We’ve moved!

Greetings once more dear readers.  We are very happy to announce that Fondly, Pennsylvania has officially moved to HSP’s brand new website!  Click here to be directly linked to the blog.  If you are currently linked to this WordPress site, our new URL is http://hsp.org/blogs/fondly-pennsylvania.

Starting today, we will no longer add content to or check for any new comments made on this WordPress site; but you will be able to find all our posts on the new site.  And once you register there, you’ll be able to comment and converse with us in the same fashion as you did here.

In the coming months, we will continue to improve and add content to the new Fondly, Pennsylvania blog.  There you will find the same information on our collections and projects that we made here on WordPress.  Plus, you will have all of HSP’s online resources, including our other blogs, directly at your fingertips.

So please join us at the new hsp.org!


We’re really moving…really soon!

Hello again dear readers.  I’m sending out one last call about our blog migration (in case you missed the last post – it’s just below this one): HSP is in the midst of a website upgrade.  Within the next week or so this blog will be moved to HSP’s new site.  We will certainly continue to write about all the happenings and projects here in the archives, conservation, and digitization departments, but we will have a new look and a new address.  We will post the new URL here, but be prepared to update your links!


Your faithful HSP blog writers

We’re moving…soon!

Dear readers,

You may have noticed a hiatus in posts here at Fondly, Pennsylvania.  We are still hard at work with our collections, but we are also in the midst of updating our website.  By the end of January, this blog will be moved to HSP’s new website.  We will have a brand new look and, more importantly, a brand new URL.  So stay tuned for our new address, which we’ll post here, and prepare to update your links!


HSP blog writers from archives, conservation, and digitization

Tis the season to remember Wanamaker’s, Strawbridge and Clothier, Lit Brothers, and Gimbels

At the end of every holiday season, I, along with millions of others exasperated celebrators begin to take stock of all the spending.  Where did you let loose your holiday funds this year?  If recent trends are any indication, most people did their shopping online.  Though brick-and-mortar stores saw many spenders as well, it seems likely that online shopping will continue to be a very viable (and preferred) choice for most shoppers.

Though our online purchasing power has ramped up over the last few years, shopping meccas remain in many major cities, such as New York, Chicago, and San Francisco.  Philadelphia’s own retail star has dimmed some over the past, but its Center City neighborhood is undergoing something of a shopping revival.  However, among the chains and independent stores, the area lays claim to only one large free-standing department store: Macy’s.  It wasn’t that long ago, though, that Center City had four major, long-running department stores all within a few city blocks: Wanamaker’s, Strawbridge and Clothier,  Lit Brothers, and Gimbels.  These stores brought the spending community together to one location that was easy to navigate and convenient for drivers as well as public transportation riders. They also helped set retail trends that continue to this day.

Below is a bit of history about each.  HSP has a number resources and images (more can be found in our Digital Library) concerning the histories of Philadelphia’s great retail stores.  Many Philadelphians carry with them memories of shopping at these places.  Feel free to share yours in the comments section below.


Wanamaker’s – 13th and Market streets (now the site of Macy’s)

Wanamaker's Department Store, postcard (circa 1920)

John Wanamaker (1838-1922) was a well-known merchant, entrepreneur, and lifelong resident of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  He opened his first Philadelphia clothing store, Oak Hall, with partner Nathan Brown in 1861, and founded John Wanamaker and Co. several years later in 1869.  In 1876, they opened “A New Kind of Store” known as the Grand Depot at 13th and Market Streets.  This store later became the flagship store, which eventually branched out into central and southeastern Pennsylvania.  Satellite stores were also established in New Jersey, Delaware, and New York City.  Wanamaker was at the forefront in many areas in retailing including merchandising, employee relations and advertising.

In the mid-1990s, Hecht’s took over all of Wanamaker’s branches, including the Philadelphia flagship store, which, after being closed for several years, became Macy’s in 2006.

In 1955, flagship store employee Frederick Yost, also a visual merchandiser and advertiser created the Christmas Light Show that included lighted character timed to an audio recording.  The display has been renovated and updated throughout the years and continues to be a highlight (and tradition) for many of Macy’s holiday shoppers.

(HSP’s extensive John Wanamaker collection contains both records of the store and Wanamaker’s personal papers.)


Strawbridge and Clothier –Market Street, between 8th and 9th streets

Strawbridge and Clothier, photograph (circa 1930)

This major department store began as a small dry goods store founded by Justus C. Strawbridge (born 1838), an enterprising young Quaker from Mount Holly, New Jersey, in 1861 in a rented three-story building at 8th and Market streets in Philadelphia.  Strawbridge developed a close friendship with Isaac H. Clothier (born 1837), one of his cloth dealers from Philadelphia, and the two decided to partner.  Strawbridge and Clothier opened July 1, 1868, and a new five-story store replaced the old building.  For a time, this store served as the only place in Philadelphia where one could purchase both domestic and European goods under one roof.

In 1930, despite the economic depression, the company expanded their store to a satellite branch in Ardmore, Pennsylvania—it was the first time a local department store branched out to the suburbs.  In the 1960s, Strawbridge and Clothier further diversified by opening a discount chain of stores under the name “Clover.”  Strawbridge and Clothier remained a family-run business until it was sold to the May Department Store Company in 1996.  The Philadelphia store officially closed in May 2006 after being in operation for 138 years.


Lit Brothers – Market Street between 7th and 8th streets

Lit Brothers, photograph (1936)

In 1893, Samuel and Jacob Lit opened their first department store in Philadelphia. In an environment that already included plenty of competition, the Lit brothers set their store apart by offering lower prices on similar goods.  It developed a popular millinery department with the slogan “Hats Trimmed Free of Charge.”  In the early 1900s the store was rebuilt into a flagship site that took up an entire city block.  The store was bought in the 1920s by the investment and trading house Bankers Securities Corporation, run by Philadelphia financier and philanthropist Albert M. Greenfield.

Lit Brothers became known for its “Enchanted Colonial Village,” a Christmas display like those developed by other department stores.  This tradition started in the 1960s, and the village was designed by Philadelphians Thomas Comerford and was built by Christian Hofmann, a German toy creator.

This was the first of the four stores  to succumb to financial troubles — it filed for bankruptcy in the 1970s.  The Lit Brothers flagship store closed in 1977.


Gimbels – Market Street, between 9th and 10th streets

Gimbels, print (1900)

Adam Gimbel (1815-1896), a Bavarian by birth who immigrated to the United States in 1840, opened up his first retail store in Vincennes, Indiana in 1842.  At a time when bartering and negotiating sales was still common, Gimbel introduced fixed pricing in his store; that is, everything had a set price that was non-negotiable.  This “one profit system” became was one of the hallmarks of modern retailing.  Gimbel was also one of the first retailers to accept returns and give refunds.

With the introduction of railways throughout the Midwest and the changing economic landscape of the mid late 1800s, some of Gimbels old stores were closed, while other branches were created.  Gimbels opened in Philadelphia in 1894 at 9th and Market streets.  At the time, Gimbels was controlled by several of Adam Gimbel’s sons and grandsons, and the family continued the tradition of offering reliable goods and services at fixed prices.

In 1920, Gimbels, prompted especially by Ellis Gimbel, began sponsoring a Thanksgiving Day parade, which is considered the nation’s oldest.  Gimbels was associated with the annual celebration for over 60 years until the store closed in the mid-1980s.

Memories of the 1940s: World War II collections at HSP

World War II pilots with airplane, photograph (1943), Society photograph collection.

The week marks the 70th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, and its aftermath, including the United States’ entry into World War II. For some, the memories of that day remain forever engrained. Their voices, in the form of primary sources from that era serve as powerful remembrances of that time period, of loved ones separated, of home front heroes, and of the war itself.

Those collections HSP has that recall the World War II era are varied and insightful. Below is a list of just some of these collections. Whether you’re researching a family member who served during the war, doing a study of World War II propaganda, or just want to know what life was like for soldiers before, during, and after the war, these collections illuminate an era in which people banded together, donated time, and served the county for a common cause.

American Friends Service Committee, Clothing Committee, Japanese American relocation center card files (MSS065) — The Clothing Committee of the American Friends Service Committee sent gifts of clothing, toys, and other articles to Japanese Americans living in relocation projects during World War II.  This collection contains AFSC administrative files for their program with new mothers.

Joseph Beck papers (Collection 3083) — Joseph E. Beck (1904-1981) was a social worker who helped Jewish refugees during World War II. He became the executive director of the Jewish Family Society of Philadelphia in 1934.

Herman Berger papers (Collection 3075) — Philadelphia Herman Berger was drafted into the U. S. Army in 1946. After basic training, he sent to occupied Japan and assigned to duty as a clerk typist at U.S. military general headquarters in Tokyo, where he served from September 1946 to February 1947.

Anthony Joseph Drexel Biddle papers (Collection 3110) — Biddle was a politician whose career took a turn to diplomacy before and during Word War II. From about 1935 to 1944 he served as U. S. ambassador to several European countries, including Norway, Poland and France. There’s no finding aid yet for this collection, but there is a paper inventory in our library.  The collection is slated for processing next year under our current NHPRC grant.

Frank Gordon Bradley letters (Collection 3548) – Bradley, who lived in Philadelphia but was born in Connecticut,  served with the United States Army during World War II. This collection consists of approximately 300 letters written by Bradley to his family in Connecticut during the war.

James Cleary papers (Collection 3086) — During World War II, Cleary volunteered as an air raid warden and help run collections for  scrap cans, rubber, and other items in his North Philadelphia neighnorhood.

Historical Society of Pennsylvania collection of World War II papers (Collection 1479) — In late 1942, the Historical Society of Pennsylvania solicited materials to form an artificial collection to document the war effort of a number of community and social service agencies in Philadelphia. The collection contains numerous materials such as correspondence, financial records, photographs, newspaper clippings, scrapbooks, and ephemera

Historical Society of Pennsylvania war posters collection (Collection V95) — This collection contains over 500 original posters from both the World War I and World War II eras.  Many organizations and artists are represented.

Historical Society of Pennsylvania World War II propaganda collection (Collection 3335) — This collection is comprised of posters, magazine advertisements, flyers, and pamphlets from a variety of governmental and nongovernmental agencies dating from the late 1930s to the 1940s.  Most items focus on the conflict in Europe.

Sumiko Kobayashi papers (MSS073/PG230 and MSS073A) — In May 1942 Kobayashi’s family was evacuated from its California home under Executive Order 9066 to the Tanforan Assembly Center, a former race track, and then placed in the internment camp in Topaz, Utah. Her papers document her experiences as a young woman in leaving the Topaz internment camp to enroll in college, and her later activities on behalf of redress for Japanese Americans who had been imprisoned in the internment camps in World War II.

Leon Kolankewicz papers (Collection 3071) — Kolankiewicz was a Pennsylvania assemblyman and Philadelphia councilman. He was appointed president of the Philadelphia chapter of American Relief for Poland in 1929. He later served as vice-president then president of the Polish National Committee in Philadelphia, and he was a committee member of the short-lived (December 1939-June 1940) Philadelphia Chapter of the Commission for Polish Relief.

Mrs. Stacy B. Lloyd papers on American Red Cross’s Allied Prisoners of War Food Packing Service (Collection 3647) — Eleanor Burrough Morris (Mrs. Stacy B) Lloyd Mrs. Lloyd became the director of the nation’s first American Red Cross Allied Prisoners of War Food Packing Service, which opened Philadelphia in February 1943. From then through the end of the war in 1945, Lloyd supervised hundreds of mostly women volunteers as they created care packages for prisoners in war camps in Europe and Japan.

Edward A. Psulkowski letters (Collection 3123) — Psulkowski served with the Army Air Corps, 494 Bombardment Group (H), 864th Squadron. This colelction of letters narrates the story of two pen pals (Psulkowski and Gladys Kramer) who fell in love during World War II and married in 1946

We have dozens more World War II-related collections that are open for research.  For further descriptions and availability check our online catalog Discover.  If you’re interested in images, search our new Digital Library, as some items from these collections have been digitized.  If you need research help or have any questions, see our website for services and contacts.

Animals + archived images = Pets-In-Collections!

If you like animals and old pictures, then Pets-In-Collections might be just for you!  This Tumblr site was recently started by librarians at Bryn Mawr College, and several local (and now international!) organizations have contributed pictures, including HSP, the Free Library of Philadelphia, the Independence Seaport Museum, and Villanova University.  It’s really simple to submit your own images; just check out the site and follow the directions.  A new picture is posted each day and it’s a fun site to follow.  Enjoy!

Pets-In-Collection image for 11/28/11. Image courtesy of the Australian National Maritime Museum (http://www.anmm.gov.au/site/page.cfm)

Parting is such sweet sorrow: the really real and official end of PACSCL processing at HSP

Earlier this year, I posted about the end of the PACSCL Hidden Collections Processing Project at HSP.  Well…it wasn’t quite the end.   Earlier this month, Holly and Courtney, spent time finalizing the finding aids for the six collections that they and Michael and Celia processed during their months here from January to June.  It was very sad to see them go (for real, this time), yet what they left behind is nothing short of exciting.  The team processed two moderately useable collections (WWII and League of Women Voters of Phila.), two of our most use collections (Penn and Logan), and two almost inaccessible collections (Belfield and Cox transportation).  The finding aids for these collection are now up on the PACSCL website and well as HSP’s own site.  Links and descriptions follow.

HSP collection of World War II papers (Collection 1479)

In late 1942, the Historical Society of Pennsylvania solicited materials to form an artificial collection to document the war effort of a number of community and social service agencies in Philadelphia. The collection, which dates from 1938 to 1948, consists of press releases, administrative records, correspondence, financial records, photographs, newspaper clippings, scrapbooks, posters, and ephemera.

League of Women Voters of Philadelphia records (Collection 1940)

The League of Women Voters (LWV) was established in 1919, to help educate women on the civic responsibilities of voting.  The Philadelphia chapter communicated with the national and state League organizations, politicians, civic leaders, and organizations. The League of Women Voters of Philadelphia records include administrative documents and organizational papers for the Philadelphia branch of the League of Women Voters. The collection, which dates from 1920 to 1984, consists of materials from the national, state, and local branches of LWV. In particular, there are financial records, membership lists, publications, program materials, meeting minutes, correspondence and memoranda, newspaper clipping scrapbooks, and audiovisual materials.

Penn family papers (Collection 485A)

The British colony of Pennsylvania was given to William Penn (1644-1718) in 1681 by Charles II of England in repayment of a debt owed his father, Sir Admiral William Penn (1621-1670). Under Penn’s directive, Pennsylvania was settled by Quakers escaping religious torment in England and other European nations.  The Penn family papers house the personal and governmental records of William Penn, the proprietor of Pennsylvania, and his family. This collection, which dates from 1592 to 1960 (bulk of materials dating 1629 to 1834), consists primarily of correspondence, legal records, governmental records, surveys, deeds, grants, receipts, and account books; there are also 19th and 20th century auction catalogs and other secondary materials.

Logan family papers (Collection 379)

The Logan family was a prominent Philadelphia family dating back to 1699, when James Logan, the family patriarch, arrived in Philadelphia to serve as the first secretary of the Pennsylvania colony. Through work in agriculture and politics, Logan and his descendants were intimately involved in the development of the Pennsylvania colony and, later, the fledging United States. James Logan’s prominence resulted in connections, both professional and familial, with other prominent colonial families, including the Norris and Dickinson families.  This collection is rich in the history of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and Delaware, the formation of the colony of Pennsylvania, the relationship of early colonials with the Native Americans, the bid for independence and the later formation of the United States of America. Included in the papers are correspondence, legal records, estate records, financial records, land and property records, diaries, and writings.

Belfield papers (Collection 3159)

The Belfield papers include materials from families who lived in the Belfield mansion in Germantown, Pennsylvania from 1826 until 1984; however, the papers span the years 1679 to 1977. This collection includes correspondence, financial records, ephemera, photographs, scrapbooks, pamphlets, periodicals, and other items. Featured individuals include William and Sarah Logan Fisher Wister, their son John Wister and his wife, Sarah Tyler Boas Wister, their granddaughter Sarah Logan Wister Starr and her husband, James Starr, and their great-granddaughter S. Logan Starr Blain and her husband, Dr. Daniel Blain. Topics that are particularly well documented in the Belfield papers include: Women’s Medical College of Pennsylvania; Colonial Dames of America; the Sesquicentennial Exposition; stamp collecting; world travel during the Great Depression; twentieth-century psychiatry; nineteenth-century industry and legal practice; and the genealogy of the Logan, Fisher and Wister families.

Harold E. Cox transportation collection (Collection 3158)

Prior to the 1870s, Philadelphia’s public transportation system consisted of dozens of independently owned and operated horse drawn streetcar lines. In the 1880s and 1890s steps were taken toward electrification and unification, a goal finally achieved in 1902 with the founding of Philadelphia Rapid Transit Company (PRT). PRT constructed subway and elevated train lines, and managed public transportation until 1940, when the Philadelphia Transportation Company (PTC) was established, absorbing PRT and all of its functions. The Dr. Harold E. Cox transportation collection is composed primarily of records from PTC and PRT, as well as PRT’s subsidiary and predecessor rail lines. This collection dates from 1803 to 1967, with the bulk of materials ranging from 1858 to 1960. It consists of financial records, legal records, correspondence, administrative records, ephemera, scrapbooks, newspaper clippings, atlases, and route maps and diagrams. The collection documents the growth and development of public transportation in Philadelphia, with a focus on the business activities and legal affairs of the PTC and PRT.

To the PACSCL team members who worked here, Good Night! Good Night! Parting is such sweet sorrow.

Holly Mengel, Project Manager

Courtney Smerz, Project Archivist

Celia Caust-Ellenbogen, Student Processor

Michael Gubicza, Student Processor