Social Science and History Department

Monday, August 23 – Message from Staff

The Social Science and History Department is open for in-person services, Monday-Thursday 9:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m., Friday and Saturday 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. You may telephone us at 215-686-5396 or email us at

1901 Vine Street, Room 201
Philadelphia, PA 19103
Open today 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
Sunday Closed
Monday 9:00 a.m. – 8:00 p.m.
Tuesday 9:00 a.m. – 8:00 p.m.
Wednesday 9:00 a.m. – 8:00 p.m.
Thursday 9:00 a.m. – 8:00 p.m.
Friday 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
Saturday 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.

Upcoming Closures

  • Mon., May. 27 : Closed Memorial Day
  • Wed., Jun. 19 : Closed Juneteenth
  • Thu., Jul. 4 : Closed Independence Day
  • Mon., Sep. 2 : Closed Labor Day
View all holiday closings


  • Computers for public use
  • Electrical outlets available
  • Photocopier (black/white)
  • Printing (black/white)
  • Scanner
  • Self-service checkout
  • Water fountain
  • Wireless internet access (wi/fi)

Upcoming Events

Architecture and Urbanism Series - History and Architecture of West Philadelphia

Mon, April 22, 2024 6:30 P.M.

Elizabeth Willing Powell and Paul Robeson, Anthony J. Drexel and Billie Holiday, Wilt Chamberlain and Paul Cret, John Penn and Horace Trumbauer all called it home. Their neighborhood gave us the…

LCD Office Hours - Landlord-Tenant Issues

Wed, April 24, 2024 2:00 P.M.

Are you a tenant and have questions about your rights? Want to know how you or someone you know can be protected? A representative from the Legal Clinic for the Disabled will be on hand to answer…

Author Event | Murder in a Mill Town: Sex, Faith, and the Crime That Captivated a Nation

Thu, April 25, 2024 6:00 P.M.
Cost: FREE

Room 108 In December 1832 a farmer found the body of a young, pregnant woman hanging near a haystack outside a New England mill town. When news spread that Methodist preacher Ephraim Avery was…

Love Shouldn't Hurt, Philly: Domestic Violence Awareness with Christina Vega

Mon, April 29, 2024 6:00 P.M.

Who does domestic violence effect? Why do women and men suffered domestic violence so regularly? How can we work together to eradicate it? Join us to discuss these questions and more with…


The Social Science and History Department (SSH) is the central collection for research in history, sociology, anthropology, government, law, criminology, and sports. Collection strengths include local Philadelphia history and genealogy, biography, travel, and spectator sports. Our Legal Reference Collection includes popular guides to civil law for the lay person.

Goverment Publications Department (GPD) reference services are offered within the Social Science and History Department. 

Research File Collections

The Social Science and History Department maintains file collections pertaining to Philadelphia history, local biographies, Philadelphia neighborhoods, and Pennsylvania counties and government. These files include article clippings, books, pamphlets, maps, prints and other related ephemera. To access these files, please consult a librarian at the department reference desk.

Philadelphia Communities and Neighborhoods

Pennsylvania File


The Social Science and History Department subscribes to a broad collection of academic journals and popular serials. Many are accessible on our department’s magazine racks. Back issues of our periodicals are also maintained. For more information, please consult the librarians at the reference desk.

Current Periodical Subscriptions


The Free Library offers access to a broad selection of databases that support research in the areas of history, anthropology, sociology, government, law, sports, as well as genealogy. The following have a particular focus on topics in these areas:


  • American Broadsides and Ephemera - This is a collection of broadsides (1820-1900) and printed ephemera (1760-1900) from the American Antiquarians Society collections.
  • Archive of Americana - The comprehensive historical collections that form the Archive of Americana contain books, pamphlets, newspapers, government documents and ephemera.
  • Civil War Archive - Full text of the Philadelphia Inquirer from 1860 to 1865 is available here.
  • Early American Imprints, Series I: Evans (1639-1800) - Based upon the renowned American Bibliography by Charles Evans, this is a definitive resource for every aspect of life in seventeenth and eighteenth century America. Covering every aspect of American life during the early decades of the United States, these primary source collections provide full-text access to American books, pamphlets and broadsides published from 1639 to 1800.
  • Early American Imprints, Series II Shaw- Shoemaker (1801-1819) - This database covers every aspect of American life in the United States during the early nineteenth century, providing full access to the 36,000 American books, pamphlets, and broadsides published from 1801 to 1819.
  • Sanborn Maps GEO Edition (1867-1970) - This database provides digital access to thousands of large scale maps of American towns and cities, searchable by address and GPS.

Government Resources

  • American State Papers 1789-1838 - This is a source of primary material on many aspects of early American history.
  • Archive-It - This is a web archiving service that collects and stores the websites of Philadelphia government agencies and selected cultural institutions. You can search or browse the collection to view these sites as they existed in months or years past.
  • Declassified Documents Reference System - Declassified U.S. Government documents are available to view here.
  • HeritageQuest Online - This is an expanding collection of research materials to help you trace your family lineage, including United States population census records.
  • U.S. Citizenship Test Prep - Find information about the U.S. Citizenship test, as well as study materials and practice tests.
  • U.S. Congressional Serial Set (1817-1980) - Full-text reports, documents and journals of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives are available here.


Multidisciplinary Subject Databases

  • JSTOR - This digital archive offers access to back issues of over 300 journals. Database is only available at all Free Library locations.
  • Salem Press Reference - This is a searchable database of reference tiles developed by the Salem Press covering literature, history and science
  • Opposing Viewpoints in Context - This database offers information and articles on a variety of controversial social issues.