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

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.

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.

Announcing a new project at HSP: HCI-PSAR

Thanks to HCI-PSAR Project Director Jack McCarthy who wrote the following introduction to one of HSP’s newest endeavors. CM

Work began recently on HSP’s new Hidden Collections Initiative for Pennsylvania Small Archival Repositories (HCI-PSAR). Commonly referred to around HSP as the “small repositories project,” its goal is to make better known and more accessible the important but often hidden archival collections held by the many small, primarily volunteer-run historical organizations in the Philadelphia area, including local historical societies, museums, historic sites, and other institutions. The project will achieve this goal by creating an online directory of these institutions and a searchable database of their archival collections. The project is funded by a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Project staff include Project Director Jack McCarthy, Project Coordinator Andree Mey Miller, and Project Surveyors Celia Caust-Ellenbogen and Michael Gubicza. HSP Director of Archives and Collections Management Matthew Lyons serves as Project Supervisor.

The first phase of the project is the current fourteen-month pilot project, which will run through September 2012. In the pilot project, we are focusing on two counties – Philadelphia and Montgomery – creating a directory of all the small archival repositories in those two counties and surveying the collections of certain institutions as a representative sample. We hope in this pilot phase to test and refine data gathering and collections survey methodologies in preparation for the larger follow-up project, which will encompass the entire five-county Philadelphia area. Following that, we will explore the possibility of implementing the project on a state-wide basis, in cooperation with other state and regional archival organizations.

Project Coordinator Andre Mey Miller has been busy identifying and contacting repositories and scheduling site visits by Project Director Jack McCarthy and Project Surveyors Celia Caust-Ellenbogen and Michael Gubicza. Celia and Michael have been out “in the field” since mid September, surveying the archival collections of various repositories. To date, they have surveyed the collections of some seven institutions, uncovering a number of important but heretofore hidden collections, from those in small historical libraries to those at grand estates that are now historic house museums. Descriptive information on these collections will be made available on a project website which is currently in development and will be accessed through HSP’s website.

Celia and Michael have started a blog about their work. They have created a project facebook page as well as an online project photo gallery. You can also follow their work on twitter (@hcipsar).

Transparency in documentary editing

Postmodernist theory, which emphasizes the inevitable existence of individuals’ subjectivity and bias, has for the most part, become commonplace thinking. Within academe, postmodern critical analysis has affected all disciplines, including the “pure” sciences, which are no longer viewed as completely objective and neutral.

The reality of subjectivity has caused scholars in the humanities and social sciences to try to be more balanced in their work and/or transparent about their own personal biases as well as the biases inherent in their work. In the case of historians, this means acknowledging the subjective nature of the materials with which they use to construct past events. Historical records—primary source materials—are not static and objective carriers of truth. Among other things, they are the products of persons or groups who had the means to create and maintain them. Produced for specific purposes and within specific contexts, records harbor their creators’ biases and viewpoints.

With regards to the Greenfield Digital project, there is bias inherent in the records that Dana and I are using to tell the story of Bankers Trust Company. About 95% of the records that we are editing come from the Albert M. Greenfield Papers (1959). Thus, it is largely through Greenfield’s eyes that the history of Bankers Trust Company will be told. Although the story of the bank was closely interwoven with that of Greenfield, who played a principal role in the bank’s founding, expansion, and subsequent demise, his documentary records only captures part of the story.

Dana and I have made it a point to try to be as transparent as we can in order to make clear that this project is not an authoritative or all-encompassing analysis of the story of Bankers Trust Company. Following the lead of other documentary editing scholars and TEI best practices, we are employing several means with which to do this.

We have developed editorial principles for our document selection process as well as for our encoding and transcription practices. These principles will be included on the web site. The document selection principles outline the criteria we used to decide what materials from the Greenfield papers and other collections, including the Philadelphia Record clippings and photo morgue, to include to tell the story of Bankers Trust and why.

With regards to our transcription and encoding methodology, Dana and I agree with Michael E. Stevens and Steven B. Burg’s assertion that documentary editors “…have an obligation to explain how they have treated the text” since there are multiple ways to present the text of a document, “ranging from heavily emended to absolutely literal.”[1] In explaining our methodology, we will be following the lead of other digital editing projects, such as the Women Writers Project, that have provided such transparency.

We will also include information about our editorial decisions for each document and also document decisions such as the taxonomy we’ve chosen to use to describe the documents which will affect users’ search capabilities. For this project, we’re using the Library of Congress Thesaurus for Graphic Materials. This information will appear in the header of the TEI documents:

Moreover, Dana and I have discussed the possibility of incorporating Web 2.0 technologies into the project to allow users, especially educators and scholars, to contribute their knowledge of the materials as well as how their using the materials in the classroom.

Despite the inadequacies and biases that we face, the Greenfield project, part of a larger effort funded by the Albert M. Greenfield Foundation, will contribute new and intriguing information about bank failures and Philadelphia during the Great Depression, and serve as an important resource for educators and scholars among others.

[1] Stevens, Michael E. and Steven B. Burg, Editing Historical Documents: a handbook of practice (Walnut Creek, CA : AltaMira Press, 1997), 12-13.

A Day in the Life, or, What do Archivists do Anyway?

The following recollection of one of my work days is dedicated to (1) anyone who’s ever asked me “So what do you do at HSP?” or (2) anyone curious to know what an archivist might actually do on any given a day.  This “day in the life” represents my own experiences and does not speak for archivists working in the field generally. Even other archivists who work at HSP have completely different chores and take on many other challenges.  CM

Date: the recent past

Time: the standard work day, 8:30-5:00 with ½ hour lunch

Place: the corner of 13th and Locust streets


Around 8:30am, I log into computer network, get settled, and write out today’s to-do list.  Because I’m not scheduled for public service (helping patrons in the library), I know I have some flexibility in setting my priorities for the day.  So I decide to try to deal with quick things in the morning and leave more extensive tasks to the afternoon.

First on the list is dealing with a request regarding the Glen Mills School collection.

Two voluminous volumes from the Glen Mills School records.

This school, once known as the House of Refuge, is a residential and reformatory school for boys.   Its large collection of records at HSP is closed to the public and people must apply through the school to gain access to students’ records.  Once Glen Mills approves and notifies us of a research request, we go through the many volumes hoping to find the student(s) in question, make photocopies of the records we do find, and mail them off to the person who requested them.   Since I had already located the record books for this particular request, all I had to do was make copies – no easy task since some of the volumes are up to 6 inches thick!  I haul the two extra-large volumes down to our book scanner and make, well, the best copies that can be made.  On at least one page, much of the text is illegible, so that means transcription.  Sigh.  I certainly respect that it’s part of the job and that it’s what some archivists love to do and make a living at, but it’s low on my personal list of fun archival activities.   Nevertheless, once I get the copies and volumes back to my desk, I set up the volume from which I need to transcribe and begin.  Luckily, the handwriting is easy to read and I’m able to use a previous transcription as a template.  This doesn’t always have to happen – some volumes from the collection photocopy just fine, and all I need to do is drop the copies in the mail with a cover letter.  But for now, I continue reading and typing. This task does not turn out to be quick at all.

About an hour and a half later, I re-shelve several prints that were digitized.  A few weeks ago we had a George Washington document display for which I pulled a bunch of large prints.

Portrait of General George Washington on the battlefield, etching by William Holl (Bc 985 St91f)

These prints were then sent to R&R to be digitized for an online exhibit. (I’ll post a link here once the display is online.)  The other day I learned that some of the prints were ready to be put away, I offered to take care of them since I pulled them in the first place.  Whenever we remove something from a collection, standard procedure calls for a call sip to be left in its place so we know where to put it back and to alert others that something is been pulled.  Internally, we use bright orange “staff call slips.”

Call slips in a flat file drawer showing which prints go in there.

Thanks to all the little orange slips I left behind, this task goes quickly and smoothly.  George Washington, at least some of him, is back in his place.

Moving on, I tackle new accessions.  I regularly help out with new donations as they come in and with accessions a few times a year.  For new donations that come in, I enter information about them into our database, create deeds of gift, and place the donations on holding shelves.  Every few months, the collections committee of our board meets to approve new donations.  One of these meetings just happened, and now it’s time to place accession numbers (which are assigned by our library director, Lee Arnold) on collections and in the database.  I also have to shelve new accessions with the general collections and enter their new locations into the database.

New donations on the holding shelves ready for numbering and moving.

Each new accession has its own collection folder and the lot of folders goes to our director of archives, Matthew Lyons, to file.  Now it’s time to wait for more new collections to roll in. (In fact, there’s one in queue now – I see it from my desk waiting oh so patiently.  Will get to it tomorrow.)

Needing a break from the moving and lifting,  I return to my desk to consider what to do for the next question of the week.  They are prepared two weeks in advance, so the question I create this week will appear mid-October.  Sometimes the questions are date specific.  But lately it’s been harder and harder to find unique topics by date that relate directly to our collections, so I’ve been doing more general questions, and they’ve gone over well.  This time round I decide to focus on the Cope family.  I come up with a suitable question and leave writing the answer for another day.


After taking a real break and running an errand, it’s back to work.  A new finding aid is ready to be posted to our site.  It’s an easy enough task – a little file transferring, CMS stuff, typing, and linking.  Then wait a couple days till the site gets updated, and BAM! New finding aid ready to go public.

Now it’s on to my big task for the day and one that takes up the rest of the day: inventorying of the Jane Campbell papers (#3203).  This is an ongoing project at which I chip away a little each day.  There’s no timeline for the project except for the one that I self impose – try to get through at least four boxes a day. (Some days though, it’s an event to just get through one.)  There are 42 cartons in the collection and I’m at box 17.

The Jane Campbell collection on our storage shelves.

Based on priorities that Matthew and I set earlier in the year, this collection was flagged because it received low survey ratings but came from a very important figure in Philadelphia women’s history:  writer, historian, and suffragist Jane Campbell (1844-1928).  When the collection was originally surveyed, surveyors noted “The documentation quality of the collection is difficult to determine as it is entirely unprocessed.” Indeed, it is very unprocessed, and messy, and dirty.  Earlier this year, a researcher looking for stuff on Campbell paged the collection, and she valiantly waded through box upon box of unorganized chaos, but the mess proved too much.  Based on the fact that the collection was getting some use and Campbell’s historical importance, it became a priority to inventory the boxes.  On to my to-do list it went, and I’m now on my eighth day with the collection.  Putting it lightly, it is a beast, a beast that’s covered in soot and crumbly paper.

One of the more organized boxes in the Campbell papers.

I start this session with Campbell by doing a little genealogical work because during yesterday’s work I came across some papers from other Campbell family members.  Using a few notes I found in the collection and internet research, I manage to come up with a small family tree that helps me discern the Johns and Williams from different generations. (You can view the genealogy report as a pdf.) I also learn that the family originated in Ireland.  This would explain the items I’m finding from the Society of the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick and the Hibernian Society.

After about half an hour of computer work, I start in with Box 17.  While the actual papers, letters, pamphlets, etc., that are in the collection are in really good shape, most are bundled in envelopes, homemade folders, and cardboard enclosures that are simply falling apart.  Some paper is so brittle that more pieces remain at the bottom of the box than intact.  Thing is, almost all these horrible enclosures were labeled by Campbell, so they can’t just be chucked.  Neither photocopying nor re-housing is part of my work right now; I’m just supposed to write down the contents of each box and move on.  It seems simple enough, but when trying to both figure out what something is, as well as “preserve” crumbly bits of paper, the task becomes a chore.  Plus, since there’s no organization, it’s hard to figure out just how to descriptively summarize the contents of each box – “miscellaneous writings, pamphlets, and scrapbooks” only goes so far.

The motley contents of one Campbell box.

I spend at least 45 minute or more with each box, carefully moving bundles of writings, scrapbook pages, booklets, pamphlets and clippings out to identify them, and then moving them back into the box trying not to do further damage. Despite the soot and dust, each box does bring new discoveries.  On this day, in Box 17, I find a homemade folder titled only “Leaf with bird.” Here’s what’s inside:

"Leaf with bird," artist and date unknown

This lovely little painting of a bird on a treated leaf was crammed in between tw0 scrapbooks, neither of which had anything to do with leaves or birds or related subjects.  The leaf itself is clear and real – you can see the woody veins on the back – and was covered with something to make it opalescent (which you can’t see in this scan, sadly).  On top of the finish is the painted bird, colorful, delicate, and done in astounding detail.  It’s the strangest find in a collection that has so far consisted of anything but artwork, and I’ve no idea why it’s in the collection or who made it.  I can only guess that maybe it was given to Campbell or one of her family members, and that it was somehow scooped up with the piles of papers that came to HSP.  It’s unfortunate that, for now, it’s an anomaly in the collection.  But I’ve still got 25 more boxes to go through, so there may be more treasures in the wings.

During these afternoon hours I also field usual compliment of emails, phone calls, and questions that come with each day.  Sometimes the interruptions provide welcome relief from the occasional boredom associated with long-term projects; other times, they are just that, interruptions.  Today’s calls and emails, though plentiful, aren’t too disruptive, so I still manage to reach my 4 box quota – yay!

With my final Campbell box packed up, it’s day’s end and time to start winding down.  I flag some emails that need answering, write down a few items to place on tomorrow’s to do list, and ponder a few more tasks that need attention in the coming days.   5:00pm hits and it’s time to log off and go home.

Rights and Reproductions, or “R&R” for those in the know

William Penn, chalk portrait by Francis Place

Since starting at HSP in July as the new Rights and Reproductions Associate, I’ve handled lots of orders for digital reproductions of HSP materials and permission to distribute these materials in books, exhibitions, and other media.  Processing R&R orders provides a great front row seat to HSP’s unique and diverse materials, not to mention the cool ways in which patrons are using our historical artifacts.  While some materials are perennial favorites with patrons (Francis Place’s chalk portrait of William Penn is especially popular among textbook publishers), here’s a snapshot of MY favorite (and sometimes less well-known) R&R materials from the past two months:    

Not long after I began working at HSP, I received a request from Christie’s New York for a copy of a watercolor of Harriton House by William L. Breton.  Built in 1704 by a Welsh Quaker, Harriton is located in Lower Merion and is best known as the home of Charles Thomson, “the Sam Adams of Philadelphia.”  A Philadelphia merchant, Thomson became the first and only Secretary to the Continental Congresses and, in April 1789, traveled to Mount Vernon to inform George Washington that he had been elected the first President of the United States.  Over 200 years later, a carved mahogany side chair belonging to Charles Thomson was featured in Christie’s September auction of American furniture, folk art, and decorative arts and the watercolor of Harriton House was used as an illustration in the auction catalog.

Charles Thomson's Residence Harriton in Lower Merion

The Historical Society of Pennsylvania is perhaps best known for its colonial and early American history holdings, but we also have many collections of compelling twentieth-century materials.

WPA poster of William Penn House


One of my favorites is the Work Projects Administration posters collection, which includes over 900 examples of works by Federal Art Project artists from the 1940s. While the Work Projects Administration was a federal program, it spawned many state and local subsidiaries, among them the Pennsylvania Art Program.  Accordingly, while the subjects and styles of the artworks in the poster collection are diverse, many are also specific to Philadelphia and feature such local landmarks as the Philadelphia Zoo and the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

"Defense Steel" by Horatio C. Forjohn

The color and style of these woodblock prints notably contrasts with the charcoal shades of more well-known WPA artworks like Horatio Forjohn’s “Defense Steel,” which will be published in a forthcoming volume on industrial art.


Sometimes the best history is personal history and two recent reproductions requests follow that mantra.  The first order was for a digital copy of Thomas C. Simpson’s personal cashbook; a nineteenth-century merchant, Mr. Simpson emigrated from Northern Ireland to Norristown and the cashbook has helped his modern-day descendants in England unravel a piece of family history.  “Family” was also the watchword for a young bride and groom, who ordered a copy of Samuel Carpenter and Hannah Hardiman’s 1684 marriage certificate from HSP’s Isaac Cooper Jones collection of marriage certificates.  Descendants of Samuel and Hannah, the couple plans to display the certificate at their wedding and have their relatives sign it, just as the Carpenter and Hardiman families did in 1684.  It is these connections between past and present that make working at HSP so rewarding and make R&R a great opportunity to share our collections with patrons far and wide.

Marriage certificate of Samuel Carpenter and Hannah Hardiman

Interested in purchasing high-quality digital scans of HSP materials? Contact us at rnr@hsp.org or visit http://www.hsp.org/node/2032 for more information on our Rights and Reproductions service.  You can also view already-digitized materials online in HSP’s Digital Library.