The Library Company of Philadelphia


On the Streets

Local Philadelphians on Real Photo Postcards

For approximately thirty years, starting around 1910, John Frank Keith (1883-1947) photographed working-class Philadelphians standing on sidewalks and sitting on stoops. He likely offered to sell the pictures to the subjects. Printed on postcard stock, they are what collectors call "real photo postcards." Unfortunately, the Library Company's John Frank Keith Collection of 250 photographs includes little or no documentation indicating the specific locations or the names of the subjects.


It is tempting to suggest that the women in the first photograph are a couple. After all, the woman who is wearing the necktie has her arm around the other woman. Could she be the more man-identified if they are a couple? Or is she simply a woman wearing a necktie with panache? The exact nature of the relationships of the people in these photographs probably will remain forever unknown and unknowable.