1901 Vine Street
Philadelphia, PA 19103
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.
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.
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.
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.
America’s Obituaries and Death Notices - This database provides a collection of newspaper obituaries and death notices from around the country from 1860-present. Please note that yearly coverage varies depending upon the publication.
American State Papers 1789-1838 - This is a source of primary material on many aspects of early American history.
Archive of Americana - The comprehensive historical collections that form the Archive of Americana contain books, pamphlets, newspapers, government documents and ephemera.
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.
Biography in Context - This is a comprehensive online biographical reference database containing 414,000 biographies.
Civil War Archive - Full text of the Philadelphia Inquirer from 1860 to 1865 is available here.
Declassified Documents Reference System - Declassified U.S. Government documents are available to view here.
Driver’s Permit Practice Tests Online - Find practice tests for the PA drivers permit exam, the motorcycle operator's test, the CDL practice test, as well as digital versions of the PA Driver’s Handbook, the PA Motorcycle Handbook, and the PA CDL Handbook.
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.
Early American Newspapers Series I (1690-1876) - Cover-to-cover reproductions of hundreds of historic newspapers with fully text-searchable facsimile images are available here.
Evening Public Ledger - Full text access to back issues of this popular daily paper from 9/14/1914 and 12/31/1922 is available here.
HeritageQuest Online - This is an expanding collection of research materials to help you trace your family lineage.
JSTOR - This digital archive offers access to back issues of over 300 journals. Database is only available at all Free Library locations.
Newsbank Selected America’s Historical Newspapers - Articles from over 300 nationwide newspapers covering topics from 1970-1991 can be viewed here.
Opposing Viewpoints in Context - This database offers information and articles on a variety of controversial social issues.
Pennsylvania Historical Newspapers - 174 full text historical Pennsylvania newspapers from 1790-1922 are viewable here.
Philadelphia Evening Telegraph - Full text issues of this daily publication from 7/1/1864 to 6/30/1871 are available here.
Philadelphia Inquirer Digital Archive 1860-2001 - Search and browse the full text of the Philadelphia Inquirer as published from 1860-2001.
Salem Press Reference - This is a searchable database of reference tiles developed by the Salem Press covering literature, history and science
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.
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.
U.S. History in Context - This database provides a complete overview of U.S. History, covering historical events and issues, as well as current information.
World History in Context - This is a multicultural, global resource that moves chronologically from antiquity to the present, and geographically around the globe, ensuring that the events, movements and individuals that defined and shaped our world are covered with a sense of balance.