Life in Philadelphia: 1840s - 1930s

From the Library Company of Philadelphia

September 14, 2012 - September 22, 2013
Between Terminals E and F
(open to the public)

The Library Company of Philadelphia was America’s first successful lending library. Founded in 1731 by one of the City’s most well-known citizens, Benjamin Franklin, the Library Company enabled Philadelphians to pool their resources and collectively purchase books that would otherwise have been unaffordable for most individuals.
 
The Library Company’s history is remarkable. From 1774 to 1800, when Philadelphia was the nation’s capital, the Library Company served as the library for the delegates of the Continental Congress and the Constitutional Convention. And, until the 1850s, it was the largest public library in the United States. Nearly all of the books acquired since Franklin’s days, a legacy of more than 280 years, are still housed in the library.
 
The exhibition Life in Philadelphia: 1840s - 1930s is part of the Library Company’s Visual Culture Program that promotes the use of historical visual images such as photographs, paintings, prints, book illustrations, and other forms of graphic art as primary sources for studying the past. The Library Company has collected visual materials throughout its long history with a special interest in works by Philadelphia photographers and printmakers whose imagery chronicled the people, places, and everyday life in the City of Philadelphia.