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Historical Society of Pennsylvania

Historical Society of Pennsylvania

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The Historical Society of Pennsylvania is a historical society founded in 1824 and based in Philadelphia. The Society's building, designed by Addison Hutton
Addison Hutton
Addison Hutton was a Philadelphia architect who designed prominent residences in Philadelphia and its suburbs, plus courthouses, hospitals, and libraries, including the Ridgway Library and the Historical Society of Pennsylvania...

 and listed on Philadelphia's Register of Historical Places, houses some 600,000 printed items and over 19 million manuscript and graphic items. The Society maintains printed collections on Pennsylvania
The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is a U.S. state that is located in the Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic regions of the United States. The state borders Delaware and Maryland to the south, West Virginia to the southwest, Ohio to the west, New York and Ontario, Canada, to the north, and New Jersey to...

 and regional history and manuscript collections covering 17th-, 18th-, and 19th-century history. The holdings of the Balch Institute for Ethnic Studies were added in 2002 and those of the Genealogical Society of Pennsylvania
Genealogical Society of Pennsylvania
The Genealogical Society of Pennsylvania is a non-profit educational institution located at 2207 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Founded in 1892, GSP is one of the oldest genealogical societies in the United States...

 in 2006. The Historical Society has recently undertaken efforts to appeal to a younger demographic, including having open bar events.

History of the building

The society's building on the southwest corner of 13th and Locust Streets was formerly the site of the Patterson Mansion. General Robert Patterson
Robert Patterson
Robert Patterson was a United States major general during the Mexican-American War and at the beginning of the American Civil War...

, a general of the Mexican-American
Mexican–American War
The Mexican–American War, also known as the First American Intervention, the Mexican War, or the U.S.–Mexican War, was an armed conflict between the United States and Mexico from 1846 to 1848 in the wake of the 1845 U.S...

 and Civil War
Civil war
A civil war is a war between organized groups within the same nation state or republic, or, less commonly, between two countries created from a formerly-united nation state....

s purchased the mansion from John Hare Powell
John Hare Powell
John Hare Powell was an American agriculturist.Powell was born in Philadelphia, and educated at Philadelphia College; he went into business and acquired wealth. He was secretary of the American legation in London 1807-11, and inspector general in the Pennsylvania militia 1814-15...

, the founder of the Pennsylvania Agricultural Society. After Patterson’s death in 1881, the Historical Society of Pennsylvania purchased the mansion as its permanent home. The mansion was demolished between 1905 and 1909 and the main block of a new fireproof building, again designed by Addison Hutton, was constructed on site. The totally fireproof building was dedicated in 1910.


The Society’s collections include a number of different types of materials:
  • Books and pamphlets: ranging from limited-edition and out-of-print volumes to current reference works and scholarly monographs. The Society’s pre-1820 imprints are housed next door at The Library Company of Philadelphia
    Library Company of Philadelphia
    The Library Company of Philadelphia is a non-profit organization based in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Founded by Benjamin Franklin as a library, the Library Company of Philadelphia has accumulated one of the most significant collections of historically valuable manuscripts and printed material in...

  • Serials and newspapers: spanning almost 300 years, in either original format or microfilm copy.
  • Manuscripts: materials such as letters, diaries, account books, deeds, minutes, and scrapbooks. Manuscript collections include personal papers created by individuals and families, and records created by organizations and businesses.
  • Graphics: prints, watercolors, and other works of art on paper, architectural drawings, photographs, broadsides, maps, posters, and other images.
  • Printed ephemera: such as event programs, brochures, invitations, advertisements, trade cards, certificates, and menus.
  • Microforms: microfilm and microfiche reproductions of newspapers, genealogical resources, manuscript collections, and other materials.

To help researchers find the materials they need, all of these resources are available through the "Online Catalogs and Research Tools" of the society's web site.


The society publishes Sidelights, a semi-annual newsletter, Pennsylvania Legacies, a semi-annual illustrated history magazine
Magazines, periodicals, glossies or serials are publications, generally published on a regular schedule, containing a variety of articles. They are generally financed by advertising, by a purchase price, by pre-paid magazine subscriptions, or all three...

, and the Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography
Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography
The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography is a peer-reviewed academic journal covering the history of Pennsylvania. It has been published by the Historical Society of Pennsylvania since 1877. Issues from January 2006 forward are available online on the History Cooperatives Web...

, a quarterly scholarly journal
Academic journal
An academic journal is a peer-reviewed periodical in which scholarship relating to a particular academic discipline is published. Academic journals serve as forums for the introduction and presentation for scrutiny of new research, and the critique of existing research...

published since 1877.

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