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Philadelphia History - Research Guide

This guide lists publications and other resources containing information about the history of Philadelphia. Publications concerning Philadelphia's past can be found in most of the Penn Libraries. Van Pelt Library, the largest Penn Library, collects social sciences and humanities publications, as well as general publications, important city governmental publications, and population and social statistics publications. Fisher Fine Arts Library collects planning documents and holds early twentieth-century real property maps. Lippincott Library collects city financial publications and materials pertaining to the Philadelphia economy and its business community.


I. Basic Works on Philadelphia History
a. West Philadelphia history
II. Franklin, Penn's Library Catalog
III. Indexes to Scholarly Articles
IV. Almanacs and Chronologies
V. Biography
VI. City and Business Directories
VII. Newspapers
VIII. Magazines
IX. Government Resources
X. Statistical Resources
XI. Decennial Census, 1790-2000
a. The decennial census prior to 1940
b. The decennial census from 1940 to 2000
XII. Atlases, Maps and Geographic Resources
XIII. Property Surveys
XIV. Buildings, architects, and views of Philadelphia
XV. Archival material relevant to Philadelphia

I. Basic Works on Philadelphia History

Weigley, Russell F (ed). Philadelphia: a 300 year history. New York: W. W. Norton, 1982.
[Van Pelt Reference Desk, other locations: F 158.3 .P5664 1982]
The modern one-volume history of Philadelphia. Chapters arranged chronologically by subject experts. Not too easy to find material on neighborhoods or city regions.

Scharf, J Thomas and Thompson Westcott. History of Philadelphia, 1609-1884. 3 volumes. Philadelphia: L. H. Everts, 1884.
[Van Pelt Reference Desk, other locations: F 158.3 .S4]
The basic older history of Philadelphia. Index, in volume III, provides subject access to all three volumes.
Philadelphia: a guide to the nation's birthplace. Philadelphia: William Penn Association of Pennsylvania, 1937. [reprinted as: The WPA guide to Philadelphia. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1988.]
[Reprint: Van Pelt Reference, other locations: F 158.18 .P46 1988]
A one-volume older history of Philadelphia, produced through the Federal Writers' Project, Works Progress Administration. Divided into two parts: "The city and its background" and "Roads and rambles in and around the city". West Philadelphia is covered in several tours:
  • "City tour 7, City of apartments" (pp. 493-505), travelling along Woodland Avenue, Cobbs Creek Parkway, and Chestnut Street
  • "City tour 8, Toward the suburbs" (pp. 505-513), travelling on Market Street, Lancaster Avenue, 44th Street and Belmont Avenue, City Line Avenue, and 64th Street
  • "City tour 12, West Park" (pp. 562-573)
  • "City tour 14, Around Penn's campus" (pp. 587-597)
  • "City tour 20, By placid Cobbs Creek" (pp. 625-626)

Jackson, Joseph. Encyclopedia of Philadelphia. 4 volumes. Harrisburg: National Historical Association.
[Van Pelt Reference Desk: F 158.3 .J15]
Brief entries on persons, places, institutions, and events in Philadelphia history. Some entires have bibliographic references.

Toll, Jean Barth and Mildred S. Gillam (comp., eds.) Invisible Philadelphia: community through voluntary organizations. Philadelphia: Atwater Kent Museum, 1995.
[Van Pelt Reference Desk and other locations: F158.18 .I58 1995]
Surveys the history of voluntary organizations in Philadelphia. Provides some bibliographic information as well as disposition of archival materials.
Custis, John Trevor. The public schools of Philadelphia: historical, biographical, statistical. Philadelphia: Burk & McFetridge co., 1897.
[Van Pelt Reference: LA357 .P55 C8]
Surveys Philadelphia school districts and individual schools through the nineteenth century.
Cotter, John L. et al. The buried past: an archaeological history of Philadelphia. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1992.
[Van Pelt Reference, Fine Arts Reference: F158.39 .C68 1992]

a. West Philadelphia History

Rosenthal, Leon S. A history of Philadelphia's University City. Philadelphia: Printing Office of the University of Pennsylvania for the West Philadelphia Corporation, 1963.
[Van Pelt Reference Desk, other locations: F 158.68 .W5 R6]
A brief but detailed history of University City, bounded by the Schuylkill River, 44th Street, and Powelton Avenue, through the 1950s.
Philadelphia City Planning Commission. The Plan for West Philadelphia. [Philadelphia, Pa.] : The Commission, 1994.
[Online via]
[Van Pelt Reference, Fine Arts: HT 177 .P5 P5365 1994]
Community profile. Philadelphia: West Philadelphia Regional Library, 1990.
[Van Pelt Reference Desk: F 158.68 .W5 C66 1990]
One in a series of reports providing brief histories, with statistics and directory information, compiled for the service areas of individual regional libraries and branches in the Free Library of Philadelphia system. A complete set of these profiles is available at Extension Services division, Central Library, Free Library of Philadelphia at 1901 Vine Street (215 / 686-5310); individual profiles may be read at the relevant branch or regional library.
Viera, M. Lafite. West Philadelphia illustrated: early history of West Philadelphia and its environs, its people and its historical points. Philadelphia: Avil Printing Co., 1903 / Charles H. Clarke, 1903.
[Van Pelt: F158.3 .V5 W3 1903. Van Pelt, Fine Arts: 917.4781 .V674]
Spirn, Anne Whiston (principal investigator). The West Philadelphia landscape plan: a framework for action. Philadelphia: Department of Landscape Architecture and Regional Planning, University of Pennsylvania, 1991-1996.
[Fine Arts Locked Case: SB 470.54 .P4 W47 1991]
An ongoing version of this project is available at

II. Franklin, Penn's Library Catalog

Franklin lists books, journals titles (but not articles within journals), conference proceedings, and other library materials at the Penn Libraries. When looking for works on a topic in Franklin, try searching both by subject heading and by keyword(s).

Use Subject Heading searches based on the formal subject headings listed in the four printed volumes of the Library of Congress Subject Headings located at the Van Pelt reference desk. Some sample headings are listed below.

Philadelphia (Pa.) Buildings, structures, etc
Philadelphia (Pa.) City planning
Philadelphia (Pa.) Commerce
Philadelphia (Pa.) Description and travel
Philadelphia (Pa.) Economic conditions
Philadelphia (Pa.) Ethnic relations
Philadelphia (Pa.) History
Philadelphia (Pa.) Industries
Philadelphia (Pa.) Politics and government
Philadelphia (Pa.) Race relations
Philadelphia (Pa.) Social conditions
Philadelphia (Pa.) Social life and customs
Chinatown (Philadelphia, Pa.)
Italian Americans--Pennsylvania--Philadelphia--History--
First Presbyterian Church (Philadelphia, Pa.)
Political conventions--Pennsylvania--Philadelphia
Taverns (Inns)--Pennsylvania--Philadelphia--
South Philadelphia (Philadelphia, Pa.)--
University of Pennsylvania--History--
Working class--Pennsylvania--Philadelphia--History
University City (Philadelphia,Pa.)--History--

Keyword searches look for the search terms anywhere in the record, i.e. the author, subject, title fields, etc. Once you have found a record of interest, look at the "full view" to see the subject headings assigned to that work.

philadelphia AND "yellow fever"

There are many printed volumes that are collections of primary source materials. To locate these, try subject searches and look for the keyword "sources" within the subject field. Or add the word "sources" to a keyword search.

skey philadelphia and sources

III. Indexes to Scholarly Articles

America: History & Life. Santa Barbara: ABC-Clio, 1964-
An ongoing index to scholarship in U.S. history from 1954 to the present. Includes book reviews (see below). Available online from 1964 to present.
EBSCO MegaFile
A combined index of EBSCO's Academic Search Premier and Masterfile Premier. Indexes both scholarly journals and popular periodicals. Strong from 1990s forward, although many titles are indexed back further.

Periodicals Contents Index.
Retrospective index of journals. Covers publications before 1990 Easy limit to book reviews.

IV. Almanacs and Chronologies

Philadelphia Record Almanac. [1880?]-[1903?]. Philadelphia: Record.
[Van Pelt Library Stacks: AY67 .P5 R4 (1882-1903, some years missing)]
Bulletin Almanac. 1924-1976. Philadelphia: Evening Bulletin.
[Van Pelt Library Stacks (and other locations): AY 286 .P5 B9. Latest at Reference Desk]
Inquirer Regional Almanac. 1994-present. Philadelphia: Philadelphia Newspapers. Annual.
[Van Pelt and other libraries: AY 286 .P5 I578. Latest at Reference Desk]
The Bulletin almanac includes a 4- to 8-page section, "Local chronology" in each annual issue.
Morgan, George. "Philadelphia chronology from the earliest explorations and arrivals to the year of grace 1926: a supplementary part of The city of firsts: Philadelphia" in The city of firsts, being a complete history of the city of Philadelphia from its founding, in 1682, to the present time. Philadelphia: The Historical Publication Society, 1926. Pages 331-481.
[Van Pelt Library Reference Stacks: F 158.3 .M84]
Similar to the Bulletin Almanac's "Local chronology", through 1925, with expanded daily coverage beginning in 1860.

V. Biography

Simpson, Henry. Lives of Eminent Philadelphians, Now Deceased. Philadelphia: W. Brotherhead, 1859.
Articles of varying leangth on more than 300 persons judged to be outstanding in different fields, with occasional extracts from memoirs.
Social Register, Philadelphia. Annual. New York: Social Register, 1887-1976.
[Van Pelt Library Stacks: F 158.22 .A64]
In various manifestations, this lists participants in the Philadelphia social scene. In 1977, this edition merged with those of other cities to form Social register [Combined] [Van Pelt: E154.7 .S624. Latest in Reference].
The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography. [Philadelphia] : Historical Society of Pennsylvania, 1877-.
[Van Pelt Library Stacks: F 146 .P65]
Index volume covering 1877-1951 is available at [Van Pelt Library Reference Desk: F 146 P65]
Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography is also indexed in Periodicals Content Index from 1877 to Oct. 1990.

I. City and Business Directories

City directories of the United States [microform]. New Haven: Research Publications.
[Van Pelt Library Microtext: Microfiche 5 (1798 to 1860); Van Pelt Microforms: Microfilm Cont 165 (1861-1901)]
Microform reproductions of all major directory series for all major cities. Within the two large chronologically-divided sets, all directories are grouped by city; within each city's group, directories are arranged chronologically. For Philadelphia, city directories include Boyd's, Gopsill's, McElroy's, as well as Macpherson's directory of 1785, the first American city directory. See also the Van Pelt Library Microforms guide on City Directories of the United States.
Van Pelt Library holds numerous city directories, all of which are duplicated (and in better condition) on microform in the sets listed above. Also at this location are Philadelphia city directories more recent than 1901.
[Van Pelt Library Stacks: F 158.2 ...]

VII. Newspapers

For detailed information on news sources specific to Philadelphia, examine the Van Pelt Reference special bibliographies:

Accessible Archives
Includes the The Pennsylvania Gazette from 1728-1800.
The Pennsylvania Gazette [CD-ROM]. Folios 1 (1728-1750), 2 (1751-1765), and 3 (1766-1783) [Folio 4 (1784-1800) in progress]. Malvern, Pa.: Accessible Archives.
[Van Pelt Library Reference Moelis: Moelis Room CD-ROM 28]
Searchable fulltext and indexing for almost 70,000 articles (1728-1783) from Gazette with fascimile reproductions of articles. Articles are included only at their first appearance. Articles of local or regional interest only are available in fulltext.
Newsbank - Philadelphia Inquirer
Searchable fulltext files of:
Philadelphia Inquirer - 1981 to present
Philadelphia Inquirer
[Van Pelt Library Microtext: Microfilm News 61], 1861-present.
[Van Pelt Library Current Periodicas: current paper issues].
Philadelphia Inquirer Card Index, ca. 1960 to 1978
Index cards filed by subject in card catalog drawers. Available in the Free Library's Database and Newspaper Center. The staff of the Free Library made cards only for subjects which library users inquired about frequently; thus, the coverage of the index is extremely limited. Mostly from the Philadelphia Inquirer, with some from the Evening Bulletin and other newspapers. Call 686-5431 for further information.
Ethnic Newswatch
Web-accessible collection of full text ethnic papers from around the United States.
Online coverage begins with 1990.
Includes Philadelphia Tribune, the area's largest African-American newspaper
Includes the Jewish Exponent, a major area paper which has been published continuously since 1887.
Philadelphia Daily News. 1925-present. Daily.
[Van Pelt Library Microtext: Microfilm news 424 (1990-present)]
[Van Pelt Library Current Periodicals: Latest 3 months]
Philadelphia Tribune. 1884-present. Triweekly.
[Van Pelt Library Microtext: Microfilm news 407 (1912-present]
[Van Pelt Library Current Periodicals: Latest three months in paper]
There is also an online Philadelphia Tribune Archives and in Ethnic Newswatch (above).
Philadelphia Business Journal. 1982-present. Weekly.
[Lippincott Microforms: Film cont 110 (1982:Mar.29-1984:Sept.23).
[Lippincott Microforms: Business Collection (Nov. 19, 1984-Aug. 18, 1995)]
[Lippincott Current Periodicals: Latest 2 years]
Philadelphia Evening Bulletin photo files are at Temple University's Urban Archives.
The Urban Archives holds the clippings files and photo files from several area newspapers, primarily the Evening Bulletin. The Bulletin's internal index for 1908-1975 is also available at the Urban Archives, though challenging to use. Staff are expert and helpful. Call ahead.
Public Ledger Index, 1914 to 1942
Index to the Public Ledger covering 1914 to 1934 and the Evening Public Ledger covering 1919 to 1942. On microfilm for the years 1914 to 1929. On index cards from 1930 to 1942. Note that there are entries for one year only on each card. In the Database and Newspaper Center of the Free Library of Philadelphia. Call 686-5431 for further information.
Philadelphia Record, ca. 1930 to 1947
Folders of clippings and photographs arranged by subject. Housed at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, 1300 Locust St. Researchers must describe their topic to a staff member who retrieves the appropriate folders. Admission for students is $3 per visit. For further information call 732-6200 and ask for the Manuscripts Division.
Hannah Roach card file: an index of names and places and alphabetized abstracts of Phladelphia newspaper items and advertisements, ca. 1718 to 1795. 1 microfilm reel. Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society.
[Van Pelt Library Microtext: Microfilm 3978]
Microform reproduction of 9,000 handwritten cards, assembled by the legendary Philadelphia genealogist, and held by the library of the American Philosophical Society.
The Free Library of Philadelphia's Database and Newspaper Division has an extensive collection of Philadelphia neighborhood newsweeklies or -monthlies. For West Philadelphia, these include: Southwest Chronicle (1929-1934), West Philadelphia Times (1928-1946), Northwest Ledger & Wynnefield News (1927-1932), Upper Darby News (1939-1959), West Philadelphia Chronicle (1934-1936), Lancaster Avenue News (1932-1943), Overbrook Mirror (1940-1942), Overbrook Times (1946-1949), City Line News (1949-1952, 1962-1968), Southwest Philadelphia Globe times (1960-1966, 1979-1982, 1984-1989).

VIII. Magazines

The best indexes to consult for early periodical literature on Philadelphia are:

Index to Early American Periodicals.
Subject index to the journals in the microfilm collections American Periodical Series I & II. These two microfilm sets are located in the Van Pelt Microtext Center, first floor east. Please note: the Penn Library does not have a subscription to the third segment of the database which covers the time period 1850-1935 (APS III).
See List of journals in APS I(1700-1799) and List of journals in APS II (1800-1850)
Index to Early American Periodical Literature, 1728-1870. 8 boxes of microprint. New York: Readex Microprint.
[Van Pelt Library Microtext: Microprint 20]
A massive indexing project produced for the WPA and currently residing at New York University. 339 periodicals, including 52 eighteenth-century periodicals (17 of which are from the Philadelphia area), are indexed through more than 900,000 entries. Divided into five sections:
  1. Poetry. 240,000 entries.
  2. Songs and scores. 8,000 entries.
  3. Book reviews. 140,000 entries.
  4. Fiction or Short stories. 17,000 entries.
  5. General articles. 500,000 entries. Subject indexing in this section follows Library of Congress Subject Headings [e.g., "Philadelphia, Pa.--Social Life and Customs"].

Although some entries are in illegible handwriting, all entries provide complete bibliographic citations. A list of periodicals indexed appears in:

Index to Early American Periodical Literature, 1728-1870. Part I, The list of periodicals indexed. New York: Pamphlet Distributing Co., 1941.
[Van Pelt Library Microtext: AI 3 .I5]
Philadelphia Magazine. 1909-present. Monthly.
[Van Pelt Library Stacks: HC 108 .P5 G7]
Indexing for Philadelphia magazine articles:
Access. Evanston, Ill.: J.G. Burke, 1975-present. Annual, with four-month updates.
[Van Pelt Library Reference Stacks: AI3 .A23 (1990-present)]
Stock, Walter D. Index to Philadelphia magazine, 1972-1991. Philadelphia: Free Library of Philadelphia.
[Van Pelt Library Reference Desk: HC 108 .P5 P56]
Popular Periodical Index. Camden: Rutgers Camden Library.
[Van Pelt Reference: AI3 .P765], indexing for 1973-1990.
Index to Philadelphia magazine, 1946-1978. Philadelphia: Paley Library, Temple University.
[Van Pelt Library Reference Desk: HC 108 .P5 P56]

IX. Government Resources

The Van Pelt Library house many Philadelphia government publication. A small selection if titles is listed below. For additional holdings, search Franklin by the author Philadelphia (Pa.). The Biddle Law Library also holds publications of the City of Philadelphia. Check LOLA for holdings.

Philadelphia. Councils. Common council. Journal of the Common Council of the City of Philadelphia. Philadelphia : Wm. H. Sickels, Printer,
[Van Pelt Library: JS13 .P4cs], 1835/1836-1919.
Philadelphia. Councils. Select Council. Journal of the Select Council of the City of Philadelphia. Philadelphia.
[Van Pelt Library: JS13 .P4ct], 1835/1836-1919.
Philadelphia (Pa.). Board of Health. Annual report of the Board of Health.
[Van Pelt Library: 614.09748 P529.1], 1860-1912.
Annual Report of the Bureau of Health, 1916-1923 at same location.

Philadelphia (Pa.). Board of Public Education. Statistical reports of the Department of Instruction for the school year.
[Van Pelt Library: 379.7481 P53.26], 1915/1916-1924/1925,1931/1932-1963/1964, 1965/1966-1966/1967.
Philadelphia (Pa.) City Council. Journal. Philadelphia, Pa., 1923-
[Van Pelt Library: JS13 .P4h], 1920-1934.
Philadelphia (Pa.). Dept. of Public Works. Annual report of the Department of Public Works of the City of Philadelphia for the year ending ....
[Van Pelt Library: 352.073 Ph424], 1888,1902,1906,1909-1913.
Philadelphia (Pa.). Mayor. Annual report of ... mayor of Philadelphia containing the reports of the various departments ....
[Van Pelt Library: JS13 .P4], 1858-1861,1863-1864,1866,1869-1871, 1873-1875,1877-1878,1880-1881, 1883-1885,1887-1930,1938.
Philadelphia (Pa.). Mayor. Budget. Titles varies.
The Mayor's operating budget and programs.
[Lippincott Library: HJ9013 .P6e52], 1957-1980/1981.
The Mayor's fiscal...operating budget.
[Lippincott Library: HJ9013 .P6e52], 1981/1982-1992/1993.
The Mayor's operating budget for fiscal ... .
[Van Pelt Library: HJ9013.P6 M386], 1996- (latest in Reference)

X. Statistical Sources

The Van Pelt Reference special bibliography, Current information on Philadelphia, covers major current statistical resources for Philadelphia.

Klepp, Susan E. The swift progress of population: a documentary and bibliographic study of Philadelphia's growth, 1642-1859. Memoirs of the American Philosophical Society volume 187. Philadelphia: APS, 1991.
[Van Pelt Reference: HB 3527 .P5 K577 1991]
Klepp, Susan E. Philadelphia in transition: a demographic history of the city and its occupational groups, 1720-1830. New York: Garland, 1989.
[Van Pelt: HB 3527 .P5 K57 1989]
Based upon Klepp's Penn PhD dissertation in American Civilization, Philadelphia transition, a demographic history of the city and its occupational groups, 1720-1830 (1980)
Hershberg, Theodore (ed.) Philadelphia: work, space, family, and group experience in the nineteenth century. Essays toward an interdisciplinary history of the city. New York: Oxford University Press, 1981.
[Van Pelt: HN 80 .P5 P487]
Statistical information on Philadelphia during the second half of the nineteenth century is summarized here. Essays are based on data compiled by the Philadelphia Social History Project.

XI. Decennial Census 1790-2000

a. The Decennial census prior to 1940

U.S. Census publications prior to 1940 reported statistics for the city (and, prior to the 1854 consolidation, the county) of Philadelphia. Small areas reported within the city were Wards. Relevant geographic units for early decennial censuses are: Blockley township (created in 1705), Kingsessing township (1712), West Philadelphia borough (1837, 1844) or district (1851), Belmont district (1853), Ward 24 (1854), Ward 27 (1866), Ward 34 (1889), Ward 40 (1898), Ward 44 (1906), Ward 46 (1907), and Ward 51 (1936).

Early decennial census publications are located in Van Pelt Library, on the 4th floor east end, at the call number HA 201 [decade]. Handy guides to the contents of earlier decennial censuses are:

Schulze, Suzanne. Population information in nineteenth century census volumes. Phoenix: Oryx, 1983.
[Van Pelt Reference Desk: HA 214 .S35 1983]
Schulze, Suzanne. Population information in twentieth century census volumes, 1900-1940. Phoenix: Oryx, 1985.
[Van Pelt Reference Desk: HA 214 .S352 1985]

Two Philadelphia City Planning Commission publications compile decennial census population statistics for decennial censuses from 1860 through 1950:

Population of metropolitan area counties: 1790-1960. Population of Philadelphia sections and wards: 1860-1960. Philadelphia: Philadelphia City Planning Commission, December 1963.
[Van Pelt Reference Desk: Philadelphia, PA -- Statistics sources Looseleaf]
Population peaks by wards, Philadelphia, 1860-1950. Public Information Bulletin no. 5 (June 1952). Philadelphia: Philadephia City Planning Commission.
[Van Pelt Reference Desk: Philadelphia, PA -- Statistics sources Looseleaf]
Van Pelt Library holds microform copies of decennial census schedules. A guide to Van Pelt Library's federal population schedules holdings is available. Some finding aids for these are:
Jackson, Ronald Vern and Gary Ronald Teeples (eds.) Pennsylvania 1800 census index. Salt Lake City: Accelerated Indexing Systems, 1978.
[Van Pelt Reference: F 148 .J298]
Felldin, Jeanne Robey and Gloria Kay Vandiver Inman (comp.) Index to the 1800 census of Pennsylvania. Baltimore: Genealogical Pub. Co., 1984.
[Van Pelt: F 148 .F34 1984]
Ohio Family Historians. Index to 1810 census of Pennsylvania. Cleveland: Micro Photo Division, Bell & Howell Co., 1966.
[Van Pelt Reference: F 148 .O5]
Penrose, Maryly Barton. "Heads of families" index, 1850 Federal census, city of Philadelpnia [sic]. 2nd edition, revised. Franklin Park, N.J.: Liberty Bell Associates, 1974.
[Van Pelt: F 158.25 .P445 1974]
Steuart, Bradley W. (ed.) Philadelphia, PA 1870 census index. 2 volumes. Bountiful, Utah: Precision Indexing, 1989.
[Van Pelt Reference: F 158.25 .P57 1989]
Stock, Walter D. and Nesheena Pickron. An urban finding aid for the 1880 federal population census of Philadelphia. Philadelphia: Free Library of Philadelphia, 1993.
[Van Pelt Reference: HA 730 .P5 S76 1993]
Census descriptions of geographic subdivisions and enumeration districts, 1830-1950. Washington, D.C.: National Archives, 1978-present.
[Van Pelt Microforms: National Archives Film T-1224]
Microfilmed typescript of boundary descriptions for Philadelphia enumeration districts for the 1890, 1910, and 1920 decennial censuses. Useful for determining the geographic scope of enumeration districts in decennial census schedules.
Philadelphia Enumeration Districts (1910; 1930). Southampton, PA : Bare Roots Pub.
[Van Pelt Reference: F158.25 .K624]
These resources can be used to place addresses into specific enumeration districts.

Researchers interested in using decennial census schedules for 1790-1920 will be well served by visiting the National Archives - Mid Atlantic Region at Ninth and Market Streets in Center City Philadelphia.

b. The Decennial census from 1940 - 2000

From 1940 to the present, relevant geographic units for decennial censuses are Census Tracts. Although Census Tract numbering has changed over the decades, the boundaries of West Philadelphia census tracts have remained relatively stable, making diachronic comparisons relatively easy. A set of maps showing Philadelphia Census Tract geography, 1940 to the present, is available in: Philadelphia, PA -- Statistics sources looseleaf [Van Pelt Reference Desk]. Maps identifying Census Blocks for these censuses, as well as Census Tract-Street indexes, are also available in Van Pelt Reference.

1940 Census

Census tract map, northeast Philadel phia
Census tract map, northwest and nort h Philadelphia
Census tract map, Center City, western and southwestern Philadelphia, and south Philadelphia
16th census of the United States, 1940. Population and housing. Statistics for census tracts, Philadelphia, Pa. Washington, D.C.: U.S. GPO, 1942.
[Van Pelt Reference Desk: HD 7304 .P5 U55 1942a. Also Van Pelt: HA 201 1940 .A437]
Census tract index to Philadelphia streets and house numbers. Philadelphia: Joint Committee on Research of the Community Council of Philadelphia and the Pennsylvania School of Social Work, 1937.
[Van Pelt Reference: HA 730 .P45 C46 1937. Also Lippincott: HA 37 .U7 P4]
16th census of the United States, 1940. Housing. Supplement to the first series, housing bulletin for Pennsylvania: Philadelphia block statistics. Washington, D.C.: U.S. GPO, 1942.
[Van Pelt: HD 7293 .A486 1942. Van Pelt: HD 7293 .A485 suppl. Lippincott: HD 7293 .A488b]
16th census of the United States, 1940. Housing. Analytical maps: Philadelphia, Pa. block statistics. New York: New York City WPA War Services, n.d.
[Van Pelt: Folio HD 7293 .A5 1940m v.7]
"A graphic summary of the block statistics presented in the city supplement to the First Series Housing Bulletin". The city is covered by 18 individual map sheets; seven map sets show average rent, major repairs and bathing equipment, year built, nonwhite households, persons per room, owner occupancy, and mortgage status.

1950 Census

Census tract map
Census of population: 1950. Volume III, Chapter 42. Census tract statistics. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and adjacent area. Washington, D.C.: U.S. GPO, 1952.
[Van Pelt Reference Desk: HA 201 1950 .A2 v.3 pt.42. Lippincott: HA 201 1950 .A2]
Census tract index to Philadelphia streets and house numbers. 2nd edition. Philadelphia: Health and Welfare Council, 1952.
[Van Pelt Reference: HA 730 .P45 C46 1952]
Census of housing[, 1950], taken as part of the seventeenth decennial census of the United States. Volume 5, part 143, Philadelphia, Pa. Washington, D.C.: U.S. GPO, 1952.
[Van Pelt: HD 7293 .A4883. Lippincott: HD 7293 .A4883]
This report provides statistics on blocks.

1960 Census

Census tract map
U.S. censuses of population and housing: 1960. Census tracts, Philadelphia, Pa.-N.J. standard metropolitan statistical area. Final report PHC(1)-1-116 [= Volume 15, part 116]. Washington, D.C.: U.S. GPO, 1962.
[Van Pelt Reference Desk: HA 201 1960 .A54. Also Van Pelt Microforms: Microprint 5, MoCat no. 1962-13079]
Census of housing, 1960. Volume III, City blocks: Philadelphia, Pa. Final report HC(3)-344. Washington, D.C.: U.S. GPO, 1962.
[Van Pelt: HD 7305 .N37. Also Van Pelt Microforms: Microprint 5, MoCat no. 1961-18322]
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Income, education, and unemployment in neighborhoods
[Lippincott: HC 106.5 .A5615]

1970 Census

Census tract map
1970 census of population and housing. Census tracts. Philadelphia, Pa.-N.J. standard metropolitan statistical area. Final report PHC(1)-159. Washington, D.C.: U.S. GPO, 1972.
[Van Pelt Reference Desk: HA 201 1970 .A542 no.159. Also Lippincott, Van Pelt. Also Van Pelt Microforms: Micropring 5, MoCat no. 1972-11637]
Urban atlas: tract data for standard metropolitan statistical areas: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania-New Jersey. Report GE80-6160. Washington, D.C.: U.S. GPO, 1974.
[Van Pelt Reference Atlas Cases: G 3824 .P5 1974 U55. Also Fine Arts, Van Pelt]
1970 Census of housing. Block statistics. Philadelphia, Pa.-N.J. urbanized area. Final report HC(3)-204 [= Volume III, number 204]. Washington, D.C.: U.S. GPO, 1972.
[Van Pelt Reference Desk: HD 7293 .A512 1972 v.3 no.204 (map volume in Van Pelt Reference Atlas Cases). Also Van Pelt Microforms: Microprint 5, MoCat no. 1972-00134]

1980 Census

Census tract map
1980 census of population and housing. Census tracts. Philadelphia, Pa.-N.J. standard metropolitan statistical area. 2 volumes. Final report PHC80-2-283. Washington, D.C.: U.S. GPO, 1983.
[Van Pelt Reference Desk: HA 201 1980h PHC 80-2-283. Also Lippincott: HA 201 1980 .A542, Van Pelt: HA 730 .A4 P5 1983. Van Pelt Microforms: US Docs Microfiche C3.223/11:980/283/sec.1-2]
Block statistics: 1980 census of population and housing. Philadelphia.
[Van Pelt Reference Desk: 1980 Census Looseleaf. Van Pelt Microforms: US Docs Microfiche C3.224/5:PHC 80-1-283. Lippincott: Microfiche U.S.Doc C 3.224/5]
Block statistics (maps) Philadelphia, Pa.-N.J. standard metropolitan statistical area. Washington, D.C.: U.S. GPO, 1982.
[Van Pelt Reference Atlas Cases: HA 730 .P45 B56 1982. Also Van Pelt Microforms: US Docs Microfiche C3.224/5:PHC 80-1-283/maps]
1980 census tracts and blocks, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Philadelphia: Philadelphia City Planning Commission, [1982].
[Van Pelt Reference Atlas Cases: HA 730 .P45 N55 1982]
Census tract street index. 1980 census edition with zip code tables. Philadelphia, Pa.: Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission, 1980.
[Van Pelt Reference Desk: F 157 .D4 D38 1980]

1990 Census

Census '90 - U.S. Bureau of the Census
  • STF1 - 100% count - basic demographic variables, nation,state, county, place, tract.
  • STF3 - Sample count - all socioeconomic and demographic variables, nation, state, county, place, tract, Zip codes, MSAs, Urbanized Areas (UAs) etc. 

United States. Bureau of the Census. Census of Population and Housing: 1990. Census Tracts, Philadelphia, PA-NJ. CPH-3-259A. Washington, U.S. Govt. Print. Off., 1993.
[Van Pelt Library Reference Desk: HA 201 1990h], copies of these volumes and those for other geographic areas are located on 4th floor.

U.S. Bureau of the Census. P.L. 94-171 county block maps (1990): Philadelphia County. Washington, D.C.: Bureau of the Census, 1991.
[Van Pelt Library Reference Atlas Case: G 3824 .P5 E25 S4 U55a]
Small areas shown are Blocks, Block groups, Census tracts, and Voting districts. Streets listed.
U.S. Bureau of the Census. Population and Housing Characteristics for Census Tracts and block numbering areas: maps. Series 1990 CPH-3- maps. Washington, D.C.: Bureau of the Census, 1993.
[Van Pelt Library Reference Desk: HA 201 1990h maps]
Fold up maps for All metropolitan areas having component counties in Pennsylvania, and selected other Pennsylvania counties; Philadelphia, PA-NJ PMSA maps cover Philadelphia, Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery, Burlington, Camden, and Gloucester counties.
Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission. Census Tract Street Index. Philadelphia: DVRPC, 1992.
[Van Pelt Library Reference Desk: F 157 .D4 A38 1991]
Philadelphia, PA-NJ PMSA: Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery, Philadelphia, Burlington, Camden, Gloucester, and Mercer counties. Arranged alphabetically and hierarchically by County, County subdivision, and Street name. ZIP code tables match ZIP codes to County and County subdivision. Table for 1980 to 1990 Census tract comparability included. County maps showing Census tract outlines included.

2000 Census

Census 2000 Gateway
Census Bureau Advanced Geography Search
Find tract, block group, and block numbers for your school location. Search by street address/city or street address/zip code. See race data to the tract level (block level not available yet) and reference maps for tract and block levels.
Census 2000 Maps
Philadelphia Tract Map (000.pdf is index)
Philadelphia County Block Maps (000.pdf is index)
American FactFinder
Release Schedule

XII. Atlases, Maps and Geographic Resources

For additional information about Philadelphia maps, see Penn Library - Philadelphia - Maps and Geographic Information

The three most important guides to Philadelphia geography are:

Daly, John and Allen Weinberg. Genealogy of Philadelphia county subdivisions. 2nd ed. Philadelphia: Dept. of Records, 1966.
[Van Pelt Reference Desk, other locations: G 3824 .P5 1966 D3]
The political and community service boundaries of Philadelphia. Philadelphia: Philadelphia City Planning Commission, 1994.
[Van Pelt Reference Desk, Fine Arts Reserve: JS 1272 .L7 P45 1994]
The essential atlas for current city ward and councilmanic boundaries, as well as city and county agency service district boundaries.
Moak, Jefferson M. Philadelphia street name changes. Chestnut Hill Almanac Genealogical Series, pubn. 2. Philadelphia, PA. The Almanac, 1996.
[Van Pelt Reference: F158.67 .A1 M624 1996]
Describes more than 4300 street name changes from historic to present times, providing information on date of change and ward location. An essential tool, but not as much fun to read as Robert I. Alotta's Mermaids, monasteries, Cherokees, and Custer: the stories behind Philadelphia street names (Chicago, Ill.: Bonus Books, 1990) [Van Pelt Reference: F158.67 .A1 A45 1990].

In addition to the resources described in Van Pelt Reference special bibliography, Current information on Philadelphia: Housing and zoning, some older atlases covering West Philadelphia are:

Sanborn fire insurance maps, Pennsylvania, Philadelphia. 1916-1951. 8 microfilm reels.
[Van Pelt Library Microtext: Microfilm 3839]
Fire insurance maps from the Sanborn Map Company, late 19th century to 1990, Pennsylvania. Bethesda, MD: University Publications of America, 1990.
[Van Pelt Library Microtext: Microfilm 4333]
Building outline maps, drawn at 1:600 scale or 1" to 50' scale. The earlier set provides two "snapshots" of the city, from the earlier part of the century and at mid-century. The second set provides similar information through the 1980s. A useful guide describing the Penn Library holdings of Sanborn maps is available through the Penn Library Web.
Bromley, George Washington. Atlas of the city of Philadelphia, wards 24, 27, 34, 40, 44 & 46, West Philadelphia. Philadelphia: G. W. Bromley, 1927.
[Van Pelt Library Rare Book: Port Fol G 1264 .PS146 B82 1927]
Baist, George William. Atlas of West Philadelphia, 24th and 27th wards. Philadelphia: J. L. Smith, 1886.
[Fine Arts Library: Folio G 1264 .P5 B295 1886]
Scott, James D. Atlas of the 24th & 27th wards, West Philadelphia. Philadelphia: Scott, 1878.
[Van Pelt Library Stacks: Folio 912.7481 .Sco45]
Hopkins, G. M. Atlas of West Philadelphia, including the 24th and 27th wards. Philadelphia: Hopkins, 1872.
[Fine Arts Locked Case: 912.748 .H773.5]
Zoning maps of the city of Philadelphia, prefaced by a review and chart summary of all zoning districts .... Philadelphia: Legal Intelligencer, 1973.
[Fine Arts Reference: Folio HT 168 .P43 Z63]
This edition was published complementary to the 1973 amended Philadelphia Zoning Code.
The Fisher Fine Arts Library's map cabinet (located in the center of the library's main reading room) holds a number of fullsize historic maps and views of Philadelphia.
The Free Library of Philadelphia's Map Collection, located in the Social Science and History Department at the Central Branch, Free Library of Philadelphia, 1901 Vine Street, is probably the best map collection in the Delaware Valley, at least for Philadelphiana. 

XIII. Property Surveys

Philadelphia Real Property Survey, 1934 and 1939.
Conducted by the Works Progress Administration of Pennsylvania and the Philadelphia Housing Authority, this study provides useful small-area information on population and housing stock prior to the first decennial census publications of census tract-level data.
Real Property Survey, Philadelphia Pennsylvania, 1939. Maps.
[Van Pelt: Folio HD 268 .P5 A5 1939 MAPS]
Ninety-six maps showing number of structures and family accomodations, percentage of owner occupied units, substandard units, units in bad condition, overcrowded units, units occupied by races other than white, and average rent for each of the city's 16,000 blocks.
Report of Philadelphia Real Property Survey, 1934.
[Van Pelt: HD 268 .P5 A5 1934]
Volumes on residential structures, family accomodations and number of rooms, and on colored housing for the city, districts, wards, and census tracts.

XIV. Buildings, architects, and views of Philadelphia

Places in time: historical documentation of place in Greater Philadelphia / Jeff Cohen et al. Bryn Mawr: Bryn Mawr College.
[Web pages, URL: ]
An excellent guide to image sets (including commercial panoramas, engraved and lithographed views, illustrations in architectural journals, photographs, paintings, watercolors and sketches, measured drawings, real estate atlases, and integrated prototypes), textual documents, repositories, and other resources.
Architectural Research Resources at the Philadelphia City Archives. Philadelphia: City Archives.
[Web pages, URL: ]
At last, a really useful guide for deed and property research in the cityh of Philadelphia!
Snyder, Martin P. City of independence: views of Philadelphia before 1800. New York: Praeger, 1975.
[Rosengarten Reserve, Fine Arts Reserve: F 158.37 .S64]
A wonderful collection of maps and views with accompanying text and bibliographic citations for reprints.
Snyder, Martin P. Mirror of America: the developing life of Philadelphia seen in engravings 1801-1876. Gladwyn, Pa.: M.P. Snyder, 1996.
[Fine Arts: N 8214.5 .U6 S66 1966]
Wainwright, Nicholas. Philadelphia in the romantic age of lithography: an illustrated history of early lithography in Philadelphia, with a descriptive list of Philadelphia scenes made by Philadelphia lithographers before 1866. Philadelphia: Historical Society of Pennsylvania, 1958.
[Van Pelt Reference: NE 2311 .P5 W3]
Penrose, Boies. "Prints and drawings in the Historical Society of Pennsylvania". The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography LXVI (1942): 140-60, 239-48, 379-84.
[Van Pelt: F 146 .P65. Photocopy in Philadelphia, PA--Statistics looseleaf, Van Pelt Reference Desk]
Includes "Drawings in the Library Company of Philadelphia" (pp. 247-48). Arranged by subject.
Phillips, P. Lee. A Descriptive list of maps and views of Philadelphia in the Library of Congress 1683-1865. Geographical Society of Philadelphia special publication no. 2. Philadelphia: GSP, 1926.
[Van Pelt Reference: Z 6027 .P54 P5]
Arranged by subject. Extensive annotations provide citations for reprints.
Webster, Richard J. Philadelphia preserved: catalog of the Historic American Buildings Survey. 2nd edition. Philadelphia, Pa.: Temple University Press, 1981.
[Van Pelt Reference, Fine Arts Reference: NA 108 .P5 P55 1981]
Gallery, John Andrew (general ed.). Philadelphia architecture: a guide to the city. 2nd edition. Philadelphia, Pa.: Foundation for Architecture, 1994.
[Van Pelt Reference Desk, Fine Arts Reference: NA 735 .P5 P48 1994]
Workshop of the world: a selective guide to the industrial archeology of Philadelphia. Wallingford, Pa.: Oliver Evans Press, 1990.
[Van Pelt Reference, Fine Arts Reference: T22.5 .P5 W67 1990]
Produced by the Oliver Evans Chapter of the Society for Industrial Archeology. Provides descriptions of selected industrial sites.
Tatman, Sandra L. and Roger W. Moss. Biographical dictionary of Philadelphia architects, 1700-1930. Boston, Mass.: G.K. Hall, 1985.
[Van Pelt Reference, Fine Arts Reference: NA 735 .P5 T29 1985]

Two vertical files of City Planning student projects are maintained at the Fischer Fine Arts Library. The vertical files are in the First Floor Stacks, located east of the Folio Stacks.
University of Pennsylvania, Graduate School of Fine Arts, City Planning Department. City Planning 600 [First-year Planning Workshop]. Reports.
[Filed alphabetically by neighborhood or place name]
University of Pennsylvania, Graduate School of Fine Arts, City Planning Department. City Planning Capstones and Professional Project Reports.
[Filed alphabetically by author name]
A large collection of uncataloged primary material (reports, plans, etc.) concerning city planning and municipal functions during the 1950s through 1970s is located in a vertical file in Van Pelt Library, Fifth Floor West, North Wall.
Carroll-Horrocks, Beth and David M. Weinberg (eds.) 1998. Directory of archival and manuscript repositories in the Delaware Valley. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania. 2nd. ed.
[Van Pelt Reference Desk: CD 3052 .D54 1998]
A local guide to researching Philadelphia. 1994. Bryn Mawr: Bryn Mawr Urban Research Project.
[Van Pelt Reference: F 158.29 .L63 1994]
Philadelphia. Department of Records. Descriptive inventory of the archives of the city and county of Philadelphia. Philadelphia: 1970; supplements: 1972, 1973, 1980.
[Van Pelt Reference Desk: CD 3478 .P5 A5]
For more recent and complete information on archival holdings, contact the City Archives.
Philadelphia City Archives.
[Web pages, URL: ] This very useful site replaces printed inventories of the city's archives, providing detailed lists of individual publications as well as descriptive inventories of archival holdings.
Philadelphia Information Locator Service [PhILS]
Electronic information about the records created by Philadelphia's government agencies, provided by the Free Library of Philadelphia and the Philadelphia Department of Records. Provides agency history and function, as well as descriptions of public records.
Philadelphia record. 1995-present. Semiannual.
[Van Pelt Reference: CD 33478 .P5 A252]
The newsletter of the Philadelphia Department of Records, continuing:
News letter. 1967-1993. Philadelphia: City Archives. Semiannual.
[Van Pelt Reference: CD 3478 .P5 A25]
Temple University, Urban Archives Center. Urban Archives notes. 1971-present. Philadelphia, Pa.: Temple University. Twice yearly.
[Van Pelt Reference: CD 3478 .P5 U733
Urban Archives information, including Urban Archives notes, finding aids and file descriptions, are available online.
PACSCL photograph directory: eastern Pennsylvania, southern New Jersey, Delaware. 2 volumes. 1996. Philadelphia: Temple University, Samuel Paley Library, Urban Archives.
[Van Pelt Reference and others: TR 12 .T4 1996
A detailed directory of institutional photographic resources.
Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission is the depository archive for Home Mortgage Disclosure Act compliance reports from financial institutions in the Philadelphia PMSA. Data are retained for five to seven years. These reports are summarized in Home Mortgage Disclosure Act data [supra under "Housing"].
Genealogy pathfinder. Free Library of Philadelphia.
A very strong guide to local genealogical resources produced by Walter Stock, the Free Library's doyen of Philadelphiana.

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