are colorful documents made by Pennsylvania Germans who lived in rural parts of southeastern Pennsylvania and the surrounding region during the 1700s and 1800s. Most fraktur are personal records, such as birth and baptismal certificates. People also made fraktur as a way to express religious beliefs or to help schoolchildren with their studies. Artists often decorated these documents with drawings of flowers or birds.
Fraktur helped German immigrants preserve their rich cultural heritage in a new land. These documents are a vibrant form of American folk art that provide a window into Pennsylvania German life and culture.
The Free Library of Philadelphia is home to more than 1,000 Pennsylvania German fraktur – making this one of the largest public collections of fraktur in existence. This vast assemblage highlights a wide range of fraktur styles and artistic skills. The many examples show us how these designs changed over time. The Free Library of Philadelphia also houses some of the earliest fraktur made in America and has several examples of the tools that fraktur artists used.
You can explore these vibrant documents here on the Fraktur Digital Collection website. Most of the Free Library of Philadelphia’s fraktur are included with this online catalog. Individual entries provide a transcription of each fraktur and texts written in German include an English translation. More than 300 of the fraktur on this website can be enlarged for a close-up view of their intricate writing and details.
|Pennsylvania German Farm
Family historians and genealogists who are interested in Pennsylvania German history will find many helpful resources on this site. Each fraktur entry has a list naming every person who was associated with that particular fraktur. If it is known when and where a fraktur was made, that data is included in the entry. Information about the artists is also provided wherever possible. You can look for a specific fraktur by entering names, places or dates on the Search page.
If you are new to learning about fraktur, you can read more about this art form on the Fraktur Basics page. Fraktur Basics also provides a brief introduction to Pennsylvania German culture. Other special features on this site include a Glossary of terms, Highlights of important fraktur in the collection and Resource Links to other information about fraktur.
To find out more about the Fraktur Digital Collection, or to learn about an individual fraktur, please contact the Rare Book Department at erefRBD@freelibrary.org or 215-686-5416.
The Fraktur Digital Collection was made possible by generous financial support provided by the Barra Foundation.