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Darby Free Library local history collection


Held at: Darby Free Library [Contact Us]1001 Main Street, Darby, PA, 19023

This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the Darby Free Library. 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

Darby Borough is located west of Cobbs Creek in Delaware County, Pennsylvania. The village of Darby had its first town meeting in 1683 and was incorporated as a borough in 1852. It was formerly part of Darby Township, but is now a separate municipality. Darby Borough was nicknamed "The Gateway To The South" because of its status as a popular way station for travelers between Baltimore and Philadelphia.

Darby was settled by Swedish emigrants in the 1630s and members of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) starting in 1681-1682. The first Friends Meeting House in the area was built in 1687 and was used by soldiers during the American Revolution. In 1743, Quakers organized the Darby Library Company, which is still operational as of 2014 as the Darby Free Library, making it one of the oldest public libraries in the United States.

Several locations in Darby, notably the Bunting House, Fearne Mansion, and the Friends Meeting House, are known as "Underground Railroad" sites where freedom seekers escaping from slavery prior to the American Civil War sought refuge. The first black church in Darby, Mt. Zion African Methodist Episcopal Church, was founded in 1875.


The Darby Borough Historical and Preservation Society. "The Darby Borough Historical and Preservation Society." Accessed December 31, 2014.

This collection consists mostly of secondary-source materials, such as newspaper clippings, photocopies, computer print outs, color photographs from the late 20th century, flyers and pamphlets, and ephemera. There are also some original, primary-source documents, and a few maps and about half a dozen atlases of Darby, Delaware County, and vicinity.

The bulk of the collection is secondary-source materials organized into binders or folders by subject. Subjects covered in the binders include: Darby Library Company, Swedish presence in Darby, Darby history, African Americans, Negro baseball, Delaware County facts and fantasies, historic sites of Delaware County, Native Americans, Darby businesses, Darby transportation, John Bartram, and other topics. The vertical file includes subjects such as: Benjamin Rush, Revolutionary War, clubs, John Morton, Underground Railroad, Delaware County Historical Society, obituaries, W.C. Fields, and more.

Featured atlases include: Sanborn Insurance Maps of Delaware County (1919), A. H. Mueller Property Atlas of Delaware County East of Ridley Creek, Delaware County West of Ridley Creek (1913), 40th Ward Atlas, and G. W. Baist's Atlas of Properties in Delaware County (1902).

There are a small number of original, primary-source documents in the collection, principally: Crozer Memorial Baptist Church in Colwyn list of World War I enlisted men (1917-1918); Florence Cox clippings scrapbook about Darby schools, 1940-1943; Alice Lord student copybook from Clifton Grammar School and West Chester State Normal School, 1873; and a few school diplomas and photographs.

Also available to researchers is a small collection of yearbooks from Darby schools, stored in the Local History Room.

Materials collected by the Darby Free Library over time.

Summary descriptive information on this collection was compiled in 2014-2016 as part of a project conducted by the Historical Society of Pennsylvania to make better known and more accessible the largely hidden collections of small, primarily volunteer run repositories in the Philadelphia area. The Hidden Collections Initiative for Pennsylvania Small Archival Repositories (HCI-PSAR) was funded by a grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

This is a preliminary finding aid. No physical processing, rehousing, reorganizing, or folder listing was accomplished during the HCI-PSAR project.

In some cases, more detailed inventories or finding aids may be available on-site at the repository where this collection is held; please contact Darby Free Library directly for more information.

Darby Free Library
Finding Aid Author
Finding aid prepared by Celia Caust-Ellenbogen and Sarah Leu through the Historical Society of Pennsylvania's Hidden Collections Initiative for Pennsylvania Small Archival Repositories
This preliminary finding aid was created as part of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania's Hidden Collections Initiative for Pennsylvania Small Archival Repositories. The HCI-PSAR project was made possible by a grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
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Contact Darby Free Library for information about accessing this collection.

Collection Inventory

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