Tag Archives: Philadelphia History

“A Free and Modern Zoo for Philadelphia”

Lion cubs
Lion cubs born at the Zoo, 1936

One of the notable aspects of the Philadelphia Zoo  (the Zoological Society of Philadelphia) archives in Temple University Libraries’ Special Collections Research Center, is its rich photographic materials, which include approximately 200 lantern slides dating from 1880 to 1936, used to help educate and advance the mission of the Zoo.  Some of these slides were featured in a presentation at the Wagner Free Institute’s Annual Lantern Slide Salon, on October 13, 2016.

Gorilla cage
Old Gorilla Cage, circa 1920

The earliest lantern slides depict the nineteenth-century Zoo, its buildings, grounds, and animal attractions, while the slides from the 1930s document both scientific advancement and a push for change in animal housing.  Breeding and collecting remained in the forefront, great strides were made in nutrition, and the iron-barred cages of the  nineteenth century began to disappear, as new, natural, open-air habitats were constructed.

Making “zoocakes” in the commissary, circa 1935

Later slides document the Zoo’s Penrose Research Laboratory which made early strides in the study and prevention of diseases effecting animals in captivity, and the lab’s pioneering work in nutrition. The Zoo discovered that disease, early mortality, and low fertility affecting the animals was directly linked to nutritional deficiency. To combat this, the Penrose Lab developed the Philadelphia Zoocake, which was “a mineral and vitamin rich concoction…” formulated from corn meal, ground meat, ground vegetables, eggs, fat, molasses, salt, and baking powder. By 1936, the Zoo tested its new dietary program, including the zoocake, and saw dramatically increased general health. Greater fertility and diminished mortality rates were also noted. In fact, some of the animals went on to break records in terms of longevity in captivity.

Unloading groceries
Unloading groceries with orangutan, circa 1935
Beaver Pond
New Beaver Pond, constructed by the WPA, 1935

In addition to the strides in nutrition, labor provided by Depression-era federal work relief programs kept things moving forward in other areas. In the 1930s,  workers for the Works Progress Administration repaired the buildings and grounds, helping to advance how the Zoo housed and exhibited animals. Where barred cages and cell-like enclosures were the norm for the nineteenth century zoo, the twentieth century zoo sought to remove the bars and to create habitats that resembled the animals’ natural environments. This offered better living space for the animals and more thrilling exhibitions for visitors.

Monkey Island
View of Monkey Island, constructed by the WPA, 1935

In 1936, the Citizens Committee for a Free and Modern Zoo was formed to ascertain public interest in the Zoo and campaign for public funding to make the Zoo a free attraction and finance continued improvements. The committee used images from other zoos’ more modern animal exhibits to excite the public about the proposed changes at the Philadelphia Zoo. Such images were coupled with pictures of caged animals under tag line, “Iron Bars a Prison Make,” to underscore the need for this important change in zoo-keeping practices. While the ground work was laid in the 1930s, it wasn’t until after World War II that the city answered the call and appropriated one million dollars to help the Zoo realize its vision.

— Courtney Smerz, SCRC Collection Management Archivist


Teaching Zines and Metadata

Cover of How to be Lolita
Cover of How to be Lolita, by Jo-Jo Sherrow. Philadelphia: Jo-Jo Sherrow, 2010. Beth Heinly Zine Collection, Special Collections Research Center.

During the Spring 2016 semester, “Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Representation” (MSP 4425/LGBT 3400), an undergraduate course in the Department of Media Studies and Production taught by Dr. Adrienne Shaw, worked within the Special Collections Research Center, as well as with the John J. Wilcox, Jr. LGBT Archives at the William Way LGBT Community Center, to complete several assignments. The class investigates the history of LGBT representation in popular media in the United States since the 1960s.

The class visited SCRC several times for introductions to using special collections materials  and various collections, students returned individually to conduct research on their own. They each selected two zines from the collection and wrote an essay on themes found within them, and completed a timeline and report on an event in Philadelphia LGBTQ history using LGBTQ resources available in the SCRC and the John J. Wilcox, Jr. LGBT Archives.

Metadata worksheet
Worksheet used by students for the metadata assignment.

During one visit, the students were given an introduction to metadata by SCRC staff, and completed an assignment to create their own metadata for a zine in the SCRC collection. The class included an explanation of what metadata is and does, both generally and in a library; what makes metadata important; and some issues related to creating metadata.

The issues discussed were directly relevant to the purpose of the course,  including how metadata is inherently about the problematic act of applying labels to things; standardized metadata requires the use of terms determined by someone with their own biases; and applying labels to information resources puts the metadata creator in a position of power and authority.  Issues related specifically to zines were also discussed, including how they’re often about sensitive, personal topics; they are frequently created by people from underrepresented groups; and they are occasionally written by people who do not want to be identified.

Metadata definitions handout
Class handout on metadata.

The students then completed an assignment to create their own metadata. They selected one zine from the collection, and completed a metadata form based on the ZineCore elements. SCRC staff and Dr. Shaw answered questions about how to describe a zine with, for example, no author or title; what to do if a zine listed no author but the student knew the name of the author; and how to come up with subject descriptions for sensitive topics.

A small selection of the Beth Heinly Zine Collection has been digitized and is available online. For more on ZineCore, see the ZineCore Zine.

–Katy Rawdon, Coordinator of Technical Services, SCRC

Studying MOVE

One of the most notorious and controversial episodes in Philadelphia’s history occurred on May 13, 1985:  the bombing of the MOVE Organization’s house in the Cobbs Creek neighborhood of West Philadelphia.

1978 surrender
MOVE members watch another member surrender to Philadelphia police. May 4, 1978

After years of tension and conflict among MOVE, city authorities, and some local residents, including a shootout with police in 1978 which left one officer dead, Philadelphia officials decided to evict members of the communal-living, back-to-nature Black Liberation group from their fortified house at 6221 Osage Avenue.  (Accounts differ on who actually fired the shots that killed the police officer.)

On the morning of May 13, 1985, a violent confrontation erupted, with tear gas and thousands of rounds of bullets exchanged–resulting in a daylong standoff.   To break the stalemate, Police Commissioner Gregore Sambor ordered the Police Bomb Unit to drop two satchel bombs from a helicopter onto a wooden bunker that had been constructed on top of the house. A tremendous fire broke out. Witnesses say that when MOVE members ran out of the burning building, police continued to shoot at them. The Fire Department, ordered by police to “let the fire burn,” delayed putting out the flames, claiming that MOVE members were still firing, but witnesses assert that the wait was deliberate.

The fire spread to adjoining houses, and two entire city blocks went up in flames, leaving 11 members of the group dead, including MOVE’s founder John Africa and five children who were in the house. Two hundred-fifty local residents were left homeless.

MOVEIn the aftermath of these events, Mayor W. Wilson Goode convened the Philadelphia Special Investigation Commission (PSIC) to examine the incident. The head of the Commission, William Brown III, had led the Federal Equal Employment Opportunities Commission, and the rest of the commission’s eleven members included prominent individuals from a variety of backgrounds.

The commission conducted dozens of interviews, gathered a large amount of evidence, and held public hearings. In March 1986, it issued a scathing report which was highly critical of government actions, stating that “Dropping a bomb on an occupied row house was unconscionable.”

With in the Urban Archives, Temple University Libraries’ Special Collections Research Center (SCRC) holds the records of the Philadelphia Special Investigation Commission (PSIC), as well as a wealth of related photographs, audio-visual materials, and news clippings on this topic and the MOVE organization.

Consisting of 29 cubic feet of materials, PSIC Records provide a comprehensive account of the tragic events of that day. At the core of this collection are interviews the commission conducted, under subpoena power, with every policemen, firemen, public official, and resident involved. Supporting and related documentary evidence submitted by witnesses are also a part of these files, as well as approximately 700 photographs gathered or produce by the commission.

There are also hours of footage and transcripts from the televised hearings that ran on WHYY, as well as television news coverage of the event itself and of MOVE before and after the 1985 incident from WPVI and KYW.

There are hundreds of images in the Philadelphia Inquirer and Philadelphia Evening Bulletin photograph collections. The Inquirer Photographs contain over 300 images, the majority of which pertain to the 1985 conflict, the PSIC hearings, rebuilding, and the impact on the surrounding community. The Philadelphia Evening Bulletin Photographs have over 550 images, documenting the communal life of MOVE as well as its previous clashes with the police during the 1970s. (The Evening Bulletin closed in 1982). Many of the Evening Bulletin photographs have been digitized and can be found in our digital collections.Medical examiner

It is safe to say that the SCRC houses the most comprehensive collection of primary sources available on this topic. Numerous students, documentarians, historians, and community members have drawn upon the archives to try to make sense of the events of that day. In 2013, a documentary by film maker Jason Osder made extensive use of these materials in his award winning film Let the Fire Burn.

To view these or other materials in the SCRC, please contact us at SCRC@temple.edu or visit our website.

–Josué Hurtado, Coordinator of Public Services & Outreach, SCRC

The Pennsylvania Horticultural School for Women

Ambler students, 1919-20
Ambler students, 1919-20

Located on a 187-acre field in the suburban Pennsylvania town of Ambler, The Pennsylvania School of Horticulture for Women was founded in 1911 by Jane Bowne Haines as one of the first horticultural schools for women in the United States. The school provided a unique opportunity for women not only to become educated generally but to enter a field dominated by men. After more than forty-five years as an independent institution, the school merged with Temple University in 1958, and became the Temple University Ambler Campus. A deeper history of the school can be found on the Ambler Campus website.

Class of 1913 students pruning
Class of 1913 students pruning

The Pennsylvania School of Horticulture for Women Records contain of a wealth of photographs and materials documenting the history of the school. The photographs trace the students’ lives on campus through images of activities, dances, clubs, and their work in the fields, gardens, greenhouses, and classrooms. Through these photographs,  you see the changes in uniform, social dress codes, campus buildings, the variety of clubs, and even social expectations of women. One aspect that does not change is the labor requirement. From the very beginning, students were expected to climb trees, drive tractors, harvest the fields, and care for the animals, often in very impractical clothing.

PSHW's 1932 Flower Show Exhibit
PSHW’s 1932 Flower Show Exhibit

In addition to the photographs, which have all been digitized, the files contain administration records, printed materials, including several publications published by the school (Pen & Trowel and Wise Acres, along with a variety of alumni publications), ephemera relating to campus activities and festivals, correspondence, student records, and landscape design drawings. The archives also includes some photographs and other materials relating to the school’s participation in the Philadelphia Flower Show.

–Holly Wilson, Processing Archivist , Special Collections Research Center

The Photography of Philip Taylor

Walt Whitman Bridge construction, 1955
Walt Whitman Bridge construction, 1955

Since the late 1940s, Philadelphian Philip Taylor has been taking photographs of his environment—Philadelphia as it was in the intervening decades. His painstakingly-processed silver gelatin prints illuminate Walt Whitman Bridge construction, the homeless, pre-gentrification Society Hill, the Camac baths, the Philadelphia neighborhoods of South Philadelphia, Northeast Philadelphia, and East Poplar, Atlantic City, and Philadelphia residents—both anonymous and famous—as well as his travels to Israel, the Canary Islands, and Cuba.

Philip Taylor attended local public schools in South Philadelphia. In 1943, during his junior year in high school, he dropped out to help support his family after his father died suddenly while working at the Philadelphia Navy Yard. Taylor worked as a civilian in the Navy Department in Center City Philadelphia—in the mail room located next to the photography department. Drafted into the United States Army in 1944, Taylor served until 1946 at various stateside bases.

Homeless man, c. 1955
Homeless man on Philadelphia Skid Row, c. 1955

After the war, Taylor apprenticed as a union tradesman in the lithographic printing industry in Philadelphia. For the next twenty-five years, he worked the night shift as a master lithographic cameraman making half-tone negatives and color separations for the print medium at Mid-City Press, one of the largest commercial printers in Philadelphia.  Taylor also taught at the Philadelphia Lithographic Institute and holds two United States Government patents, one in the medical field and another in the lithographic field. He also invented two devices related to the lithographic printing industry.   Working full time, Taylor photographed his environment using a Rolleiflex 3.5F TLR camera and a Leica 35mm camera, and frequently stayed up until dawn developing negatives into photographic prints.

Old City Jerusalem. c. 1973
Old City Jerusalem, c. 1973

Temple University Libraries are grateful to Mr. Taylor for his donation of his life’s work. It will serve as a resource in the Special Collections Research Center for study and research. Please join us for a reception celebrating his work, February 26, 4:00  – 7:00, Paley Library Lecture Hall.   The exhibit is on view on the ground and first floors and mezzanine of Paley  through August 2016.

–Margery Sly, Director of Special Collections



Weavers Way Co-op Archives

The Shuttle newsletter
June 1975 Weavers Way newsletter

Weavers Way Co-op was founded in 1973 in West Mount Airy, a neighborhood in Philadelphia. A cooperatively owned market, Weavers Way grew from a small deli and produce buying club to include two fully staffed and stocked grocery stores in West Mount Airy and Chestnut Hill; Across the Way, a natural pet supply and wellness store in Mount Airy; and Weavers Way Next Door, a natural health and wellness store in Chestnut Hill.

Weavers Way was founded during the “New Wave” cooperative movement of the 1960s and 1970s, when thousands of similarly minded cooperative retail and other ventures were founded across the United States. Offering an alternative to the conventional grocery store, Weavers Way took advantage of the power of collective purchasing to bring better and healthier foods into the community at affordable prices, and pushed for environmental, agricultural, and sociopolitical change through consumer activism and other programs.

From the beginning, the co-op encouraged its membership to be fully vested in the formation of its governance and in choosing which products to sell or not sell, with early newsletters concluding, “If you don’t decide, someone else will!” In its product philosophy statement, the Co-op outlined its commitment to selling products that were locally and/or cooperatively produced, did not originate from exploitative businesses, and to offer product alternatives, such as  bulk versus packaged or organic versus non-organic foods. Weavers Way also organized agricultural boycotts and recycling programs, and, as a leader in urban agriculture and the organic foods movement, it operated the Mort Brooks Memorial Farm at Awbury Arboretum and the Henry Got Crops community supported agriculture (CSA) program at W.B. Saul Agricultural High School.

An active and neighborhood-defining organization, Weavers Way Co-op’s records are a valuable addition to Special Collections Research Center’s holdings. In addition to documenting the history of the co-op and its surrounding community, the Weaver’s Way accession adds to an existing body of collections in the SCRC documenting life in northwest Philadelphia. Other collections include the Ann Spaeth Papers on Chestnut Hill, Lloyd Wells Papers on the Chestnut Hill Experience, the Chestnut Hill Local, the East Mount Airy Neighborhood Association Records, and the West Mouth Airy Neighborhood Association Records. As an added bonus, the Weavers Way Co-op Records also represent our most pleasantly perfumed collection. Having previously been stored above Across the Way, the material emits a delightful aroma of soaps and other wellness products. To learn more about the collection, view the Weavers Way Co-op finding aid.

--Courtney Smerz, Collection Management Archivist, SCRC

AIDS Library Records and LGBTQ Resources

AIDS Library pins
AIDS Library pins

The AIDS Library, located in Center City, Philadelphia, was founded in 1987. The mission of the library is to provide information and support to those infected by HIV/AIDS as well as to caregivers, other AIDS service organizations, medical practitioners, case managers, hospitals, family members, partners, and friends of those infected with and affected by the virus. The library is a part of Philadelphia FIGHT, a local health services organization working with people with HIV/AIDS, provides resources, internet access, educational programs, and one-on-one assistance to the public.

The AIDS Library Records in the Special Collections Research Center came to Temple in 2007. Byron Lee, a volunteer, processed the records. The collection contains administrative records as well as materials previously used but now withdrawn from the library’s collection–monographs, serials, pamphlets, collections of article and newspaper clippings, collections of community newsletters, and information files. The majority of the collection covers the early years of the AIDS epidemic and early activist and political activities from around 1986 to 1997. Additional transfers from the library are in process.

Poetry of AIDS
The Poetry of AIDS

The collection documents one of the earliest organizations founded to educate those affected by HIV/AIDS and their communities and families. Materials detail the evolution of the library as an organization, and the many pamphlets, reports, and other publications document resources available about the AIDS epidemic. Materials by and about other Philadelphia-area organizations, as well as newspaper clippings, photographs, pins, and other ephemera, provide a glimpse of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community in Philadelphia during 1980s and 1990s.

The Special Collections Research Center is fortunate to hold a number of other collections related to the history of the Philadelphia LGBTQ community. These include the Philadelphia Lesbian and Gay Task Force Records which contain organization records, educational program records, and videotapes and audio cassettes documenting public service announcements, news reports, and events. The Scott Wilds Papers include articles, clippings, correspondence, magazines, newsletters, and reports from this Philadelphia gay activist, and include information related to political organizations, candidates, and various Philadelphia elections.

Lesbian Tide Sept 1972
Lesbian Tide Sept 1972

The SCRC also holds a variety of newspapers and magazines published by and for the LGBTQ community both in Philadelphia and further afield, including: Philadelphia Gay News, 1973- today; the PLGTF Bulletin, 1978-82; Gayzette, 1974-75; G.L.A.D. Briefs, 1979-1986, New Gay Life, 1977-78, The Baltimore Gay Paper, 1984-87; Common Lives, Lesbian Lives, 1983-1996; The Lesbian Tide, 1971-75 and 1978-80; and Kater Street, 1978-83.

–Katy Rawdon, Coordinator of Technical Services, SCRC

City Parks Association of Philadelphia

The City Parks Association of Philadelphia was chartered on May 23, 1888, to create and maintain open spaces as park areas for the citizens of Philadelphia. Since that time, the association has worked with city government to establish parks such as Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR) Park (originally named League Island Park) and Pennypack Park. The association advocated for the city government to pass zoning laws and continues today to work for the improvement and preservation of parks, squares, playgrounds, and waterways in Philadelphia and surrounding areas.

Swimmers at League Island Park, July 1925.
Swimmers at League Island Park, July 1925. City Parks Association of Philadelphia Records, SCRC 86, Special Collections Research Center

The Special Collections Research Center holds the records of the City Parks Association. The collection contains meeting minutes and agendas, annual reports, financial records, correspondence, news clippings, and photographs. There is also information related to various specific parks and the Fairmount Park Commission, as well as correspondence, financial, and property records related to Awbury Arboretum and its historic Francis Cope House in the Germantown section of Philadelphia.

Awbury Arboretum
Rose Garden plan for Awbury Arboretum, undated. City Parks Association of Philadelphia Records, SCRC 86, Special Collections Research Center

Also included in the collection are captured websites, a new initiative by the SCRC and the Digital Library Initiatives department. Using the Archive-It service, periodic “captures” of the website are taken, and are available to the public. Captures of the City Parks Association are available from between 2002 to 2015, and will continue to be harvested, preserved, and made available.

The collection’s photographs, with the exception of slides, have been digitized and are available online on the Temple University Digital Collections website.

We celebrate with our Temple Press colleagues the publication of Jim McClelland and Lynn Miller’s  City in a Park:  A History of Philadelphia’s Fairmount Park System.

–Katy Rawdon, Coordinator of Technical Services, SCRC


National History Day

Masterman High School Students
Masterman High School Students doing research at the SCRC

National History Day is a year-long educational program that attracts thousands of middle and high school students, and educators nationwide. Students compete at the local and state levels, which award participants the opportunity to present their work in a national contest held every June at the University of Maryland, College Park.

Masterman High School Students
Masterman High School Students

The competition was established in 1974 by Professor David Van Tassell who was on faculty in the History Department at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio. Its purpose is to provide invaluable experiences and opportunities for students to conduct historical research and develop critical thinking, writing, and communication skills. Student participants may submit individual or group projects in the form of a documentary, exhibit, paper, performance, or website. The program also offers professional development opportunities for educators through training, and access to varied historical resources that help them to create more robust teaching curricula.

Since 2006, the Special Collection Research Center has participated in NHD programs and has hosted class visits to the archives from Philadelphia area schools including Masterman and Constitution high schools, and LaSalle High School for Boys. Visiting students spend hours combing through the original news clippings and photographs files of Philadelphia Evening Bulletin and Philadelphia Inquirer newspapers for research projects covering a myriad of events such as the integration of Girard College, the 1967 school board riots, the MOVE bombing, and prominent Philadelphia individuals including Father Divine, Frank Rizzo, and Father Paul Washington.

Masterman High School students
Masterman High School Students, October 2015

In 2015, students from Masterman placed in local and state competitions: Jenny Chan qualified for the national competition for her documentary entitled “Robert Smalls: Not so Small After All.” This Fall a new group of Masterman 10th graders has been visiting the SCRC to research topics for the 2016 NHD competition theme, “Exploration, Encounter, Exchange in History.”

For more information about NHD activities and programs in the Philadelphia area visit the NHD Philly website.

–Brenda Galloway-Wright, Associate Archivist

Cigar Making in Philadelphia

T&O Offices, 1900
T&O Offices, 1900

National Hispanic Heritage Month is observed each year from September 15th to October 15th. During this month, the cultures and contribution of Americans whose ancestors come from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central and South America are celebrated. It’s a good opportunity to highlight some materials from the Special Collections Research Center (SCRC) that relate to one of the many Hispanic groups that make up the fabric of this country: Puerto Ricans in Philadelphia.

Like many immigrant groups, Puerto Ricans came to the area in search of employment opportunities. Starting slowly in the late 19th century, and accelerating through the 20th century, they immigrated to Philadelphia, a thriving industrial city.

T&O Cigar Making Floor, 1900
T&O Cigar Making Floor, 1900

Among the many industries where they found employment was cigar manufacturing. For many years Philadelphia was one of the leading manufacturers of cigars in the United States. Consequently, some of Philadelphia’s Latino communities can trace their origins to enclaves that grew up around cigar factories in North Philadelphia neighborhoods.

T&O Cigar Banding Department, 1900
T & O Cigar Banding Department, 1900

One such factory, located in the Northern Liberties neighborhood, was owned by the Theobald & Oppenheimer Cigar Company. Founded in 1860, the T & O Cigar Company was one of the largest cigar manufacturers in the city. In 1900, the company opened a new factory at 1147 North 4th Street. To memorialize this opening the company created an album, with over two dozen sepia-toned photographs of the offices, warehouse, factory floor, and workers, who hand-rolled the cigars. (The album was donated to the SCRC in 2012.)

T&O Cigar Factory Building, 1900
T&O Cigar Factory Building, 1900

As Puerto Rican immigration to Philadelphia increased throughout the post-war years, organizations such as the Nationalities Service Center (established in 1921) began to respond to the needs of this group, as it had to previous waves of immigrants, by providing information, guidance, and services on such issues as housing, education, and employment. The programs and activities provided by the center were aimed at helping to ease the transition of living and working in a new place. A parallel goal of the center was to promote and conserve the cultural values of immigrant communities for the enrichment of American life. These efforts to aid the Puerto Rican immigrant community, as well as many other ethnic communities, are documented in the Records of the Nationalities Service Center, one of the collection in the SCRC’s Urban Archives.

-Josué Hurtado, Coordinator of Public Services & Outreach