All posts by Margery Sly

LGBTQ+ PRIDE MONTH: Pride in the Archives

Stonewall to San Francisco event flyer

Pride month began in 1970 and is celebrated every June. It honors the 1969 Stonewall Uprising, when members of the LGBTQ+ community responded to a June 18, 1969, police raid at Stonewall Inn, a gay club in Greenwich Village, New York City, with a series of demonstrations. The demonstrations lasted six days, with many people arrested.

On June 28, 1970, the first Pride March occurred in New York City on the uprising’s one-year anniversary, with up to 5,000 marchers demonstrating against centuries of abuse and discrimination. Celebrations in the years afterward include parades, picnics, parties, concerts, workshops, and other events to recognize the impact LGBTQ+ individuals and organizations have had on history. Memorials are also held for those members of the community who have been lost to hate crimes or HIV/AIDS.

The first gay pride demonstration in Philadelphia took place on June 11, 1972, with over 10,000 people marching from Rittenhouse Square to Independence Park. While pride events took place every year, the parades would only continue for the next three years due to the more popular New York City parades. However, on June 18, 1989, the city resumed its gay pride parade and rally with over 1,000 people marching from 10th and Spruce Streets to JFK Plaza. The parades and rallies have continued in the city ever since. This year’s parade, scheduled for June 5, will look a little different, however, with a community march instead of a parade. It will be followed by a pride festival in the Gayborhood.

1993 Pridefest flyer

The Special Collections Research Center commemorates Gay Pride Month 2022 with a pop-up exhibit in our reading room featuring selections from collections that focus on the LGBTQ+ community and their coverage of pride events around the city through the years. The exhibit includes material from the AIDS Library (Philadelphia, Pa.) Records, the Philadelphia Lesbian and Gay Task Force Records, the Philadelphia Gay News, and the Scott Wilds Papers.

–Ann Mosher, BA II, Special Collections Research Center

exhibit case

Celebrating Grace Baptist Church’s 150th Anniversary

Temple University Libraries was pleased to be a part of the celebration of the 150th anniversary of the founding of Grace Baptist Church (now of Blue Bell), recognizing the deep connections the University has with that congregation.

In the 1870s, the fledgling congregation pitched its tent and then built its first building at the corner of Berks and Marvine—now under Temple’s Gladfelter Hall. In 1882, they called the Rev. Russell Conwell from a small congregation in Lexington, Massachusetts, to become their pastor and changed the history of Philadelphia.  Conwell’s ability to inspire, to build, and to create and recreate institutions included not only Temple University, but also Greatheart and Samaritan hospitals and the Samaritan Aid Society, among others. Starting in 1884, Grace Baptist Church facilities hosted the first night classes of what would eventually become Temple University.

Photograph of Russell Conwell, 1882
Russell Conwell, 1882

Shortly after Conwell and his family arrived, he and the congregation determined to build a larger building, and in a leap of faith, bought the land at the corner of Berks and Broad sts in 1886. Faith was also required to raise the funds to build the Temple. Groundbreaking took place in 1889, the building, an example of the Victorian Romanesque-revival style, was designed by architect Thomas P. Lonsdale, and Grace Baptist Church dedicated the building for worship on March 1, 1891.

Photograph of the Temple. 1890s
Baptist Temple, 1890s

With a seating capacity of 4600, it was at the time one of the largest Protestant church buildings in the United States. The Temple served as the congregation’s home for the next eight decades, until they sold the building to Temple University in 1974 for a little over a half-million dollars. It hosted worship services, baptisms, weddings, funerals, Sunday School classes, community meals and events. At the same time, Temple celebrated scores of commencement ceremonies there–and Russell Conwell’s life at legacy during his funeral in 1925. The Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., spoke at the Temple in 1965 in support of the desegregation of Girard College.

The building was certified by the Philadelphia Historical Commission as an historic building in 1984, and in 2003 it was designated by the American Institute of Architects as a Landmark Building. The University renovated the Temple to become its performing arts center, opening in 2010. Restored by the architectural firm RMJM in Philadelphia, it includes Lew Klein Hall, the main-stage space, in what had been the church sanctuary, featuring a thrust stage with seating for about 2,000 on three sides. Most of the building’s 140 stained-glass windows can be seen from the theater.

Church members viewing pop-up exhibit

Sixty congregation members and friends visited Temple campus on May 1, 2022, to tour the Temple, visit Rev. Conwell’s grave, attend a reception and self-guided tour in Charles Library, and view an extensive pop-up exhibit featuring primary source material from the University Archives documenting Conwell’s life and the congregation’s early history. A selection from the exhibit remains on display in the Special Collections Research Center reading room through May.

Group photo of church members on performing arts center stage.
Grace Baptist Church members, May 2022 (May 2022 photographs courtesy of Heidi Roland Photography)

Margery Sly, Director, Special Collections Research Center

A New Declaration of Independence: Equality Activism in the Anti-sexual Assault Movement

Signing the New Declaration of Independence

In honor of Sexual Assault Awareness Month, Temple University Libraries’ Special Collections Research Center (SCRC) takes a closer look at one of the first rape crisis centers that was incorporated in 1973 in the United States, WOAR-Philadelphia Center Against Sexual Violence, formerly known as Women Organized Against Rape (WOAR), and the ongoing work to preserve their historical records.

Since the mid-1970s, WOAR has participated in a national network of local rape crisis centers and maintained membership in national and state organizations that guide the movement to end sexual assault. In 1989, along with the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape (PCAR), it was host to the eleventh annual National Coalition Against Sexual Assault (NCASA) Conference. With its theme, Diversity, Strength and Freedom: A New Declaration of Independence, the conference included several days of workshops, panel presentations, and events related to rape and sexual assault and sought to lift up the voices and experiences of women of color in particular. The conference opened on July 18 with the Women of Color Institute-–a full day program for, by, and about women of color, with Angela Davis delivering the keynote address. The next day, 150 women gathered in front of Independence Hall to sign a New Declaration of Independence. This document addressed the people and freedoms neglected by the original Declaration, citing racism and sexism to be the real lasting sources of tyranny and oppression in American society. It called for collective action to combat those forces.

The conference was well attended and received media attention, including a controversial article published in the Philadelphia Daily News on July 19, accusing conference planners of “drawing a color line” for the exclusion of white women from the Women of Color Institute. What the Daily News article failed to report was that the 1989 conference concluded at least a decade of increasingly active efforts of NCASA and WOAR to be anti-racist organizations and to provide safe spaces for women of color to speak and be heard.

The Women of Color Institute, a 1983 directive of the NCASA, was one of several initiatives to increase participation of Black, Latinx/a/o, and other under-represented groups in the anti-sexual assault movement. WOAR embraced these ideas noting a need to recruit more volunteers from communities of color throughout the 1980s. At that time in Philadelphia, close to 75% of people served by WOAR were Black women and children, while WOAR’s volunteer crisis responders remained predominantly white.

The events of the 1989 NCASA conference and WOAR’s activities to diversify the crisis response community are documented in the WOAR Records as well other collections held in the SCRC. WOAR’s records were recently reorganized and the collection finding aid expanded. As part of this effort, previously inaccessible digital records from WOAR’s archives including records about the state-wide initiative Women of Color Network were migrated from over 150 5.25-inch floppy disks and will be available for research soon. This is the first time SCRC staff has preserved digital content from that many computer disks from a single organization.

WOAR floppy disks

Flexible magnetic disks like the 5.25-inch floppy played a key role in workplace technology, record keeping practices, and personal computing from the 1970s through the 1990s. Digital records saved on 5.25-inch floppies are virtually trapped due to the lack of available hardware and the high susceptibility to damage caused by magnetic and electrical fields, dust and other contaminants, and temperature and humidity fluctuations.

So how easy is it to rescue digital information from these technological dinosaurs? It’s becoming increasingly more difficult, but archivists, digital preservationists, and retrocomputing enthusiasts have adopted tools like the FC5025 by Device Side Data to do this work. What’s a FC5025, you ask? It’s a 5.25-inch floppy controller that plugs into a computer’s USB port, attaches to a 5.25-inch floppy drive, and is compatible with IBM PC formatted disks, as well as Apple, Atari, Commodore, and TI, among others. Together, the floppy controller and disk drive facilitate read-only access to the files on the disk, meaning new files can’t be written to it, but existing files can be copied to newer media for long-term preservation without altering them. This is an integral and important step to safeguarding historical materials that record the actions and legacy of organizations like WOAR.

Courtney Smerz, Collection Management Archivist, SCRC
Jessica M. Lydon, Associate Archivist, SCRC

Patti Smith at Middle Earth Books

In celebration of National Poetry Month, Temple Libraries’ Special Collections Research Center (SCRC) is featuring a small pop-up exhibit about the publication of poet and punk musician Patti Smith’s Kodak in 1972 by the Philadelphia bookstore, Middle Earth Books. The one-case exhibit is in the SCRC Reading Room on the 1st floor of Charles Library and will be up through April, Monday through Friday, 8:30 to 5:30.

In the early 1970s, Patti Smith was just beginning her punk rock singing career, but she was already known in New York’s punk scene for her poetry, where she regularly did poetry readings before shows at the Mercer Art Center and at the Poetry Project in St. Mark’s Church-in-the-Bowery in the East Village. During this time, she was also doing readings at Middle Earth Books in Philadelphia. Founded in 1969 by Samuel and Sims Amico, the bookstore, located at 1134 Pine Street, began hosting readings and publishing their own chapbooks, highlighting the underground literary and art scene. The Special Collections Research Center houses a collection of the records of the bookstore from 1972 to 1979. Donated by the founder Samuel Amico in 2009, the records include materials relating to Middle Earth Books’ poetry readings, publications, and commercial activities promoting poetry and poets. It includes correspondence, posters, paste-ups, and broadsides of many well-known poets of the 1970s.

In a 1995 Philadelphia City Paper interview entitled “Seventh Heaven” by A.D. Amorosi, Patti Smith was asked about what Middle Earth Books meant to her and she responded, “If it wasn’t my first reading, it was the first out-of-town thing because I was living in New York at the time, which made it very exciting. Like a first job….I was 22 and Robert Mapplethorpe and I were living together at the time in the Chelsea Hotel and he took the Polaroid for the cover. Didn’t make any money (laughs) but just the thrill of seeing one’s work, that someone thought it worthy of printing…”.

The exhibit includes pages from the original typescript of Kodak, two photographs of Smith reading at Middle Earth Books, two letters from Smith to the owners of Middle Earth, and the published volume, one of only 100 copies printed. In one of the letters on exhibit, she writes of the impact her association with the Philadelphia bookshop had on her creative process: “That reading at Phillie was so good for me. Something snapped. Ever since then I got better. looser. Sacrifice the art for the moment. It feels so good.”

The Special Collections Research Center has numerous contemporary poetry volumes and broadsides throughout our collections. Several of our archival collections, like the Middle Earth Books records, are dedicated to documenting the writing and publishing of poetry. For more information about our collections, please visit our website or email us at

Kimberly Tully
Librarian and Curator of Rare Books

Smith standing on table
Patti Smith reading at Middle Earth Books, Philadelphia, circa 1972

SCRC Staff Picks Exhibit: What’s Great, New, Next?

Visit Charles Library to see our latest exhibit highlighting a few of our collections.

8 staff members; 18 stories

Zoo promotion slideCollecting and organizing collections may have slowed a little during the pandemic, but that work did not stop altogether. SCRC staff believe we consistently acquire collections with significant research value—they’re all ‘great’ by definition. These staff picks are purchases and donations from individuals and organizations that represent our collecting strengths, caught our fancy, have already been used for research and instruction—or should provide the ‘next’ research project for a fortunate user.

For more information about these materials and the  SCRC’s rich holdings, visit


Asian Arts Initiative Records, 1992-2018
Caroline R. Johnson Mackie Ledger and Diary, 1906-1908
Masonic Lodge, “Welcome,” No. 453, Philadelphia, Pa., Records, 1869-1890
Philadelphia Zoo Records, 1859-2017
Philco Oral History Project Files, 1930s-50s, 1988-89
Society Hill Playhouse Records, 1938-2016
Tasty Baking Company Records, 1930-2006TastyKake factory

Jewish Community Relations Council Records, 1920-2004
Shaindele di Chazante Collection, 1929-1968

ARTISTS’ BOOKS  Halah Khan. Love Letter II, 2021.

page from Halah Kahn book
Halah Kahn, Love Letter II

Complete Commercial Artist (現代商業美術全集 / Gendai shōgyō bijutsu zenshū). Tokyo: Ars, 1928-1930.
Selected Broadsides. Dublin and Churchtown, Ireland: Cuala Press, 1908-1915.

“Great Britain Statement of Conditions Permitting Trade with the West Indies,” December 15, 1801
“Stratto del pagamento dello gabella delle porti della citta di Firenze,” after 1423
Jazūlī, Muḥammad ibn Sulaymān (1404-1465), جزولي، محمد بن سليمان “Dalāʼil al-khayrāt wa shawāriq al-anwār fī dhikr al-ṣalāh ʻalá al-nabī al-mukhtār,“
دلائل الخيرات و شوارق الانوار في ذكر الصلاة على النبي المختار, Egypt, 1801

page from Jazuli manuscript
Dalāʼil al-khayrāt; دلائل الخيرات.;

Craig Lentz Public History Ephemera Collection, 1952-2015
Youth Liberation Press Records, 1967-2002

John Groutt Commune Research Materials, 1969-1971


With thanks to SCRC staff members Casey Babcock, Brenda Galloway-Wright, Josué Hurtado, Katy Rawdon, Margery Sly, Courtney Smerz, Kim Tully, and Holly Wilson for their ‘picks,’ and to Ann Mosher for graphic design and production.


–Margery Sly, Director


Uptown Theater

Exterior of Uptown Theater, April 7, 1972
Exterior of Uptown Theater, April 7, 1972, Philadelphia Daily News, Sam Psoras, Photographer

The Uptown Theater, located at 2240 North Broad Street, opened on February 16, 1929. The five-story Art Deco theater was designed by the noted architectural firm Magaziner, Eberhard and Harris, and featured a terracotta façade, high ceilings, stain-glass windows, plush carpets and velvet seats. The theater was originally owned by the Stanley Theater/Warner Brothers chain, and movie-goers included wealthy industrialists and working-class immigrant families that resided along the bustling North Broad Street corridor.

In the decades following the Great Depression, with the collapse of Philadelphia’s manufacturing base, and rising unemployment and crime, many white residents moved out of Philadelphia and into the suburbs. By the 1950s, North Philadelphia had become the center of African American culture as the Black population grew significantly due to migration from southern states, and the pervasive practice of housing discrimination that limited the mobility of many African Americans to inner city neighborhoods.

Theater mogul Samuel H. Stiefel purchased the Uptown Theatre in 1951, where he promoted live rhythm and blues, gospel, and soul music shows that targeted African American audiences. The theater became a pivotal player along with the Apollo Theater in New York, the Howard Theater in Washington, DC, and Regal Theater in Chicago, on the “Chitlin Circuit.” This nationwide network of performance venues helped to advance the careers of Black singers, musicians, and comedians in the era of Jim Crow and racial discrimination at white mainstream entertainment spots.

newspaper clipping
Public Ledger, February 10, 1929

In its heyday, the Uptown featured performances by Ray Charles, James Brown, The Supremes, Stevie Wonder, The Jackson Five, Patti Labelle, and the Temptations, to name a few. Comedians such as Redd Fox and Flip Wilson also performed at the Uptown Theater. The theater hosted amateur nights where local artists could compete for prizes. The Uptown was also unique in that it had its own house band. The longest tenured band director, Sam Reed, led the band from 1963 to 1971.

From 1957 to 1972, WDAS personality and civil rights activist Georgie Woods produced the groundbreaking shows at the Uptown and played a key role in the economic growth of the neighborhood as theatregoers shopped and dined in the surrounding businesses. Georgie Woods also organized “Freedom Shows” held at the Uptown. The money raised from these events funded various civil rights organizations and causes.

newspaper clipping
Philadelphia Inquirer, February 13, 1962

The Uptown Theater closed in 1978 due to continued neighborhood decline following the riots, “white flight,” and changes in the music industry. It was used as a church in the 1980s before storm damage and neglect forced the building to close in 1991. In 2001, the Uptown Entertainment and Development Corporation (UEDC) headed by the late Linda Richardson purchased the building. In the years following UEDC’s acquisition, they secured funding from private and public resources , beginning renovations on the building to include a theater, technology center, artist lofts, and office space. In 2019, the Uptown commemorated its 90th anniversary by relighting the marque. The organization envisioned that the Uptown would serve as a hub for the cultural and economic regrowth of the neighborhood, and play an important role in the ongoing revitalization of the North Broad Street corridor. The Uptown is scheduled to reopen sometime in 2022.

The Uptown Theater was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1982.

–Brenda Galloway-Wright, Associate Archivist, Special Collections Research Center

Students and Community Engagement

The SpExplore Eastern North Philadelphia bannerecial Collections Research Center (SCRC) is pleased to present our latest faculty and student exhibit collaboration, Explore Eastern North (Philadelphia), a display of posters created by students in Associate Professor of Planning and Community Development Lynn Mandarano’s Community Development Workshop course in the Tyler School of Art and Architecture. This course is a capstone class for the Community Development major and the work displayed in this exhibit is the culmination of three years of work with the community partner, Asociacion Puertorriquenos en Marcha (APM).

After an initial orientation, where the entire class received an introduction to the SCRC and learned about finding and using archival materials, a smaller group of students, tasked with historical research of sites in the neighborhood, made several return visits to the SCRC reading room.Baker Bowl poster

Eventually, the students focused their efforts on sites in three areas: Lehigh Avenue, North 5th Street, and Germantown Avenue. SCRC collections used were photographs from the Philadelphia Evening Bulletin and items from our Urban Archives pamphlet collection.

These teams also conducted research at Taller Puertorriqueño, a community organization based in North Philadelphia that uses art and cultural programming to promote development within its community and the Puerto Rican and Latino Diaspora. In addition to archival research, students conducted neighborhood walkthroughs and interviewed community members to identify sites of historic significance.  

Lehigh Avenue walking tour mapAnother group of students tasked, with creating posters and graphics, received training and technical assistance from the Library’s Loretta C. Duckworth Scholars Studio to produce the eye-catching graphics and posters utilizing some of the materials located by the archival research teams.  A selection of those items from the SCRC are also on display, next to the posters that they inspired. 

Posters created by the students and a selection of photographs, pamphlets, and other related materials from the SCRC will be on display on the first floor of Charles Library in the main lobby throughout late January 2022.   Exhibit production was funded through generous support from The Albert M. Greenfield Foundation Civic History Fund.

–Josue’ Hurtado, Coordinator of Public Services and Outreach, SCRC

The Church of the Advocate

Church of the Advocate Interior, 1953
Church of the Advocate interior, 1953

The George W. South Memorial Church of the Advocate was built between 1887 and 1897, honoring a Philadelphia merchant and civic leader. Noted church architect Charles M. Burns (1838-1922) designed the impressive structure in the Gothic Revival style, adorned with intricate stone carvings, flying buttresses, and striking stained glass windows. The church compound located at 18th and Diamond Streets in North Philadelphia included a chapel, parish house, clergy residence and baptistery.


Front of Church of the Advocate, 1979
Church of the Advocate, 1979

From its founding, the church leaders believed that religion should be “free for all time” and eliminated the widespread practice during that period of renting pews. This action made it possible for parishioners to attend services regardless of financial or social status. The church also provided missionary services to a growing middle and working-class immigrant community that lived and worked in the surrounding neighborhood. During the 1950s, the evolving social and economic factors in Philadelphia would eventually lead to a change in the church’s social mandate to address the needs of a previously white but now predominantly African American community in North Philadelphia.


Rev. Paul M. Washington, 1969
Rev. Paul M. Washington, 1969

Paul M. Washington served as rector for the Church of the Advocate from 1962 until his retirement in 1989. Under his leadership, the church played a significant role in the civil rights movement in Philadelphia. The church hosted major events including the Third National Conference on Black Power in 1968, the Black Panther Party Convention in 1970, and the rally to raise money for the Angela Davis Defense Fund in 1971. The church also offered a variety of social services and outreach programs to the surrounding neighborhood including The Advocate Café (soup kitchen) established in 1983 to provide meals and coordinate the distribution of gently used clothing to those in need.

In support of women’s rights, the Church of the Advocate hosted the ordination of the first eleven women deacons into the Episcopal Church priesthood on July 29, 1974. Episcopalian leadership mounted a challenge to the legitimacy of the ordination which ultimately failed under worldwide public scrutiny and mounting pressure from women’s advocacy groups. The ordination of women priests was approved at the denomination’s General Convention in 1976. Barbara Harris who served as a senior warden at the Church of the Advocate during that historic service would eventually become the first woman consecrated as a bishop in the Anglican Communion in 1989

Ordination of women priests, 1974
Ordination of women priests, 1974

Between 1973 and 1976, Reverend Washington commissioned local Black artists Walter Edmonds and Richard Watson to paint fourteen murals installed in the main sanctuary. These murals depict scenes from slavery to the civil rights movement and offered a connection between biblical themes and the Black experience in Africa and America.

The church building was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1980, and designated a National Historic Landmark on June 19, 1996.

Church of the Advocate remains a showpiece of architectural design with a legacy of social activism amid the ever-changing landscape of North Philadelphia communities.

–Brenda Galloway-Wright, Associate Archivist, Special Collections Research Center

Photographs from the Philadelphia Evening Bulletin Photograph Collection, SCRC,

Creating Art in Quarantine: Temple University Libraries’ 2020 Mail Art Call: Summer Exhibit Opens in Charles Library

mail art image
“Luchando Contra Covid-19” by Sabela Baña, Spain


In 2020, Temple University Libraries’ Special Collections Research Center (SCRC) issued an open call for quarantine mail art to document this unprecedented time. We received 381 submissions from 158 artists from around the world. Mail artists, representing 25 countries and 24 of the United States including Puerto Rico, sent hundreds of pieces of art through international and domestic postal services to Temple’s campus over the course of the summer of 2020. The submissions, many in the traditional postcard format and employing elements of mixed media and collage art, directly reflect our shared experiences of the COVID-19 pandemic through images of masks, healthcare workers, the virus itself, and through references to sickness and social distancing. Some are overtly political while others are abstract expressions of the artists’ personal experience of quarantine. The submissions are on exhibit in Charles Library this summer, and some are being featured on the SCRC’s social media accounts as well.

What is Mail Art?

The term Mail Art was used as early as 1971 to describe a genre of art that had been making its way through the art world for over a decade. In the 1950s, American artist Ray Johnson (1927-1995) began mailing small drawings, collages, and prints to constituents in the art world, including his close friends, mild acquaintances, and even non-acquaintances such as artists, gallery owners, and curators. Through this form of correspondence art, a network of mail artists formed who utilized the postal system as part of the art-making process, embracing and often pushing the boundaries of that system. Artists would embellish the envelopes with drawings, rubber stamps, and collages, and some would manipulate the addresses with creative phonetics. Others experimented with the shipping container by using unconventional materials for postcards and envelopes. The physical apparatus of traditional correspondence became a playground for these artists. Opposing the mainstream art world, mail artists adhered to egalitarian principles. Their exhibitions were not juried, all submissions were accepted, and no fees were required of the artist for entry.exhibit case   image

The Call Goes Out in May 2020

In Spring 2020, Jill Luedke, Temple’s Art and Architecture Librarian, noted the reemerging popularity of mail art during the COVID-19 pandemic. She suggested that we do a new call for mail art that would create a unique record of the first summer of the pandemic when people around the world were in quarantines or lockdowns and officials were urging everyone to stay at home, wear masks, and socially distance. We announced the open call for quarantine mail art on May 18, 2020, and it ran until Labor Day, September 7, 2020. There were no limitations on medium or content. We just asked that submissions be in the mail art genre, specifically small scale works of art sent through the postal service. The call was open to all ages, all artistic abilities, Temple community members, and the general public.

exhibit caseAll submissions will be added to a new collection within the Special Collections Research Center’s existing Mail Art collections and made available in the SCRC for future educational and research use, including publication. Artists were asked to consider applying a CC-BY license to their submissions to facilitate long term access and use, but it was not required. We initially planned to exhibit submissions in late Fall 2020 around the Libraries’ planned programming theme of “Interruption,” but the exhibit was subsequently delayed until this summer. The call was publicized through social media, reaching out to local artists, and by submitting information about the open call to websites dedicated to mail art.

Temple, Tyler, and Mail Art

This is not Temple’s first mail art call, and the submissions sent to Temple Libraries this past summer join an existing mail art collection housed in the Special Collections Research Center. The original Mail Art Collection was built as a result of two separate calls for entries for mail art exhibitions in 1980 at Temple University. The Spring 1980 call was part of a class project with Tyler School of Art faculty Bilgé Friedlander and her students. Later in 1980, Friedlander invited Paley Library to participate, resulting in an exhibit in February 1981. The collection contains over 230 separately posted pieces of mail from over 170 artists, not counting anonymous contributions. All of the Mail Art collections, including the collection formed by the 2020 call, will be available for research use in the SCRC and will be used in instruction and outreach for years to come.

The Mail Art Exhibition Ethos

mail art image
Anonymous artist, New Mexico

The only standard policy for mail artists, informally agreed upon within the community, relates to the required exhibition of materials received in a mail art call, whether they are sent to an individual mail artist or to an institution. The rules for mail art shows are 1) no fees 2) no jury 3) all works are displayed, and 4) the exhibit must be documented, usually in a list of exhibited artists distributed to participants after the exhibit. Accordingly, we are exhibiting every piece of physical mail art that we could in the exhibit space on the 1st floor of Charles Library, and any work that is not able to be shown due to space restrictions will be featured on the Special Collections Research Center’s social media accounts. This exhibit was curated by staff members of Temple University Libraries’ SCRC: Kimberly Tully, Curator of Rare Books, and Ann Mosher, Bibliographic Assistant II, with assistance from Jill E. Luedke, Art and Architecture Librarian. A list of exhibited artists will be made available online shortly and upon request. Please send inquiries to

-Kimberly Tully, Librarian and Curator of Rare Books, SCRC

Burk Mansion

Burk Mansion 1945
“Symbolizing the end of the mansion era here,” December 29, 1945, Evening Bulletin photograph

The Burk Mansion, 1500 North Broad Street, was constructed in 1907 by business magnate Alfred E. Burk. The Italian Renaissance Revival style mansion is one of the last of the surviving historic houses in Philadelphia built by wealthy industrialists during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The grand structure embodies an era of prosperity and grandeur along the once affluent North Broad Street thoroughfare.
The Burk family immigrated to the United States from Germany, settling in Philadelphia in 1854. Alfred was one of eight children born to David and Charlotte Reinman Burk. Alfred and his older brothers Charles and Henry founded Burk Brothers and Company, which manufactured and distributed glazed kid leather goods worldwide. He shared ownership with his brother Louis of the Garden Pier in Atlantic City and served as Vice-President of the Atlantic City Steel Pier Company. Burk was also involved in the political arena becoming a Pennsylvania delegate to the Republican National Convention in 1920. Burk died on May 13, 1921. He never married and willed his estate to his surviving sisters Louise and Minnie who resided in the home until 1942.

Burk Mansion was designed by Simon and Bassett, one of the most prestigious architectural firms in Philadelphia at the time, and constructed by John Gill and Company. The Mansion cost $256,000 to build (about 1.7 million in today’s dollars). The three-story building contained 27 rooms, and 7 bathrooms, and included a carriage house and garage that surrounded a beautiful enclosed outdoor garden space. On the eastern end of the property, Burk constructed a conservatory with and indoor garden and suite for the gardener. The large plate-glass windows on the conservatory allowed the public to admire the garden from the street. Like so many industrialists of his time, Burk presented an ostentatious display of his wealth and social status to those around him.

Burk Mansion living room
“The living room of the home of the late Alfred E. Burk at Broad and Jefferson sts. now is the office of a union’s president.” December 29, 1945, Evening Bulletin photograph


The Upholsterers International Union of North America (UIU) purchased the Burk Mansion in 1945 to serve as its headquarters for union operations. The UIU was organized in Chicago, Illinois in 1892, and represented workers employed in the upholstered furniture, wood furniture, bedding, burial casket, and canvas products industries and related crafts and trades. The UIU became affiliated with the American Federation of Labor in 1900. A split in the union rank and file over ideology and mission led to the formation of the United Furniture Workers of America in 1937. Despite this set back the UIU continued to move forward expanding its ranks from 20,000 members in 1937 to 30,000 members in 1940. Early union membership was comprised mostly of Jewish and Italian skilled workers. In 1955, the AFL merger with the Congress of Industrial Workers to form the AFL-CIO helped diversify the union base to include more Africans American and other minorities. By the 1970s, the UIU had roughly 60,000 members organized in 176 locals in the United States. In October 1985, the union merged with the United Steelworkers of America.

women making casket linings
UIU workers making casket interiors, 1950s, UIU Photograph Collection

The UIU’s renovations to the building included the installation of offices, an elevator, and an air conditioning system. A three-story addition was constructed on the north side of the property in 1953. However, by 1970 the UIU had outgrown the confines of the mansion as it shifted its organizing activities to the southern states following relocation of most of the furniture jobs.

union workers making gun covers
Union Workers Making Gun Covers at the Philadelphia Navy Yard, March 1960, UIU Photograph Collection

Temple University purchased Burk Mansion from UIU in September 1970 for $375, 000 and repurposed the property to use as a day care center and offices for the School of Social Administration and the Center for Social Policy and Community Development. The building was abandoned following a fire in the mid-1990s, and officially closed in 1995.  The Philadelphia Historic Commission endorsed the property as a historic site in January 1971, and it was included in the American Buildings Survey of the Library of Congress in July 1973.

To learn more about Upholsterer’s International Union of North America, view the following finding aids for collections found in the Special Collections Research Center.

Upholsterers International Union of North America Photograph Collection
Benjamin W. Barkas Papers

–Brenda Galloway-Wright, Associate Archivist