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Historical Society of Frankford photograph collection


Held at: Historical Society of Frankford [Contact Us]1507 Orthodox St., Philadelphia, PA, 19124

This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the Historical Society of Frankford. 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

The Frankford neighborhood of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, is located in the lower northeast section of the city and is bordered by the Frankford Creek on the south, Castor Avenue on the west, Cheltenham Avenue on the north, and roughly the I-95 expressway on the east. Originally a village, Frankford was incorporated as a borough in 1800 and was later absorbed into the City of Philadelphia in the 1854 Philadelphia city/county consolidation.

The area now known as Frankford was originally inhabited by the Lenni-Lenape Indians and later settled by Swedes, who started a village and gristmill in the 1660s. The village grew significantly after William Penn founded Pennsylvania in 1682 and members of the Religious Society of Friends, commonly called Quakers, established a meeting in Frankford. The village was part of a large tract of land known as the "Manor of Frank" that was granted to the Society of Free Traders, a group of mostly London-based Quaker businessmen that was led by William Penn. A well-used Indian trail in the area became known as the King's Highway in 1683 and was later renamed Frankford Avenue, one of the oldest country roads in continuous use in the nation. The location along the King's Highway was a significant factor in Frankford's growth as an important center of commerce and trade.

During the 19th century, Frankford became a thriving manufacturing center. Immigrants of English and German descent settled in the area, opening textile, powder, grist, and other mills along Frankford Creek. These mills, along with Frankford's commercial growth, attracted farmers from neighboring townships who sought mills to process their raw materials and farm products. The first textile mill was erected by Samuel Martin in 1809 and in 1820 Samuel Pilling established the first mill for the block printing of calico. The first dye house in Frankford was established in 1821 and in 1843 the first mill run by steam power in Frankford was started by Richard and John Garsed. The nearby Frankford Arsenal was constructed by the federal government following the War of 1812 and completed in the 1820s.

With the development of industry in Frankford, its population grew quickly with immigrant workers. In addition to mill workers, free African Americans settled in Frankford, establishing fraternal and religious institutions, including Campbell African Methodist Episcopal Church, which was founded in 1807 and is one of the oldest AME churches in the nation. A number of churches were established in Frankford in the 18th and 19th centuries, serving the area's various religious denominations and ethnic groups. In 1831 the first savings and loan institution in the United States, Oxford Provident Building Association, was created in Frankford to assist local workers in purchasing homes.

In 1854, the Borough of Frankford, along with the various townships, districts, and boroughs within the County of Philadelphia at that time, was annexed into the city of Philadelphia through the Act of Consolidation. After consolidation, Frankford continued to grow, as the area became increasingly industrialized and numerous mills, predominantly in the textile industry, opened. By 1869, there were forty major manufacturers in the area. In 1867, the Globe Dye Works was opened by Richard Greenwood and William Bault. Immigrants continued to move to Frankford to work in the factories and churches and schools continued to be established in the area. Vacant-farmland was developed into Victorian twin homes and rows of smaller homes to meet the needs of the mill workers and a growing middle-class.

Construction of the Frankford Elevated Railway, connecting Frankford to Center City and West Philadelphia, was completed in 1922. Frankford Transportation Center became the terminal station for the line and helped Frankford grow as a major shopping district in the early 20th century. Industry in Frankford declined markedly after World War II, part of the overall de-industrialization of Philadelphia that occurred in the post-war period. Most of Frankford's manufacturing companies closed or left the area in the latter part of the 20th century.

As middle class families began to migrate to the far northeastern parts of the city or to the suburbs outside of Philadelphia in the later 20th century, African American and Asian families began to settle in Frankford. As of 2015, Frankford is a working-class neighborhood with a diverse population, including a large number of African Americans, Asian Americans, Polish Americans, Italian Americans, Hispanic Americans, and West Indian Americans.


Auwarter, Barbara M. and Joyce Halley. "Frankford." Workshop of the World. Wallingford, PA: Oliver Evans Press, 1990. Accessed November 2, 2015.

Harris, Brian H. Images of America: Frankford. Charleston, SC: Arcadia, 2005. Historical Society of Frankford. "History." Accessed November 2, 2015.

Sadler, Diane. "Frankford." Historical Northeast Philadelphia. Accessed November 2, 2015.

Smalarz, Matthew. "Northeast Philadelphia." The Encyclopedia of Greater Philadelphia. Accessed November 2, 2015.

This collection consists of approximately 1,132 mid-nineteenth through mid-twentieth century photographs, negatives, drawings, and prints. They are primarily of Frankford and other Northeast Philadelphia, Pennsylvania area buildings, landscapes, and street scenes, but there are also some images of individuals and groups of people and some historic sites in other areas of the United States. Philadelphia area bridges are particularly well represented in the collection.

The photographs have been assigned numbers from S-1 to S-1,183 in a master list and are also indexed by subject or location in a card catalog. Numbers S-1048 through S-1099 exist in the master list, but do not appear to have any items assigned to them. Some of the catalog numbers represent multiple photographs or photograph groupings. There is one box of uncataloged photographs.

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 Historical Society of Frankford directly for more information.

Historical Society of Frankford
Finding Aid Author
Finding aid prepared by Sarah Leu and Anastasia Matijkiw 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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