Philadelphia University early institutional records
Held at: Philadelphia University: Paul J. Gutman Library, Special Collections [Contact Us]4201 Henry Avenue, Philadelphia, PA, 19144
This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the Philadelphia University: Paul J. Gutman Library, Special Collections. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in their reading room, and not digitally available through the web.
Overview and metadata sections
At the 1876 Centennial Exposition, local textile manufacturers noticed that Philadelphia's textile industry was falling behind its rivals' capacity, technology, and ability. In 1880, they formed the Philadelphia Association of Manufacturers of Textile Fabrics, with Theodore C. Search as its president, to fight for higher tariffs on imported textiles and to educate local textile leaders. Search joined the board of directors of the Philadelphia Museum and School of Industrial Art (now the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the University of the Arts), with the idea of advancing his plans for a school, and began fundraising in 1882.
In early 1884, Search taught the first classes of the Philadelphia Textile School to five students at 1336 Spring Garden Street. The school was officially opened on November 5, 1884. The school moved to 1303-1307 Buttonwood Street in 1891, then moved again in 1893. Enrollment had been growing steadily and the school was turning away students for lack of space. Search and the board of trustees of the school took out a mortgage on the former Philadelphia Institute of the Deaf and Dumb on the corner of Broad and Spruce Streets. This allowed rapid expansion of academic offerings and capacity of students.
In 1942, the school was granted the right to award baccalaureate degrees and changed its name to the Philadelphia Textile Institute (PTI). In 1949, having decided to break its ties with the Museum, PTI moved to its present site in the East Falls section of Philadelphia. In 1961, the school changed its name again, to Philadelphia College of Textiles & Science. The university's student population doubled between 1954 and 1964, and doubled again by 1978, with programs in the arts, sciences, and business administration being introduced. In 1976, it offered its first graduate degree, the Master of Business Administration. The purchase of additional properties in East Falls in 1980 and 1988 nearly doubled the campus again, adding classrooms, research laboratories, student residences, and athletic facilities. During the 1990s, the college began to offer undergraduate majors in a wider range of fields, resulting in the College being granted university status by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania in 1999. The Board of Trustees voted to change the College’s name to Philadelphia University, or PhilaU for short, in 1999.
The Philadelphia University early institutional records house the papers of Philadelphia University, initially a school for textiles instruction, at its inception and through its early years. The collection dates from 1893 to 1967, with bulk dates of 1916 to 1941. This collection is primarily comprised of correspondence, with some general administrative files and financial records, such as invoices and receipts. This collection provides a broad overview of the establishment of the school, some insight into administrative practices, and primarily, its interaction with outside textile manufacturers and other businesses.
This collection is arranged into one series: Series “I. Early institutional records, 1893-1967.”
Series “I. Early institutional records” dates from 1893 to 1967, with bulk dates of 1916 to 1941. The series is generally composed of correspondence, mostly from the files of E.W. France, Director, and M. Earl Heard, Dean. E.W. France’s correspondence is often signed simply with “Director.” Most of the correspondence is with other businesses or manufacturers of textiles. Generally, these letters are in regards to recruitment of students for positions or reference requests, or regarding fabric sample tests or available machinery. Some of the correspondence also deals with various challenges in the textile industry, including, of note, the impact of enlistment on student enrollment and worker availability. Many of the letters are also regarding students seeking admissions information, information about the school, and general notes about meetings or social events. There is also correspondence regarding requests for publications or other information, either from the school or from other institutions and businesses.
In addition to the bulk of correspondence, there are also some administrative files and financial records contained in the series, mostly from the earliest dates of the collection. There are receipts and invoices included from 1900 to 1916, as well as records of donations in 1941. Administrative files include selected writings and information about the school and some of its members, including a biography of E.W. France. There are also a few files pertaining to legal matters, such as the Textile Alliance case and the Rock River Arbitration.
This collection provides broad information about the activities of Philadelphia University at its inception and throughout the first years of its operation. The correspondence provides an especially detailed look at the activities and role of E.W. France, Director, and M. Earl Heard, Dean. This collection also helps to provide insight into many of the textile manufacturers and related businesses that utilized the school’s services, whether for recruitment of staff or for research. While not a particularly in depth collection, the Philadelphia University early institutional records are an interesting record of Philadelphia’s first textile school and help provide evidence for its development and early challenges.
The processing of this collection was made possible through generous funding from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, administered through the Council on Library and Information Resources’ “Cataloging Hidden Special Collections and Archives” Project.
This collection was minimally processed in 2013-2014, as part of an experimental project conducted under the auspices of the Philadelphia Area Consortium of Special Collections Libraries to help eliminate processing backlog in Philadelphia repositories. A minimally processed collection is one processed at a less intensive rate than traditionally thought necessary to make a collection ready for use by researchers. When citing sources from this collection, researchers are advised to defer to folder titles provided in the finding aid rather than those provided on the physical folder.
Employing processing strategies outlined in Mark Greene's and Dennis Meissner's 2005 article "More Product, Less Process: Revamping Traditional Processing Approaches to Deal With Late 20th-Century Collections," the project team tested the limits of minimal processing on collections of all types and ages in 16 Philadelphia area repositories. A primary goal of the project, the team processed at an average rate of 4 hours per linear foot of records, a fraction of the time ordinarily reserved for the arrangement and description of collections. Among other time saving strategies, the project team did not extensively review the content of the collections or complete any preservation work.
- Philadelphia University: Paul J. Gutman Library, Special Collections
- Finding Aid Author
- Finding aid prepared by Annalise Berdini
- Finding Aid Date
- 2014 December 1
- The creation of the electronic guide for this collection was made possible through generous funding from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, administered through the Council on Library and Information Resources’ “Cataloging Hidden Special Collections and Archives” Project.
- Access Restrictions
This collection is open for research use.
- Use Restrictions
Copyright restrictions may apply. Please contact the Archives with requests for copying and for authorization to publish, quote or reproduce the material.