Philadelphia and the surrounding region have a rich history in culture and the arts. Many small repositories have personal and family papers as well as the records of institutions and associations that relate to the visual and performing arts, music, and horticulture and landscape.
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 helping to uncover hundreds of hidden archival collections at many of the small repositories in the five county Philadelphia area. Some of the collections cataloged during the HCI-PSAR project are summarized in this subject guide for archival research at area small repositories. The guide is not comprehensive but will serve to highlight underutilized collections and indicate the depth and breadth of resources available at small repositories.
All the finding aids from 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.
Foerderer and Tonner family papers, circa 1870-1970 (GF.01)
Glen Foerd on the Delaware
18.5 Linear feet
The Foerderer family was prominent in the Philadelphia area and well known for their self-named leather manufacturing and tanning business. The family resided at Glen Foerd beginning in 1893 after purchasing it from the Macalester family. A large portion of the records in the Foerderer and Tonner family papers, circa 1870-1970, are financial in nature and range from 1896 to 1946. There is also a span of subject files which include primarily correspondence and receipts pertaining to the maintenance of the estate. A highlight of this collection are papers of Florence Tonner, who was an avid art collector.
Newtown Historic Association collection on Edward Hicks and family, 1802-1986 (NHA.08)
Newtown Historic Association
3.25 linear feet
Edward Hicks (1780-1849) an American Quaker artist best known for his painting "The Peaceable Kingdom," of which he created more than 60 versions. Hicks lived in Newtown, Bucks County, Pennsylvania from 1811 until his death. The Newtown Historic Association collection on Edward Hicks and family, 1802-1986, includes a small amount of original primary documents from Edward Hicks and his family members, as well as a large amount of articles, research notes, manuscripts, photocopies of Hicks documents and paintings, and related secondary materials compiled by Hicks scholars. The highlight of the collection is a daybook that was used by Edward Hicks and his son, Isaac W. Hicks, 1833-1885.
Philadelphia Sketch Club records, 1860-2012 (PSC.02)
Philadelphia Sketch Club
54 Linear feet
The Philadelphia Sketch Club, founded in 1860, is America's oldest club for artists. Philadelphia Sketch Club records, 1860-2012, contains minute books, treasurer's reports, ledgers, receipts, dues books, membership applications, exhibition planning materials and catalogs, photographs, and many other records of the organization. A highlight of the collection is a box of Philadelphia Sketch Club member Christmas cards, most featuring original artwork, circa 1920-2004.
Robert H. Finnigan costume sketches, circa 1966-1978 (MM.07)
2.25 linear feet
Robert (Bob) Finnigan is among the best-known costume designers for the Mummers Parade in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He has been designing costumes for the parade since 1960. The Robert H. Finnigan costume sketches, circa 1966-1978, contain several dozen original sketches for his designs.
Russell Smith Family papers, 1805-1952 [bulk 1852-1949] (OYR.2003.013)
Old York Road Historical Society
3.5 Linear feet
The Smiths were a family of artists who worked and lived at their home in Edgehill, Pennsylvania. Russell Smith (1812-1896) was a landscape painter who became a prominent theater curtain painter, and his son Xanthus (1839-1929) was known for his Civil War naval battle scenes. The bulk of the Russell Smith family papers, 1805-1952, are comprised of financial records and estate records from the Smith family. The collection also includes pencil and ink sketches and watercolors created by Russell and Xanthus Smith.
Women's Committee of the Philadelphia Sesqui-Centennial International Exposition of 1926 records, 1921-1927 [bulk 1926-1926] (SM.03)
Historic Strawberry Mansion
7.25 linear feet
The Women's Committee of the Philadelphia Sesquicentennial Exposition of 1926 was formed to promote, raise funds, and create exhibits for the exposition. One of their most ambitious and popular exhibits was High Street, a recreation of early American life through buildings and period reenactment. The Women's Committee records, 1921-1927, contain administrative and financial records as well as ephemera generated by the committee.
Christine Shearer and Irma Schultz scrapbooks, 1935-1970 (WHS.03)
Worcester Historical Society
1.5 linear feet
Christine Shearer (1884-1968) of Worcester, Pennsylvania began entering jingle-writing contests in the 1930s, and continued to enter and win such contests for over 25 years. Mrs. Shearer was active with the local Ladies' Aid Society, serving as its president. Her sister Irma Schultz also entered jingle-writing contests, although not as frequently. The Christine Shearer and Irma Schultz scrapbooks, 1935-1965, are comprised of scrapbooks created by Shearer and Schultz. The bulk consist of newspaper clippings, but of special interest are three scrapbooks which document the women's jingle-writing hobby.
David K. Eichler Collection, 1898-1994 [bulk 1925-1994] (CHHS.2003.82)
Chestnut Hill Historical Society
10.1 linear feet
David Kemble Eichler (1913-2003) was a real estate agent and "popular local personality" in the Chestnut Hill neighborhood of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He served in the military during World War II and briefly worked for the state department. He was friends with actress Katharine Hepburn. The David K. Eichler collection, 1898-1994, includes correspondence, working files, publications, books, floor plans and photographs. Subjects cover a range of interest and experience such as art, drama, travel, World War II service and subsequent diplomatic service, graduate school, employment, current events, business enterprises, community work, politics, and personal relationships.
Philadelphia Clef Club of Jazz and Performing Arts records, 1925-1974 (PCC.01)
Philadelphia Clef Club of Jazz and Performing Arts
34.33 linear feet
The Philadelphia Clef Club of Jazz and Performing Arts was founded in 1966 as the social club of the Union Local No. 274 of the American Federation of Musicians. Local No. 274, the Black musicians union of Philadelphia, was in existence from 1935 to 1971. With members such as John Coltrane and Dizzy Gillespie, Local 274 was an important organization in the development of jazz in Philadelphia. The Clef Club served as a foundation for the city's jazz community, advancing projects to benefit jazz musicians. The Club continued to function as a social club until 1978, when it expanded its activities to include jazz performance, jazz instruction, and the preservation of Philadelphia's rich jazz history. The Philadelphia Clef Club of Jazz and Performing Arts records, 1925-1974, include records of both the Black Musicians Union Local No. 274 and the Clef Club. The records, which appear to be fairly comprehensive, consist primarily of administrative records, financial records, and records relating to members.
Mummers Museum photograph collection, circa 1899-2010 (MM.02)
21 linear feet
The tradition of mummery dates back to the late 17th century, but the parade was first sponsored by the City of Philadelphia in 1901. The Philadelphia New Years Shooters and Mummers Association administers the annual Mummers Parade in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Mummers Museum photograph collection, circa 1899-2010, is comprised of photographs and slides of the Mummers Parade, Mummers, and associated individuals.
Mummers Museum audiovisual materials collection, 1962-2010 (MM.09)
116 linear feet
The tradition of mummery dates back to the late 17th century, but the parade was first sponsored by the City of Philadelphia in 1901. The Philadelphia New Years Shooters and Mummers Association administers the annual Mummers Parade in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Mummers Museum audiovisual materials collection, 1962-2010, consists of video recordings of the Mummers Parade and published audio recordings of Mummers string bands.
James T. Caulfield and Rafael A. Suarez papers, 1918-1985 [bulk 1944-1985] (JJW.SC.0013)
John J. Wilcox Jr. GLBT Archives of Philadelphia
5 linear feet
Dr. Rafael A. Suarez and James T. Caulfield, known as "The Philamigos," traveled throughout South America in the 1950s-1980s, operated a learning center in Philadelphia, and were prominent members of the Philadelphia LGBT community. The James T. Caulfield and Rafael A. Suarez papers, 1918-1985, extensively document their works, including the Philamigos Institute of Learning, their travels abroad, and Caulfield's experience as a gay soldier during World War II. The collection contains correspondence, photographs, newspaper clippings, ephemera, over a dozen 16-mm films, and stamps/correspondence regarding philately.
Fairmount Park Maps, Plans and Drawings collection, 1684-2010 (FP.2010.004)
Fairmount Park Historic Resource Archives
98 linear feet
Items in this collection relate to East and West Fairmount Park, the original components of what has become the vast Fairmount Park system. Unique in its composition, these areas not only contain naturalist landscapes, but they are also home to a truly diverse set of historic and functional structures. In addition to a vast trail system and traditional recreational facilities (such as swimming pools and baseball diamonds), these parks are also home to an array of 18th and 19th century historic houses, the nation's first zoo, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the imposing Fairmount Water Works, and Philadelphia's iconic Boathouse Row.
Morris Arboretum of the University of Pennsylvania records, 1933-2013 (MA.02)
Morris Arboretum Archives
53 linear feet
The land that is now the Morris Arboretum at the University of Pennsylvania, the official Arboretum of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, was previously the private estate of Quaker siblings John Thompson Morris (1847-1915) and Lydia Thompson Morris (1849-1932). Bequeathed to the University of Pennsylvania in 1933, it was part of the University's Botany Department until, in 1975, it was established as a separate Interdisciplinary Resource Center. The Morris Arboretum at the University of Pennsylvania records, 1933-2013, include the office files of former directors, various administrative and financial records, correspondence, press clippings about the Arboretum, membership reports, programs and ephemera, publicity photographs.