Small Repositories Subject Guide: Nature, Technology, and Medicine

Some of the most important naturalists in American history, John Bartram and John James Audubon, both called the Philadelphia area home. Archival collections documenting their lives, as well as numerous environmental groups, inventors, doctors, and scientists are held at small repositories.

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.

Nature and the environment
Technology and inventions
Medicine

Nature and the environment

John Bartram Association collection on the Bartram family, 1768-2012 (BG.05)
John Bowman Bartram Special Collections Library
19 linear feet
John Bartram (1699-1777), the "Father of American Botany," created a botanic garden in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania that is widely considered the first true botanic collection in North America. In 1891 the City of Philadelphia purchased his estate as a historic site, and the John Bartram Association--primarily constituted of his descendants--was established in 1893 to help with the administration and interpretation of the property. The John Bartram Association collection on the Bartram family, 1768-2012, includes various materials created by or on the subject of John Bartram (1699-1777) and his descendants. It includes some original and many copies of Bartram family documents, photographs, book research, genealogical research, and plant information.

Audubon-Bakewell-Shaffer family papers, circa 1828-1958 (MG.03)
John James Audubon Center at Mill Grove
0.67 linear feet
John James Audubon (1785-1851) was a French-American ornithologist, naturalist, and painter. His The Birds of North America, written and lushly illustrated by Audubon himself, is considered one of the finest ornithological works ever completed. The Audubon-Bakewell-Shaffer family papers, circa 1828-1858, contain letters, manuscripts, and other items from members of the Audubon-Bakewell-Shaffer family. The bulk of the letters are between William Gifford Bakewell and his wife Maria or his sister Lucy Bakewell Audubon.

Wyncote Audubon Society (Wyncote Bird Club) records (OYR.2005.044)
Old York Road Historical Society
18 linear feet
The Wyncote Audubon Society was founded in 1914 as the Wyncote Bird Club by Ernest Harold Baynes. Its goal was the preservation of birds and their environment; later, it took on the management of Crosswicks Wildlife Sanctuary and the preservation of Briar Bush Nature Center. The Club became a chapter of the National Audubon Society in 1968, and in 1977, it incorporated as the Wyncote Audubon Society. The Wyncote Audubon Society (Wyncote Bird Club) records, 1914-1993, include meeting minutes, financial records, membership records, activity files, several films, and other records of the organization.

Pennypack Ecological Restoration Trust records (OYR.2005.058)
Old York Road Historical Society
18 linear feet
The Pennypack Ecological Restoration Trust was established as the Pennypack Watershed Association in 1970. A public non-profit organization, it was dedicated to providing a unified approach for implementing sound environmental goals for the 56 square mile area that extended through the suburbs of Bucks and Eastern Montgomery Counties and into the highly urbanized areas of Northeast Philadelphia. The Pennypack Ecological Restoration Trust records, 1971-2009, chiefly consist of minutes reporting on land acquisition, finances, and programs and activities. There are also miscellaneous records relating to the organization's activities.

Technology and inventions

American Swedish Historical Museum John Ericsson collection, 1838-1938 [bulk 1859-1890] (ASHM.04)
American Swedish Historical Museum
16 linear feet
John Ericsson (1803-1889) was an inventor and engineer best known for designing the USS Monitor and innovating propeller-driven boats. The USS Monitor, an ironclad warship, contributed to the Union victory in the Civil War; one of Ericsson's other ships was the first propeller-driven steamer to cross the Atlantic. The American Swedish Historical Museum John Ericsson collection, 1838-1938, encompasses correspondence, financial records, plans and drawings, patents and contracts, scrapbooks, and photographs. It is an invaluable resource for the study of the Civil War, mechanical engineering, famous Swedes in America, and numerous other topics.

Historical Society of Tacony Frank Shuman collection, 1912-2011 (HST.06)
Historical Society of Tacony
0.5 Linear feet
Frank Shuman (1862-1918) was a resident of Tacony, Philadelphia, and an inventor. He built the world's first solar thermal power station in Maadi, Egypt from 1912-1913: it was used to irrigate the desert near the Nile River. The bulk of the Historical Society of Tacony Frank Shuman collection, 1912-2011, consists of secondary materials, but there is also an original plan for the Maadi solar plant, and about two dozen original photographs of Shuman and his team building it.

James M. Shimer Kaiser-Fleetwings papers, 1942-1958 (GML.05)
Margaret R. Grundy Memorial Library
3 linear feet
Established in 1926, Fleetwings, Inc. was an aircraft components factory that moved from Long Island, New York to Bristol, Bucks County, Pennsylvania in 1934. Due to the company's success during World War II, Henry J. Kaiser's Kaiser Industries invested in the company and renamed it Kaiser-Fleetwings Corp.; the company folded in 1962. James M. (Jim) Shimer, Jr. (1914-2007) worked there as a technical illustrator. The James M. Shimer collection on Kaiser-Fleetwings, 1942-1955, consists of materials relating to James M. Shimer's work as a technical illustrator for Kaiser-Fleetwings. There are a large number of Shimer's drawings of aircrafts, blueprints, technical specifications, photographs of aircraft and of models, and promotional brochures for the aircraft, as well as some of Shimer's employment records and various employee newsletters and publications.

Medicine

Dr. Hiram Corson family papers, 1827-1896 (HSMC.12)
Historical Society of Montgomery County
6.7 linear feet
Dr. Hiram Corson (1804-1896) was a practicing physician, and an advocate for abolitionism and women in medicine. He lived in Plymouth Meeting, Montgomery County, Pennsylvania. The Dr. Hiram Corson family papers, 1827-1896, consist primarily of the papers of Dr. Hiram Corson, with a small amount of materials by other family members. The highlight of the collection is the diaries of Dr. Corson, which date from 1848 to 1896.

Chevalier Jackson papers, 1914-1940 (SRM.01)
Sunrise Mill
9.8 linear feet
Dr. Chevalier Jackson (1865-1958) was a medical doctor whose invention of the bronchoscope saved countless lives by removing foreign bodies, such as pins, coins and teeth, from people's throats. He authored over four hundred medical articles and twelve books, including his autobiography, which became a best-seller in 1938. The Chevalier Jackson papers at Sunrise Mill, 1914-1940, consists of patient records (1925-1928), drafts of medical articles, laryngology conference materials (1925, 1932), correspondence, and photographs.