Old Philadelphia in Early Photographs

This group of images is comprised of photographs that appeared in the book by the same name. Published in 1976 and written by Robert F. Looney, curator of the Free Library of Philadelphia's Print and Picture Collection at the time, the book contains views of streets and historic buildings photographed from 1843 through 1914. The geographic focus is the old city, the area between the Schuylkill and Delaware Rivers, and within the old city limits of South Street to the south and Callowhill Street to the north. The photographs capture a Philadelphia where one could still see evidence of the earliest settlements and original buildings and streets whose colonial character was intact.

Photographers represented were the pioneers of the field, including John Moran, James E. McClees, W.G. Deschamps, Franklin D. Edmunds, R. Newell, W.N. Jennings, F.D. Richards, William Rau, John McAllister, William S. Mason, James Cremer, and J.C. Browne. The book's publication by Dover Press in 1976 was inspired by the interest in the city's colonial past during the Bicentennial, and the title has never been out of print.

The Samuel Castner Collection of Philadelphia Views

Many of the photographs used in Old Philadelphia in Early Photographs were drawn from the Castner Collection, acquired by the Free Library in 1947. This collection of scrapbooks was begun in the late 19th century by Castner, a prominent merchant and native Philadelphian, and continued until his death in 1932. In addition to photographs, the 47 scrapbooks contain prints, booklets, clippings, and letters from prominent citizens expressing interest in Castner's hobby and enclosing "several photographs that may be of interest."

The Frank H. Taylor Collection

A native of Rochester, New York, Frank H. Taylor came to Philadelphia in 1865 to serve an internship at a lithography firm. He chose Philadelphia because of its strong publishing industry and vibrant arts community. By the 1870s he had established his own lithography firm and began to work as a "Special Artist" -- an artist hired by newspapers to sketch important events (before the widespread use of photography). By the 1880s Taylor had begun writing articles as well as illustrating them. He published a book on the Civil War (Philadelphia in the Civil War 1860-65) and he collaborated on many guidebooks and directories. During this time he acquired many photographs of buildings in the city, and retouched them for publication, most notably the Official Office Building Directory and Architectural Handbook of Philadelphia. In the 1910s he created a series of over 400 watercolors, washes and ink drawings documenting the city of Philadelphia.