PEAES Economic History in the Philadelphia Region Guide to Manuscripts and Print Resources for Research

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Economic History of Today PEAES Acknowledgements Notes to Researchers Scope of This Guide Library Company of Philadelphia Homepage


We hope this survey of collections will prove valuable to scholars of economic history, whether you already know a great deal about your topic or are just beginning a project. Our chronological parameters include the earliest settlements of Europeans in the area down to the 1850s. Geographically, the sources encompass the economic activities of those in the general mid-Atlantic region, stretching roughly fifty miles outward from the port of Philadelphia, but also include in many cases records of trans-Atlantic enterprises. The topics we have surveyed are those covered by the activities of the Program in Early American Economy and Society, including entrepreneurship, commerce, business and finance, transportation, manufactures, economic policy, internal improvements, agriculture, and household economies.

It is not our intention to re-inventory the collections of area institutions, or to replicate their valuable finding aids and on-line resources. Rather, by surveying the rich repositories of area institutions, we hope to provide researchers interested in economic history with direction for their projects, bringing to light new sources and promising topics at institutions that in some cases might not otherwise be considered by economic historians. A guide to sources in the general Philadelphia area, this will be especially useful for those who have a brief amount of time to spend in the region and want to mine as many collections as possible. We have limited our institutions to those in Philadelphia and those that are reasonable day-trips from the city.


- Make contact before you visit. Although this guide is as up-to-date as possible, hours, contact information, and access policies vary widely and change over time. Especially if you rely on special equipment (a laptop computer, digital camera, etc.), call or email before arriving to confirm that an institution can meet your needs. Many places also have specific reading room access policies, such as requiring a photo ID, not allowing certain items into the building (e.g., food), and so on. Be prepared before you go by looking at websites or, better yet, calling.

- Check websites. Institutions are perpetually adding new items to their on-line catalogues and providing electronic versions of certain materials. Compiling a list of things you wish to see before you arrive, including call numbers and/or locations, will speed your access to the materials and make your experience more fruitful. Find out if your collections are stored off-site and if so, how much lead-time (sometimes days or weeks) the institution needs to make them available.

- Consult with staff. Reference librarians, curators, archivists, cataloguers, and other staff members know their collections the best and are therefore well equipped to provide advice about collection content and access. Ideally, they will also help you develop research strategies and point you to complementary materials at other institutions. They can also tell you about in-house finding aids and uncatalogued collections that might be useful.

- Take advantage of other resources, including:

-- on-line catalogues of secondary sources at area universities, government agencies, and public institutions;

-- supplemental collections of visual materials and material culture;

-- subscription-based data bases now available at numerous research institutions and university libraries. For example, readers using this guide may have access to JSTOR; The History Cooperative; The Dictionary of American Biography; the CD-ROM version or subscription database version of The Pennsylvania Gazette, 1728-1800, Niles’ Register, 1811-1849, The Pennsylvania Newspaper Record, Delaware County, 1819-1879, and others; American Newspapers Online; Digital Evans; and Economic Reprints.

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