Back to top


19th Century Cloth Bindings Database
A searchable database detailing the structure, condition, and appearance of approximately 4000 cloth bindings. Search the 19th Century Cloth Bindings Database.

Aero Service Corporation Photographic Negative Collection
Views of the greater Philadelphia area taken circa 1920s-1930s by Aero Service Corporation, an aerial photography firm established in Philadelphia in 1919.

African American History Graphics Collection
Visual and textual materials from the Library Company's African American history collections, 16th-early 20th centuries.

African Americana from the Thomas Richardson Scrapbook
Depictions of African Americans contained within a scrapbook compiled by Philadelphia banknote printer Thomas Richardson, ca. 1855- ca. 1857.

Richard DeReef Venning Photograph Album
Photograph album of African American government worker Richard DeReef Venning, a member of the African American middle-class Stevens-Cogdell and Sanders-Venning family, and containing predominantly unidentified portraits of African American and white men, women, and children, including family and friends. Contains bust, half and full-length portraits, often studio portraits. Several of the female sitters wear ornate hairstyles and many sitters also wear crosses. Also contains a carte de visite reproduction of a painted portrait of possibly George Cogdell (p.16) and a carte de visite inscribed “Pete” and “Sam” showing two men in checkered patterned jumper costumes, wigs, hats, and full-face masks (p.18). Identified sitters include Samuel Le Count Cook (p.2, photograph dated 7/4/[18]90 and imprint of DC photographer Rice on verso, ), Edward W. Venning (p.13, photograph dated 1869 and imprint of Philadelphia photographer G.W. Cheston on verso), Sarah Venning (p.13 &14, imprint of Philadelphia photographer Larkin on the verso), Richard DeReef Venning (p.13, photograph dated 12/7/[18]74 on recto and imprint of Philadelphia photographer Henrici & Garns on verso), Sarah Ann Sanders, daughter of Sarah Sanders (p.14, lower right, ca. 1865, inscribed on recto: S.A.S.; imprint of Philadelphia photographer B.F. Reimer and "property of ed. y.v." inscribed on verso), Cordelia Chew Hinkson (p.35), and Cordelia Hinkson Brown as a baby (p.35). Other sitters may possibly be William H. Chew (p.1), Addie Howard (p.3) and George Washington Musgrave (group portrait, p.19)., Album also contains a portrait signed "Ellie" (p. 22, photograph dated 11/16/[1875] and imprint of NY photographer G.H. Johnson on verso) and an unidentified portrait that is likely Cordelia Sanders (Chew) and her sons Richard and Charles Chew (p.15, lower left, imprint of Philadelphia photographer Miles & Foster on verso). Another unidentified portrait is likely Jacob C. White, co-founder of the Pythians, Philadelphia's first African American baseball club (p. 27, upper left, imprint of Philadelphia photographer Gutekunst). Also contained are inserted portraits (rehoused on boards and with album), including one of a Black man inscribed "H.S.S." and Jan. 11/82 on the recto and verso of the mount (L.W. Cook, Boston, photographer) and one of a Black woman inscribed "Respects of Marie" on the verso (J.P. Silver, photographer)., Title supplied by cataloger., Date inferred from content., Contains title page: Album. Page illustrated with ornamental border., Contains several loose portaits., Various photographers, including Philadelphia photographers H. D. Garns & Co., G. W. Chesterton, African American photographer Gallo Cheston, Larkin Gallery, O. B. DeMorat, C. Hagemann & Co., Henrici & Garns, B. F. Reimer, H. D. Garns & Co., Miles & Foster, Broadbent & Phillips, M. S. Hagaman, Lothrop’s Ferrotype Gallery, Germon, J. Fenton, J. P. Silver, Parlor Galleries, as well as Washington, D.C. photographers Kets Kemethy and Rice, Norfolk photographer J. A. Faber, Trenton photographer J. Bainbridge, Charleston photographer Jesse E. Bolles, Boston photographer L. W. Cook, Salem photographer Smith & Bousley, and New York photographer G. H. Johnson., Inscription on front free end paper: R.D. Reef Venning, June 12/84, Washington, D.C., Some of the photographs contain inscriptions, including dates, identifications, and valedictions, on the versos., Label pasted on back cover: No. 464 Gately & Haskell, booksellers, Hoen building, Baltimore, MD., Ca. 1900 pastel portrait of possibly Clara, nurse to children and grandchildren of Sarah Sanders and R. W. Cogdell (P.9367.32, Stevens-Cogdell/ Sanders-Venning Collection) after ca. 1875 tintype photographed by J. Fenton (729 South St., Phila) P.2012.37.1.23b originally inserted in album and housed with album., See Lib. Company Annual Report, 1991 p. 26-31., Gift of descendants Cordelia H. Brown, Lillie V. Dickerson, Mary Hinkson Jackson, and Georgine E. Willis in honor of Phil Lapsansky., See LCP exhibit catalogue: African American Miscellany p. 45., Genealogical charts available at repository., Some photographs dated during conservation treatment in July 2021. Conservation notes in collection research file at repository (Graphic Arts Department)., Part of digital collections catalog through a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services as administered by the Pennsylvania Department of Education through the Office of the Commonwealth Libraries, and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Tom Corbett, Governor, 2013-2014., RVCDC, Description revised 2022., Access points revised 2022., Richard DeReef Venning (1846-1929), born in Philadelphia, was son of seamstress Elizabeth and carpenter Edward W. Venning. Venning worked as a grocer in Philadelphia before being appointed as a clerk to the Eastern Division of the Pension Office in 1881. He resided in Washington, D.C. from the early 1880s to early 1900s, and boarded with the African American Presbyterian minister Francis Grimké and his brother, lawyer and diplomat Archibald Grimké for several years. In 1914, Venning returned to Philadelphia and lived with his nephew George E. Venning's family who referred to him as "Dah." The family was active in the Philadelphia African American political, social, educational, and cultural community from the 1850s to the 20th century, including the St. Thomas P.E. Church, Church of the Crucifixion, Central Presbyterian Church, the Colored Institute of Youth, and the Citizens Republican Club.

Amateur Newspapers and Journals Collection
Short runs and single issues of 19th-century self-published newspapers. Mostly 1870s.

American Celebrities Albums
Two volume set of albums containing predominately cartes-de-visite photographic portraits of prominent American 19th-century figures in politics, education, and the arts, ca. 1870.

American Song Sheets, Slip Ballads and Poetical Broadsides Collection
Collection of 5,462 lyric sheets, also known as slip ballads, published in the 19th century and offered for sale by stationers, street-corner vendors, and by catalog through the mail.

Art and Artifacts Collection
The Library Company’s collection of paintings, sculpture, decorative arts, scientific instruments, and other artifacts.

Asian American and Pacific Islander History Collection
Visual and textual materials from the Library Company's Asian American and Pacific Islander History Collection.

"At the Instance" Illustration Collection
112 images chosen for "At the Instance of Benjamin Franklin" : A Brief History of the Library Company of Philadelphia (Philadelphia: Printed for the Library Company of Philadelphia by York Graphic Services Inc., 1995).

Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Album
Album containing photographs of railroad bridges and stations along the B&O Railroad's Philadelphia Division taken on a trip made by a small group of B&O Railroad employees who surveyed the line, March 1891.

Bartlett & French Stereograph Collection
George O. Bartlett and William French were in partnership circa 1867-1869. Collection of Bartlett and French stereographs depicting Philadelphia streetscapes, including Chestnut Street; public buildings, including the State House, Post Office, and Custom House; cultural institutions, including the Academy of Natural Sciences and Horticultural Hall on Broad Street; and Fairmount Waterworks. Many views are from the series, Gems of Penn’a scenery, Philadelphia and vicinity.

Bartlett & Smith Stereograph Collection
Bartlett & Smith was a partnership from circa 1867- 1869 between George O. Bartlett and a photographer named Smith. Over 20 stereographs depicting Philadelphia views including commercial buildings along Chestnut Street including the Jayne Building, the Continental Hotel, the United States Custom House, and First National Bank; buildings along Broad Street, including the Union League, LaPierre House, and Broad Street Presbyterian Church; the Chestnut Street Bridge over the Schuylkill River; and the Wissahickon. Two stereographs from this collection were not digitized, [Chestnut St. west of 6th St. with Jayne Building] [(8)1322.F.23h] and View on the Wissahicken near Philla. [(8)1322.F.8].

Helen Beitler Graphic Ephemera Collection
Collection of illustrated ephemera, primarily trade cards, envelopes, receipts, letterheads, billheads, and labels, for predominantly Pennsylvania businesses and trades, ca. 1830-ca. 1910.

Frank Berry Photographic Negative Collection
Collection of negatives taken 1900-1910 by Philadelphia music teacher and amateur photographer Frank Berry (b. 1863). Images primarily document Berry's neighborhood in the Manayunk section of Philadelphia and the nearby Wissahickon Valley. Contains images of scenes and buildings in Manayunk including Berry's home on Righter Street; friends and family posed for informal portraits; children engaged in recreational activities including sledding, biking, boating, fishing, and swimming; bridges, trails, and landscapes in the Wissahickon Valley; the construction of Walnut Lane Bridge (1906-1908); and several beach scenes. Also includes views of the Historical Pageant in 1912; the Northeast Manual Training School; St. Stephen's Episcopal Church; altar decorations; Josephine Berry playing a piano; a man posed with a motorcycle; the family Christmas tree; a childrens' street band; a liquor store at 5226 Ridge Avenue; Berry with his camera; and children taking photographs.

William Russell Birch Graphics and Manuscripts
Collection containing primarily engravings, watercolors, and drawings executed by English-born artist and engraver William Birch and his descendants between the 18th and later 19th century. Several of the graphic materials are by William Birch and represent engraved work he completed in Britain before 1794 and following his immigration to the United States that same year. Birch’s works in the collection take the form of watercolors, drawings, paintings, a sketchbook, and as photographic reproductions.

Bits of Nature and Some Art Products in Fairmount Park at Philadelphia, Penna.
One of four volumes of prints and drawings issued in 1878 by prominent Philadelphia lithographer, etcher, and artist Augustus Kollner (1812-1906). The twenty-four views primarily depict landscapes of Fairmount Park. Also contains views of Philadelphia and Bucks and Montgomery counties. Several of the lithographs from this volume were based on sketches he executed in the 1840s.

John C. Browne Photograph Albums
Views of Photographic Society of Philadelphia excursions, Philadelphia landmarks, and regional natural scenery, 1873-1882.

John C. Bullock Lantern Slide Collection
Collection of 182 lantern slides photographed 1870-1916 by Philadelphia photographer and Photo-Secessionist John C. Bullock (1854-1939) predominately depicting views of colonial-era residences and landmarks on Germantown Avenue. The Germantown Avenue views, most created 1910-1915, illustrate the third edition of Charles F. Jenkins’ local history book The Guide Book to Historic Germantown. Collection also includes images of historic sites in Center City and rural landscape.

Capitalism by Gaslight: The Shadow Economies of 19th-Century America
Capitalism by Gaslight was a 2012 exhibition at the Library Company of Philadelphia. Taking its title from a 19th-century literary genre that exposed the darker side of American life, Capitalism by Gaslight introduces us to many of these shadowy entrepreneurs. At its heart the exhibition attempts to neither romanticize nor condemn, but to present the commerce of extra-legal businesspeople in more nuanced yet concrete ways. Although these transactions occurred most expediently in secluded back alleys and basement hideouts, many conmen benefited from the air of legitimacy given to schemes pulled off in broad daylight. And although entrepreneurs working in gray and black markets were excoriated by prominent businessmen, reformers, and authorities, they often had intimate ties to legitimate commercial networks and enjoyed the fruits of their very critics’ patronage. Possessing an entrepreneurial spirit, many underworld operators closely resembled respected businessmen. Perhaps most surprisingly, these illegal forms of commerce were integral to the success of the larger American economy and continue in varied forms today.

Cased Photograph Collection
Collection of encased images including daguerreotypes, ambrotypes, and tintypes, ca. 1840-1870. Each item includes a view of the recto and verso of the case (when case is present), as well as the interior image.

Amy Matilda Cassey Album
Friendship album compiled 1833-1856 by Philadelphia, middle-class, African American social activist Amy Matilda Cassey (1808-1856). Cassey was a member of the Philadelphia Female Antislavery Society, founder of the African American coeducation literary and scientific society the Gilbert Lyceum, and active in the temperance movement. Volume contains entries by men and women, most active in the anti-slavery movement, of original and transcribed poems, prose, and essays, and watercolors and pencil sketches. Topics range from abolitionism and slavery, to love and friendship, to female beauty and refinement, as well as motherhood, mortality, and death. Contributors include Frederick Douglass (1881-1895), William Lloyd Garrison (1805-1879), James McCune Smith (1813-1865), Lucy Stone (1818-1893), Sarah Forten Purvis (1814-1883), and Margaretta Forten (1815-1887).

Centennial Exhibition Philadelphia Album
Photographs of the major buildings, the exhibits, and the landscape of the World's Fair in Philadelphia, 1876.

Centennial Exhibition Wooden Views
Collection of bas-relief small carvings depicting the primary exhibition halls at the Centennial Exhibition of 1876. The exhibition celebrated the centennial of the United States through an international exhibition of industry, agriculture, and art.

Centennial Photographic Company Collection
Collection documenting the Centennial Exhibition of 1876 in Philadelphia, which celebrated the 100th anniversary of American Independence. The Centennial Photographic Company was granted exclusive rights to photograph the World's Fair.

The City Hall of Philadelphia, Architecture, Sculpture and History Album
Limited edition volume of photographs documenting the interior and exterior of City Hall, 1897.

Civil War Graphics and Ephemera
The Civil War Graphics and Ephemera Collection is primarily comprised of the John A. McAllister Collection. The collection includes tens of thousands of examples of printed ephemera, most from the Civil War years, including circa 600 recruiting posters, as well as newspapers, political broadside and leaflets, tickets, trade cards, cartoons, and a complement of ribbons, buttons and other ephemeral items constituting the largest such collection documenting the Philadelphia home front. The collection of graphic items includes lithographs, engravings, cartoons, maps, textiles, drawings, photographs, and about 7,000 patriotic pictorial envelopes. Additionally, mixed media holdings within the collection document sanitary fairs, voluntary saloons and hospitals, generals and leaders, playing cards, verse, and Confederate States ephemera.

Mary Langdale Coates Account Book
Account book for the shop Mary Langdale Coates kept from the time of her husband Samuel’s death to her own death. The shop was located on the west side of Second Street, north of Market. Her customers included Elias Boudinot, Timothy Matlack, Israel Pemberton, Sr. and Jr., Elizabeth Coates Paschall, Philip Syng, Catherine Wistar, and Benjamin Franklin.

Peter Collinson's 1739 Annotated First Edition of the "History of London"
Images from the first edition of William Maitland’s History of London that belonged to the London merchant and naturalist Peter Collinson (1694-1768). The book was heavily annotated by Collinson, detailing the changing physical fabric of the city of London and events of daily life.

Comic Valentine Collection
In both the United States and England, the market for comic valentines rivaled that for sentimental valentines, with their sales numbers about equal in the 1840s and 1850s. Sentimental valentines were more expensive, ranging in price from twenty-five cents to thirty dollars. A single comic valentine cost about a penny, hence their other nickname "penny dreadfuls." "Dreadful" is an appropriate term, but "crude," both in content and printing, is perhaps more accurate. Many were printed from wood blocks, with the color added by hand (often with stencils). The later examples were reproduced lithographically, but imitated the look of woodcuts. Sometimes the same image was used more than once with different doggerel verse. The recipients typically threw them away, so few survive. Bibliographically, they are challenging because they rarely list the artists' or publishers' names or the date of publication. The illustration technique is not always obvious, even with magnification. Working under the NEH-funded McAllister Project, Linda Wisniewski scanned the valentines. During a 2006 internship funded by the Fels Foundation, Elizabeth Donaldson created the records for the collection. Thanks to Linda and Betsy, digital versions of these remarkable pieces of ephemera are available here for further study.

Darby Library Company Collection
Library Company copy on deposit from the Darby Library Company, Darby, Pa. Extensively annotated by Darby Library Company librarians following publication up to about 1840; with two leaves of MS. notes laid in; inscribed: Dr. C. Ash Darby.

Eugene Davis Philadelphia Street Railway Electrification Photograph Collection
Seventeen photographs (1894-ca. 1945) by Philadelphia amateur photographer, teamster, and machinist Eugene Davis. Images primarily document the electrification, beginning in 1894, of Philadelphia’s first horse railway line operated by the Frankford and Southwark City Passenger Railway Company. Includes views of horse-drawn cars and electric trollies. Collection also contains images of location of Davis’s machinist shop Walker & Davis, Inc. with partner Noah Walker, and other vehicles, including an autogiro, a Ford Model T truck, delivery carts and wagons, and the beached cruise ship, Morro Castle.

William Harvey Doering Lantern Slide Collection
Collection of lantern slides of informal family portraits and family excursions taken by William Harvey Doering, amateur photographer and native Philadelphian, 1888-1905.

The Rose and Leon Doret Collection of Business Ephemera
Printed ephemera related to American business and commerce. Predominantly consists of over 150 pieces of printed advertising ephemera sent by suppliers of stationery and related products to the Philadelphia firm John C. Clark from 1866 to 1868.

David Doret Ephemera Collection
Collection of ephemera primarily related to the Centennial Exhibition, late 19th century.