Social Science and History Department

Tuesday, July 2 – 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 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and Saturday 10:00 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 until 8:00 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., Sep. 2 : Closed Labor Day
  • Mon., Oct. 14 : Closed Indigenous Peoples' Day
  • Mon., Nov. 11 : Closed Veterans Day
  • Thu., Nov. 28 : Closed Thanksgiving 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

Author Event | The Warehouse: A Visual Primer on Mass Incarceration

Tue, July 23, 2024 6:00 P.M.

Skyline Room - 4th Floor Mass incarceration is a lived, sensory experience. The most eye-popping statistics alone cannot relate the enormity of its psychological and societal impacts. This…

Film Screening: Passage to Sweden

Mon, August 5, 2024 6:00 P.M.

4th Floor Skyline Room Sweden's geographic location and its role during WWII changed the fate of thousands of Jews. Join us for a screening of the award-winning documentary Passage To Sweden…

COINTELPRO: A Black August Discussion with Dr. Kelly Harris

Wed, August 7, 2024 6:00 P.M.
Cost: FREE

Join us as we observe Black August, a month dedicated to acknowledging and honoring Black political prisoners and the ongoing resistance to oppression. In recognition of Black August, we will…


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.