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Historical Society of Tacony Frank Shuman collection


Held at: Historical Society of Tacony [Contact Us]4819 Longshore Avenue, Philadelphia, PA, 19135

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

Frank Shuman (1862-1918) was an inventor whose most notable inventions were wired safety glass and the first solar power steam engine. He moved to the Tacony section of northeast Philadelphia in 1891 to aid his uncle, Francis Schuman, in the creation of the William Penn statue that is now atop City Hall. He built the world's first solar thermal power station in Maadi, Egypt from 1912-1913; it was used to irrigate the desert near the Nile River. The First World War broke out soon afterward, and despite the success of Shuman's project, his solar power invention never caught on.

The bulk of this collection consists of secondary materials: photocopies of historic photographs, articles written about Shuman in the 1990s and 2000s, and multiple copies of a catalog from an art exhibition inspired by Shuman, "Sun of 1913," which was part of the Egyptian biennial celebration in 2008. However, there is a small amount of original material in this collection which is of great value. There is an original plan, hand-drawn by Edwin Smith, 1912, for the "Sun Engine" to be installed near Cairo, Egypt. Another highlight of the collection is about two dozen original photographs of Shuman and his team in Egypt installing that solar plant. The photographs are identified with captions on verso.

Original photographs donated by Margaret Worrall, circa 2000. Margaret's father George Worrall was an associate of Frank Shuman who went with him to Egypt.

The plan of the Egyptian solar power plant was a gift from Shuman descendants.

Historical Society of Tacony
Finding Aid Author
Finding aid prepared by Celia Caust-Ellenbogen and Michael Gubicza 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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