penitentiary. Over 142 years of operation, the system of isolation was gradually abandoned and the penitentiary became a traditional modern prison; in 1971, the facility was closed. The State Penitentiary for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania records, circa 1830-1970, is comprised of various fragmentary records of the "Eastern State Penitentiary" that were either found on-site after the prison was closed, or donated by various individuals with connections to the prison. There are records relating to the operations and administration of the prison as a whole, as well as inmate records relating to specific prisoners.

Eastern State Penitentiary oral history project, 1993-2012 (ESP.02)
Eastern State Penitentiary Historic Site, Inc.
5 linear feet
When it opened in 1829, the State Penitentiary for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania ("Eastern State Penitentiary") was the world's first true "penitentiary" in the sense that it was designed to inspire true feelings of penitence in the hearts of inmates. Initially characterized by its system of strict isolation and grand architecture, more than 300 prisons on five continents were modeled after Eastern State Penitentiary. Over 142 years of operation, the system of isolation was gradually abandoned and the penitentiary became a traditional modern prison; in 1971, the facility was closed. The Eastern State Penitentiary oral history project, 1993-2012, consists of about 130 oral history interviews with former inmates, employees of the State Penitentiary for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania ("Eastern State Penitentiary"), family members of employees, and volunteers such as Chaplains.