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George W. Childs scrapbooks


Held at: Drexel University: Archives and Special Collections [Contact Us]W. W. Hagerty Library, 3300 Market Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104

This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the Drexel University: Archives and Special Collections. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in their reading room, and not digitally available through the web.

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George W. Childs (1829-1894) was a publisher, newspaper editor, and philanthropist in Philadelphia. As a young bookseller he founded Childs and Peterson Publishers in Philadelphia and in 1864, purchased the Philadelphia Public Ledger with the help of longtime friend Anthony J. Drexel. His new management transformed the small newspaper into one of the most influential and widely circulated in the country. He is especially known for his philanthropic activities, including the commission of monuments to famous writers such as John Milton and Edgar Allen Poe, as well as donations to Fairmount Park, the Typographical Society, and the Zoological Society in Philadelphia. He was a very good friend of President Grant, as well as other senators and congressmen of his day. He was instrumental in encouraging A.J. Drexel to establish a school for the education of men and women, and he served on the Drexel Institute's board of trustees from the school's founding until his death.

Volume 1 (1813-1867) Volume 1 of the George W. Childs scrapbooks begins with newspaper clippings about the 1836 “Philadelphia Public Ledger” and its owners Swain, Abell, and Simmons. There are also clippings from this time period regarding Childs’ own businesses, Childs and Peterson Publishers (announcements and reviews of books published and letters from authors and readers) and Childs Booksellers (advertisements). These include articles and advertisements about “Kane’s Arctic Explorations”, “Brazil and the Brazilians”, the “Dictionary of Authors”, and the “Dictionary of English Literature”. There are also newspaper clippings announcing the purchase of the “Philadelphia Public Ledger” by Childs in 1864. This volume also features a large amount of newspaper clippings, from the “Public Ledger” and other papers, about the Civil War. These include articles on the war, political editorials, and lists of Union casualties as well as later clippings on the assassination of Abraham Lincoln and the capture of those involved. This scrapbook also contains praise for Childs’ handling of the new “Public Ledger”, and announcements from around the country of the new Ledger building at 6th and Chestnut finished in 1867, including an invitation to the building’s gala opening and a full account of the proceedings of the evening. There are several biographical sketches of Childs included as well as details of his many philanthropic activities with Fairmount Park, Pennsylvania Hospital for the Mentally Insane, and other institutions in the city.

Volume 2 (1851-1866) This scrapbook contains additional information on the Philadelphia Public Ledger’s original owners, as well as a photograph of its original location on Chestnut Street. Also included are excerpts from Casper Sauder Jr.’s series on the history of Chestnut Street and its proprietors. This volume contains more clippings on the sale of the “Public Ledger” by W.M. Swain to George W. Childs, and letters from various newspaper owners and editors congratulating Childs in 1865. In 1866, in a case that received nation-wide attention, Childs published “Startling Questions of Mr. Johnson for the Attorney General” which questioned the legality of the Congress, but the letter was quickly exposed as a hoax. While many criticized Childs for his mistake, this scrapbook contains many articles and letters of support for him.

Volume 3 (1867-1874) This volume begins with announcements and advertisements for books published by Childs and Peterson, including “Bouvier’s Law Dictionary” and the “Dictionary of English Literature”. In 1868 Childs published a history of the “Philadelphia Public Ledger”, which was mailed to many friends and colleagues with a photo of the new Ledger building. This scrapbook contains many notes of thanks for these gifts, including one from Dr. Samuel D. Gross. There are also newspaper clippings on George W. Childs’ philanthropic activities, including dinners hosted for the newsboys of his paper, daytrips for his employees, the gift of the Woodland Printer’s Cemetery to the Typographical Society, and gifts to libraries in America and Europe. There are many letters of thanks for Childs’ free distribution of the Almanac of the Philadelphia Public Ledger, which contained facts and figures from the year’s news, and which Childs distributed free of charge beginning in 1870. This scrapbook also contains a letter from A.J. Drexel dated 1869 regarding Childs’ trip to Europe. There are several letters from Grace Greenwood in this volume, which are likely in preparation for a biographical article she wrote on Childs, which is also included. Clippings also focus on the success of the “Public Ledger”, the beauty of the new building, and the paper’s landmark circulation of 80,000. This volume also features articles on Ulysses S. Grant’s visit to Philadelphia where he was the guest of George W. Childs and A.J. Drexel, as well as articles discussing Childs’ own political involvements, including meetings with senators and representatives in Washington.

Volume 4 (1871-1874) The last scrapbook in the collection contains newspaper clippings focused primarily on Childs’ social and philanthropic activities. This volume includes letters from Mayor Daniel Fox, George S. Phillips and David Stewart as well as letters from many prominent Philadelphians on such topics as gifts to the poor and to local hospitals, assistance for Horticultural Hall, the Edgar Allen Poe gravesite, and for the zoological society which Childs supported with A.J. Drexel. There are many articles in this volume regarding Childs’ work with the YMCA. This volume contains many thank you letters from employees of the Public Ledger, thanking Childs for Christmas gifts and other financial support. There are also several articles on the 1872 purchase of a property on Broad and Wall Streets in New York City by Childs and Drexel, which would become the offices of Drexel, Morgan, and Company. This volume also features more examples of Childs’ friendship with President Grant, including clippings regarding his hosting of Grant at his home, invitations to a banquet held in Grant’s honor, and clippings on the marriage of Grant’s daughter Nellie in 1874.

Volume 5 Book 5 is labeled “Dress as Fine Art” and contains the pages of an essay by the same title by Mrs. Merrifield. The book was a gift of George W. Childs to the library of the Drexel Institute. The book contains the pages of “Details of the Historical Ball Costumes Given by Her Majesty the Queen at Buckingham Palace”, “Speculation on Marriage and Young Ladies” by Albert Smith, and the “Dressmaker” chapter of “Heads of the People”. Clippings, essays, and reviews of fashion and proper dress are also included, along with illustrations of historical dress from the “Illustrated London News”, “Art Journal”, ”Westminster Magazine”, “Costume Parisien”, and “Swiss Costumes”.

Drexel University: Archives and Special Collections
Finding Aid Author
Finding aid prepared by Holly Frisbee
Finding Aid Date

Collection Inventory

Physical Description

1.0 volumes

20090009004, 1867.
20090009005, 1867.
20090009006, 1859?.
20090009007, 1867.
20090009008, 1871.
Volume 2, 1851-1866. 1 volumes.
Box 2 Folder
Physical Description

1.0 volumes

Physical Description

1.0 volumes

20090009002, 1869. 1 .
Physical Description


20090090003, 1869.
20090009003_123, July 16th, 1869.
20090009003_143, December 10th, 1869.
20090009003_149, December 2nd, 1869.

Physical Description

1.0 volumes

20090090001, 1874.
Volume 5, nd. 1 volumes.
Volume 5 Folder
Physical Description

1.0 volumes

Print, Suggest