Fourteen Collections Documenting Civic Engagement Will Be Processed and Preserved

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Work made possible through a grant from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission

The Historical Society of Pennsylvania (HSP) has begun a 26-month processing and preservation project that will provide in-depth access to 14 collections documenting civic engagement in Philadelphia and the United States as a whole. This project was made possible through a grant from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC), with additional support provided by the Albert M. Greenfield Foundation, the Philadelphia Area Consortium of Special Collections Libraries’ “Hidden Collections” project, and private donors.

The collections in this project document a rich array of events and activities, encompassing political debates, philanthropy, government and military service, race, gender, sexuality, and community organizing across more than 120 years. The 14 collections consist of a total of 1,376 linear feet and 693 sound recordings. This project will build upon HSP’s current initiative to make basic, collection-level descriptions for all of HSP’s archival holdings available to researchers online. It will also improve the public visibility of HSP’s post-Civil War collections, a rich but lesser-known part of our holdings.

The project will apply a “More Product, Less Process” set of protocols.  In other words, the collections will be organized, inventoried, and preserved less intensively than in traditional archival processing, in order to more quickly make them available to people doing research. Finding aids will be created for each collection and placed online, and the audio recordings will be transferred from phonograph to digital format, including WAV files that will be archived and MP3 derivatives that will be made available to researchers.

For more information about this project, please contact Matthew Lyons, Director of Archives and Collections Management, at 215-732-6200 ext. 301.

The 14 collections that are part of this project are:

·         John Welsh Papers (1837-78) – A prominent Philadelphia merchant, he served as ambassador to Great Britain and played a leading role in the U.S. Sanitary Commission’s Great Central Fair of 1864 and the U.S. Centennial Exhibition of 1876.

·         Herbert Welsh Papers (1853-1954) – Son of John Welsh, he was a civic reformer with ties to a wide range of organizations including the Indian Rights Association, National Civil Service Reform League, Anti-Imperialist League, and Society for the Protection of Forests.

·         Indian Rights Association Records (1830-1986) – The IRA sought to “bring about the complete civilization of Indians and their admission to citizenship.” They were influential in the lobbying of Congress and the Bureau of Indian Affairs from the 1880’s to the 1930’s. The Association also monitored the living conditions of Indian reservations and attempted to educate the public on Native American issues.

·         Citizens’ Permanent Relief Committee Records (1885-1923) – This Philadelphia philanthropic group provided aid to those who suffered from natural disasters, famine, war, or political repression, and also provided unemployment relief before this became a government function.

·         League of Women Voters of Philadelphia Records (1920-1980) – The league was formed in 1920 as a national organization to foster women’s political participation. In addition to educating the public during election campaigns, the league took stands on local issues concerning child care, city management, housing, public education, and public health; and national issues such as the legal status of women, the Marshall Plan, and the United Nations.

·         World War II Collection (1938-1949) – This collection consists of three sections. The first documents the fierce debate leading up to Pearl Harbor as to whether the U.S. should enter the war. The second section consists of wartime press releases and speeches released by the Office of War Information, many of which concern price control agreements. The third section is records from the United Service Organization of Philadelphia, which offered assistance and recreation to members of the armed forces and their families.

·         Anthony J.D. Biddle, Jr. Papers (1912-1961) – Biddle held a number of prominent diplomatic posts including ambassador to Norway and Poland in the 1930s and to numerous governments in exile during World War II. He served in the U.S. Army during both World Wars as well as the Cold War, reaching the rank of major general.

·         Albert M. Greenfield Papers (1921-1967) – Greenfield was a Philadelphia real estate broker and financier whose business interests also included a chain of department stores and the Philadelphia Transportation Company. He was a philanthropist and political leader holding positions on numerous local commissions.

·         Richardson Dilworth Papers (1881-1991) – Dilworth served as mayor of Philadelphia, city treasurer, attorney general, Board of Education president, and was an unsuccessful Democratic candidate for governor of Pennsylvania in 1950 and 1962. He was a leader of Philadelphia’s post-World War II reform movement which brought about a modern city charter, introduced civil service exams, and strengthened city planning.

·         Natalie Saxe Randall Papers (1923-1998) – Randall was also a leader of Philadelphia’s political reform movement after World War II. She served as director of the Committee for Philadelphia, a member of the Democratic State Committee, coordinator of Dilworth’s 1962 gubernatorial campaign, and a government affairs consultant and lobbyist.

·         Philadelphia Fellowship Commission Audio Recordings (1945-1953) – Formed in 1941 by a coalition of Jewish, African American, and other civil rights groups, the PFC challenged racial and religious discrimination and stereotyping. The commission sponsored educational and job assistance programs and helped establish the Philadelphia branch of the American Civil Liberaties Union. These recordings are a collection of radio broadcasts including plays, stories, musical performances, and interviews.

·         Morris Milgram Papers (1940-1997) – Milgram was a pioneer in the development of integrated housing as a developer of planned communities and co-founder of the Fund for an OPEN Society (“OPEN”), which provides affordable mortgages for home purchases that increase the ethnic and racial diversity of a community.

·         Max Weiner Papers (1966-1990) – Weiner was executive director of the Consumer Education and Protective Agency (CEPA), an early consumer advocacy group formed in 1966. He also spoke out about police brutality and political corruption. He ran for office many times on the Consumer Party ticket.

·         John Fryer Papers (1950-2003) – Fryer was a groundbreaking gay psychiatrist best known for a 1972 speech in full disguise that is credited with persuading the American Psychiatric Association to remove homosexuality from its list of mental disorders. Professionally, Fryer worked mostly with gay men and lesbians, persons with substance abuse issues, and those coping with death and dying.