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.

Revisiting U.S. Indian Schools with the Indian Rights Association

I’m posting this on behalf of Jenna Marrone, intern for the processing of the Indian Rights Association records.

The story of Native Americans in the United States is not an unfamiliar one.  Most of us are at least somewhat aware of the complicated and tragic relationship between the U.S. government and Indian tribes throughout the country’s history.  For contemporary audiences, well-known phrases like “The only good Indian is a dead Indian” and “Kill the Indian…and save the man” sound like bad dialogue from an old Western film.

Much of what we know about Native American history is shrouded in mythology.  Certainly, that’s how I felt as I began to process the Indian Rights Association (IRA) papers with Willhem Echevarria, project archivist at HSP.  My first task was to sort through boxes of loose newspaper clippings that spanned from the 1870s to the 1980s.  As I organized the clippings, I scanned through them, noting the strange evolution of public opinion on the “Indian situation” over time.  Anytime I came across a particularly offensive headline or a quirky handwritten note, I thought hopefully, “Well, maybe they’re just being ironic.  Herbert Welsh, such a kidder!”

I suppose the Enlightenment thinkers were right, however, and seeing is believing, because it wasn’t until I found visual evidence from the U.S. Indian Schools files that I began to get a clearer picture of the so-called “Indian situation.”

“Are you serious!” I exclaimed one afternoon as I flipped through a 1918 yearbook from the Carlisle Indian School.  Willhem glanced up from his desk with an are-you-working-or-are-you-playing-with-the-documents-expression.  “Look!” I said, shoving the yearbook at him.  It was open to a picture of students dressed for a theatrical production – dressed, may I add, as conquistadors and explorers, among other famous figures from history.


Carlisle Students dressed for a theatrical performance, 1918

“Who would make a Native American dress like Cortez?” I asked as we shook our heads over the picture.  There are many more images like this one in the collection, scattered throughout the annual reports and yearbooks for schools like the Haskell Institute, the Hampton Industrial and Agricultural School, and the Sherman Institute.  The philosophy behind these boarding schools was simple: transform young Native Americans into “good citizens” and productive members of society.  To achieve this end, Indian schools focused on teaching industrial trades to boys, while girls learned housekeeping or nursing skills.  Some children were forcibly removed from their reservations, and many students were given new Anglo names upon arrival.  While I’m sure (or rather, hope) that there were some legitimately good intentions floating around there, underneath the positivist rhetoric remains a constant intention to Anglicize the Native American population.

Carlisle Students “Before and After” – from 1909 Annual Report

So, what was the IRA’s role in the Indian school movement?  What were their intentions in lobbying for Native American rights?  And how might we measure their success?  The Indian Rights Association records contain answers to all these questions and more.   Among the surprising headlines, the occasionally appalling images, and the revealing notes lies a new story waiting to be told.

Images of “by-gone days:” Visualizing the Manayunk of yesteryear

Oftentimes, history can seem like an accumulation of paper trails, a collection of stories told through the letters, diaries, and other written records that our ancestors leave behind.  However, graphic materials are also compelling historical artifacts, as I’m continually reminded while working on rights and reproductions orders at HSP.  Within our rich and diverse collections, HSP houses over 300,000 graphic items and these materials, whether they be photographs, watercolors, lithographs, maps, or other media, are a valued part of the historical record and often integral to the stories that our patrons aspire to tell.

Manayunk circa 1840 (Bb 862 M312)

A few months ago, I received a request for historic images of Manayunk for a documentary about Samuel Hughes, a Welshman who immigrated to Philadelphia in 1837 and settled on a dairy farm in Manayunk.  While searching our collections, I found this oil and watercolor in one of our graphics collections and was immediately captivated.  Painted by an unknown artist sometime around 1840, this image, with its lush, green landscape and open farmland, was so far removed from my own vision of present-day Manayunk that it prompted me to search for more information about Manayunk’s progression from rural farmland to metropolitan hub.


Title page of "Early History of Roxborough and Manayunk" (Am .3724)

Among the varied resources concerning Manayunk in our collections, my favorite is a hand-written volume by Horatio Gates Jones, Jr. entitled “Early History of Roxborough and Manayunk, 1855.”  A former corresponding secretary for HSP, Mr. Jones wrote the volume for the entertainment of his family and friends and aimed to take readers back to “by-gone days-when this whole country was a wilderness” (Jones p. 3).  With charm and wit (not to mention impeccable handwriting!), Mr. Jones gives a lively account of the settlement of a small tract of land bordered by the Schuylkill River to the west  and Germantown, or “the German Township” as it was then known, to the northeast (p. 4).  Initially part of Roxborough, the area that became Manayunk was settled, beginning in the 1680s, by such families as the Leverings, Rittenhouses, and Gorgas, whose legacies persist in Manayunk’s street names.  Interestingly, the expansion of these families and the area itself went hand-in-hand in these early years.  Indeed, according to Jones’ account, the central thoroughfare into Manayunk, Green Lane, owes its existence to the efforts of the Levering family to seek “a free egress and regress” between the tracts of land that Wigard Levering and his sons Jacob and William claimed along the Schuylkill River (p. 20).

Railroad Bridge over the Wissahickon, Near Manayunk, circa 1834 (Bb 7 R131)

As late as 1817, the population of present-day Manayunk hovered around 60 inhabitants, but the construction of a canal and dam to regulate the Schuylkill, along with the establishment of Manayunk’s first mill in the 1820s, helped the area blossom into a manufacturing hub that drew comparisons to Manchester, England.  Still considered part of Roxborough, the expanding mill town was known by the name of its dam, “Flat Rock,” but rapid population growth brought a push for a proper name.  In 1824, the names “Udoravia,” “Hydoravia,” and “Bridgewater” all came under consideration, but it was “Manaiung,” the Native American word for river, that ultimately provided inspiration for the name “Manayunk” (p. 24).    On June 11, 1840, Manayunk officially incorporated as a borough, completing its transformation from, in Jones’ words, a “once quiet and retired valley” to a miniature town that finally became part of the extended city of Philadelphia in 1854.  

Jones' account of the naming of "Manayunk" (Am .3724)

The more I read about the early history of Manayunk, the more I came to appreciate this painting and the other images in our collections as snapshots of a moment time that perfectly capture Manayunk’s development from a stretch of open farmland along the Schuylkill River to a budding industrial center.  Explore HSP’s Digital Library (http://digitallibrary.hsp.org/) for more great graphic materials that complement and enhance our understanding of the past – you never know what visual history you’ll uncover.

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.

Bankers Trust Company becomes entangled in a ‘publishers’ war’

Several years after its failure, Bankers Trust Company became entangled in a ‘publishers’ war’ which pitted two of Philadelphia’s most prominent newspapers against each other: The Philadelphia Inquirer and the Philadelphia Record. The larger backdrop for this conflict was the vicious political battle raging in the city as well as the rest of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania as Democrats, for the first time in years, began to wrest control of government from the Republican Party. George Earle III, elected Pennsylvania’s governor in November 1934, was the first Democrat to be elected to the position in 40 years.

In the summer of 1937 Moses Annenberg, staunch Republican and owner of The Philadelphia Inquirer, began to use his newspaper to attack Albert M. Greenfield. For years a backer of the Republican Party, Greenfield had by this time switched his allegiance to the Democrats and worked ardently to see them gain control of the government. Greenfield’s political involvement as well as the fact that he was the chief financial backer of The Inquirer’s rival Democratic paper, The Record, made him a prime target. Annenberg used these attacks as a way to discredit The Record, Greenfield, and others affiliated with the Democratic Party. J. David Stern, owner of The Record, and Greenfield did their best to reciprocate.

The Daily News, October 28, 1938

Besides alleging improper political dealings with top Democratic officials, the newspaper focused on his association with Bankers Trust Company. Bankers Trust, which was still undergoing liquidation, continued to be a sore topic for many Philadelphians. The Inquirer began to print articles blaming Greenfield for the bank’s failure. During the gubernatorial and U.S. senatorial elections of 1938, the newspaper, along with the Pennsylvania Republican State Committee, sponsored two radio broadcasts by Philadelphia attorney Daniel G. Murphy: “Let’s face the facts” and “The Closed Banks-who got the money.”

In the former address, Murphy accused the Earle administration and its backers of corruption, claiming that the State Banking Department had given preferential treatment to Greenfield and his associates who still owed millions of dollars to closed banks, including Bankers Trust Company.

In the second, Murphy contested that Greenfield had known about the bank’s impending failure, and had one of his firms withdraw $300,000 from the bank five days before it closed. The Inquirer gave the radio address full coverage, reproducing Murphy’s statement and including a photo-static copy of the check showing the supposed withdrawn funds.

Greenfield refuted these claims in a radio address, entitled “The Closing of Bankers Trust- the wrong of 1930.” This marked the first time that Greenfield had spoken publicly about the bank and his affiliation with it since its closure.

First page of the draft of Greenfield's radio address

Greenfield argued that his real estate firm, the Albert Company, paid Bankers Trust $300,000 for a loan it had received shortly before the bank closed.

Besides radio addresses, Greenfield bought newspaper ads denouncing Murphy and Annenberg. The Record also began to print slanderous articles about The Inquirer owner, including charges that he was involved in illegal horse betting.

Annenberg and Greenfield ultimately sued each other for libel, but the suits were withdrawn in May 1939 with the signing of mutual public apologies.

The story of Bankers Trust Company is being documented as part of the Greenfield digital project. The project is set to launch by the end of 2012.

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)

Conrad Weiser, Indian Affairs Agent (1696-1760)

Johann Conrad Weiser lived in Pennsylvania in the early 1700s and is mostly known for his role in shaping the history of colonial America through his work as an “Indian affairs agent.” He lived quite a busy and remarkable life, although perhaps everyone who crossed an ocean to live on a continent entirely unknown for most of their culture’s history is worth marking more than once.

His father was part of a group of German immigrants to North America who swore loyalty to the English crown, a fealty that Weiser would enthusiastically maintain. When he was 16 his father made an agreement with a local Mohawk chief and sent young Conrad to spend a winter with the tribe, learning their language and customs. Weiser would later move to Pennsylvania and begin working for a series of governors, in theory as an Indian affairs agent, helping to prevent violence between Native tribes and colonists and brokering land “sales,” but in reality doing much more. During the French and Indian War (or the North American part of Seven Years War, depending on your geographical perspective) he was a lieutenant. He commanded an underfed but fierce militia of colonists while still maintaining diplomatic relations with the Six Nations, a united group of Iroquois or Haudenosaunee (Mohawks, Oneidas, Onondagas, Cayugas, Senecas, and Tuscaroras). He also helped to found Reading, Pennsylvania and Berks County, and was Berks County’s chief judge from 1752 until 1760. In addition to his civic duties, he was a teacher and minister in the Lutheran Church, although he spent a few years living at the Ephrata Cloister in Lancaster County.

Now that I’ve introduced you to Conrad Weiser, I’ll let some of his records speak for themselves.

This notebook appears to contain notes that Weiser kept during a meeting with Six Nations representatives sometime around 1750. The handwriting — he was usually much neater — suggests that he was writing this as it happened or shortly thereafter. He was one of the first (or possibly the first) colonist to recognize the importance of wampum belts in strengthening diplomatic relationships, and here he describes being presented with one:

We give you this belt of wampum to wear about your neck as a token that you are our friends that have been at our counsel fire. (Vol 1, Page 22)

In this item, Weiser argues to his friend and secretary to the governor of Pennsylvania, Richard Peters, that all tribes should be given warning long before their land is sold and be given adequate time to leave it before European settlers move in. But ideally, he adds, land should only be bought and sold during visits from the Six Nations’ chiefs and only with their consent. These opinions seem less than moderate to us, but his sympathy for the local tribes would eventually lead to accusations of disloyalty and of his being a traitor to the English crown. Throughout the correspondence in this collection, Weiser makes references to lies and rumors being spread about him, and is eventually forced to defend himself against charges of disloyalty and in one instance, against an armed mob.

(Vol 1, Page 19)

In this account of a hostile meeting between Weiser and a gathering of townspeople, he describes how they react when he first escorts a party of Native men safely to lodgings for the night (guarding them from a large, angry throng) and then tries to draft volunteers for a militia. The townspeople are riled after hearing rumors that a colonist was murdered by a Native American man, so the meeting quickly escalates to threats of violence.

They began, some to curse the Governor; some the Assembly; called me a traitor of the country, who held with the Indians, and must have known this murder beforehand. I sat in the house by a low window, some of my friends came to pull me away from it, telling me some of the people threatened to shoot me. (Vol 1, Page 34)

Given Weiser’s staunch support of the English crown, the final item in the collection was a bit of a surprise to me. This letter was written well after Weiser’s death, from James Biddle, a friend of the family to Weiser’s son, Samuel Weiser. The letter is unfortunately damaged and missing some of its right hand side, but the sentiment comes through clearly. Biddle is warning Samuel Weiser that Great Britain is no longer the trusted, benevolent protector that it was only decades ago.

Our old parent Great Britain seemes bent upon treating us rather like slaves than child[ren] and has thrown aside all affection & love for us. They are bent upon making us hewers of wood & drawers of water… (Vol 2, Page 213)

Biddle closes his letter with a final warning: “… Sammy if there is a cloud gathering about America… unless our different legislature in America all join and keep constantly on the watch. It is a dangerous time and all America must be watchful of Great Britain as they certainly want to make slaves…”

This collection offers a surprisingly varied view into this period in Pennsylvania history. In addition to correspondence, it also includes muster rolls, lists of men who died in conflicts with French forces, receipts and expenses for diplomatic trips, and depositions for cases Weiser heard as a Berks County judge (including testimony of domestic violence,  accusations of slander, and a colonist alleging that a Nanticoke man sexually assaulted his daughter).

These papers document a period of time in United States history from which relatively little written material survives. But more interestingly, they describe the interactions between colonists and Native peoples from the point of view of a man who was sympathetic to but complicit in their systematic  exploitation.  Weiser’s papers surprised me with their sincerity — the genuine respect that he has for the Native men and women and the seriousness with which he takes his responsibility to them come through in his letters. This is undoubtedly one of the most historically and socially important collections that I’ve had a chance to work with as a processing archivist, and I’m especially glad that because it’s part of the DCA2 project, it will soon be available online to more users than could access it through the Historical Society’s reading room.

[November is Native American Heritage Month. For more information, images, audio and video resources, and materials for teachers, visit http://nativeamericanheritagemonth.gov]

Cox Transportation Collection in the news

Last week, Cary wrote here about the end of the PACSCL Hidden Collections Processing Project at HSP. While she was composing that post, two local news organs were covering one of the HSP collections that the PACSCL team processed.  The Harold E. Cox transportation collection caught reporters’ attention because of an unusual stipulation from the donor.

Harold Cox originally gave the collection to the Atwater Kent Museum (now the Philadelphia History Museum) and then approved its transfer to HSP, which as a special collections library is better able to manage and provide access to the records. In his letter approving the transfer, Dr. Cox wrote that “Anyone wishing to use the Harold E. Cox Transportation Collection shall be told of the heroic efforts of Jeffrey Ray [PHM senior curator] to save the collection from destruction and how he has been a ‘living saint’ for the last 13 years and put up with not only me, but all of the crazy idiots who have wanted to use the collection. The recitation of this glorious saga shall last no less than 20 minutes and be set to verse.”

PACSCL processors Celia Caust-Ellenbogen and Michael Gubicza wrote about this letter back in March on the PACSCL processing project blog, and offered a few verses of their own composition.

Last month, two Philadelphia news outlets picked up the story. Freelance reporter Anthony Campisi wrote about the Cox collection at PlanPhilly.com, a daily news site that focuses on the built and planned environment and is affiliated with the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Design. Meanwhile, WHYY radio (an NPR affiliate) broadcast an interview with Michael and Celia about the collection. (A write-up is available at WHYY’s affiliate, NewsWorks.org.)

We’re happy for the media coverage. In case anybody is wondering, we don’t literally enforce Dr. Cox’s stipulation. But Jeffrey Ray has been a good friend to HSP for years, and we’re always happy to sing his praises.

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

Indian Rights Association records

Work on processing the Indian Rights Association records (Collection 1523) has begun and will continue for the next three months. This is another one of the Civic Engagement collections funded by NHPRC. Since portions of the collection had been previously processed here at HSP our work will consist of arranging the part of the collection that haven’t been touched (multiple boxes of unsorted materials), integrating it to the processed portion, and creating an updated guide to the collection. To help with all this work we have the help of a wonderful intern, Jenna Marrone that comes to HSP with previous archival experience obtained with the PACSCL/CLIR project.

The Indian Rights Association records (IRA) is a very rich collection featuring materials of interest for those researching the history of Native Americans, particularly the work and lobbying done on their behalf in the nation’s capital. The IRA was founded in 1882 by Hebert Welsh and Henry S. Pancoast  with a main office in Philadelphia and a field office in Washington. The organization had two chief purposes: to protect the interests and welfare of the American Indian, and, in the association’s own words, “to bring about the complete civilization of the Indians and their admission to citizenship”. Paternalistic attitudes aside, the IRA was for the first forty years of the twentieth century the major non-governmental organization offering support and protection to Native Americans. Besides its work as a lobbying group on behalf of Native Americans, the association monitored the policies and actions of the Secretary of the Interior, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, and the Board of Indian Commissioners. They also helped create or promote legislation favorable to the Indian cause, and in some cases actively supported legal cases in both state and federal court. To spread knowledge about Native American culture and the association’s work, the IRA published many pamphlets and a serial titled Indian Truth.

Documents in the collection span form 1830 to 1986 and include correspondence, organizational records, pamphlets, annual reports, draft legislation, photographs, audio-visual materials, maps, and clippings. Also in the collection we can find materials from the Council of Indian Affairs, documents about traditional Pueblo Indian dances, and legal papers about struggles faced by the Oklahoma Indians, and papers generated by Herbert Welsh.

As a sample of the contents of the collection here’s a letter by a William Phillip Knight, asking IRA for help with a freedom of religion problem while incarcerated in Ohio in 1984.

An updated finding aid for the collection will be published in the upcoming months, though you can access the current finding aid on our website here.