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Historical Society of the Phoenixville Area photograph and film collection


Held at: Historical Society of the Phoenixville Area [Contact Us]204 Church St., Phoenixville, Pennsylvania, 19460

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

Phoenixville in Chester County, Pennsylvania evolved from an early 18th century village called Manavon. Long the home of the Lenni Lenape Indians, who farmed, hunted, and fished in the Schuylkill River, the area was first settled by Europeans in 1713.

A century later in 1813, Lewis Wernwag (1769-1843), a pioneer bridge builder in the United States, invested in a small nail works mill (the first in the U.S.) founded by Benjamin Longstreth, renaming it Phoenix Iron Works (which is presumably how Phoenixville got its name). By 1830, Phoenix Iron Works became one of the largest nail factories in the U.S. largely due to the investment of brothers David and Benjamin Reeves and James and Joseph Whitaker. The company grew tremendously with the advent of the railroad. Railroad construction, and thus demand for iron railroad rails, soared over the next several decades, particularly with the construction of the Philadelphia and Reading Railroad. In 1855, the iron company was reorganized and incorporated as the Phoenix Iron Company with David Reeves, founder, as president and his son Samuel as vice president and treasurer.

As Phoenix Iron Company grew, so too did the town of Phoenixville, which was incorporated as a borough in 1849. Following the success of the Iron Company, the town continued to grow and expand during the rest of the 19th and into the 20th century. By the end of World War I, Phoenixville was experiencing growth in other manufacturing businesses as well.

After World War II, Phoenix Iron Company, renamed Phoenix Steel Corporation, began to decline due to increased domestic and foreign steel competition and from competition from aluminum and reinforced concrete products. The Company closed its doors in 1976. Other smaller manufacturing firms closed around the same time, resulting in difficult economic times for Phoenixville. Philadelphia's suburban growth beginning around the turn of the 21st century has assisted with the town's recent revitalization.


Historical Society of the Phoenixville Area. "A Brief History of Phoenixville." Accessed September 24, 2013.

This collection consists primarily of photographic prints, with some slides, picture postcards, film negatives, and a few glass plate negatives that document various aspects of Phoenixville's history. There are also some family photograph albums. Most materials are original, but there are also some copied photographs. Many of the photographs are from the newspaper, Daily Republic, later The Phoenix. The collection is organized into subjects, and within each file photographs are arranged by accession number. Oversize and framed photographs are stored separately, organized by size and accession number.

Most of the photographs, with the exception of the oversize and framed prints, have been scanned.

Subjects documented in the collection include: Bridges, Cemeteries, Churches, Events, Factories and Mills, Firehouses, Funeral Homes, Hospitals, Hotels, Land Transportation (Railroads, trolleys, etc.), Office Buildings, Organizations, Parks and Monuments, Residences, Schools, Stores, Streets and Roads, Theaters, Water Transportation (Canal, river, etc.), Waterways, Miscellaneous (unidentified, views, albums), Public Buildings, Costumes, Photographers (local), Slides, Military, Negatives, and Utilities.

Also included in the collection are some audiovisual materials, namely 16mm film reels, including several of Phoenixville's Dogwood Parade (1950s-1967) and one of the 1954 Phoenixville Hospital auxiliary food fair. There are also about 2 dozen DVDs of Barkley School concerts and other events, circa 2002-2012.

Searching the collection is facilitated by a computer database and card catalog, both available on-site.

Photographs collected from various sources at various times from the Historical Society of the Phoenixville Area.

Summary descriptive information on this collection was compiled in 2012-2014 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 the Phoenixville Area directly for more information.

Historical Society of the Phoenixville Area
Finding Aid Author
Finding aid prepared by Celia Caust-Ellenbogen and Faith Charlton 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.
Access Restrictions

Contact Historical Society of the Phoenixville Area for information about accessing this collection.

Collection Inventory

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