Main content

Roxborough Manayunk Wissahickon Historical Society local history collection


Held at: Roxborough Manayunk Wissahickon Historical Society [Contact Us]6245 Ridge Avenue, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

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

Initially inhabited by Lenni-Lenape Indians and settled by the Dutch and Swedes during the mid-17th century, the area that now comprises Roxborough and its adjacent neighborhoods in the Northwest section of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania was carved out into 11 tracts of land by William Penn in 1682. The area, known as Roxborough Township, quickly became industrialized due to its location along the Schuylkill River. The British businessmen that Penn sent built mills along the Wissahickon Creek, and took over the plantations surrounding Ridge Avenue. Goods were transported along Ridge Avenue to the Falls of Schuylkill and then traveled downstream by boat to Philadelphia.

The importance of the Roxborough area increased during the 19th century with the discovery of coal in Pennsylvania's anthracite region. During the early part of the century, the waterways along the Schuylkill were used to transport coal and other goods to Philadelphia. These materials were then transported through the area via train after the construction of the railroads during the second half of the century.

Manayunk, where most of the mills were located, became the largest industrial area in the Philadelphia region. The first canal in the country was started, though not completed due to budgetary reasons, there. Roxborough Township became home to some of the city's wealthiest residents. These outlying areas were incorporated into the City of Philadelphia following the passage of the Act of Consolidation in 1854.

The industrialization of Manayunk and the resulting negative impact it had on the environment and surrounding landscape gave rise to an increased appreciation of the natural landscape of neighboring Wissahickon Valley. Philadelphia's Fairmount Park Commission, established in 1867, forced the closure of mills along the Wissahickon Creek in an effort to protect the water supply and preserve what was left of the natural landscape.

Today the Wissahickon Valley is recognized as one of the most beautiful natural landscapes in the world. Roxborough is largely suburban in character, and Manayunk, which underwent substantial gentrification during the latter part of the 20th century, transitioned from an industrial, largely working-class neighborhood into a more upscale arts and shopping neighborhood. It is also home to one of the most difficult bikes races in the world, the Philadelphia International Cycling Championship.


Del Collo, Deborah. Roxborough. Charleston, S.C.: Arcadia Publishing, 2011.

This collection consists mostly of newspaper clippings, articles, unpublished genealogies, copies of primary-source documents, and other secondary-source materials relating to Manayunk, Roxborough, and the Wissahickon region. There is also a small amount of original primary-source materials in the collection, such as receipts and invoices, correspondence, photographs, meeting minutes, and ephemera. Also available on-site are unpublished histories of local subjects, as well as an index and maps of Leverington Cemetery compiled by David Henderson. The collection is organized into five series: Subject Files, Maps and Posters, Legal documents, Genealogies, and Photographs. A paper finding aid covering the first three series is available on-site.

The first series, Subject Files, contains mostly newspaper clippings, published and unpublished articles, and copies of primary-source documents on local history topics. It is arranged in the following subseries: Churches, Events, History, Local landmarks, Local miscellaneous, Local people, Mills, Surrounding communities, Miscellany, Oversized, High school Thanksgiving football programs, and the Wissahickon Monthly newsletters. Additions to the collection, not listed in the finding aid, are filed alphabetically in a vertical file. Of special interest are files of information about: the mills of Manayunk ("the Manchester of America"), including a book on the subject by Mildred Goshow; the 1976 wagon train that landed in Roxborough before going on to Valley Forge; the first paper mill in British North America, Rittenhouse Town; 17th century German Pietist Johannes Kelpius and his followers, known as the Hermits of the Wissahickon; and a newspaper series on local history called "Looking Back," written by Charles S. Johnson for The Review.

The Maps and Posters series contains mostly copies of ward maps, especially the 21st Ward. Name indexes for most of the maps are available on-site. There are also several original maps, including an 1848 map of Roxborough Township created by a member of the Levering family who was a surveyor.

The Legal documents series consists mostly of original deeds and mortgages that date from the mid 19th century to the early 20th century.

The Obituaries series consists of the obituary section of the local newspaper, The Review, filed by date, 2001-2013.

The Photographs series, circa 1900-1980, includes original and copy photographs depicting local people, events, and buildings. They are roughly arranged into albums by topic; most volumes include an inventory at the beginning.

Materials of special interest in the collection include the following: minutes of the 21st Ward Fourth of July Parade Association, 1909-1940; minutes of The Roxborough Review Club, 1926-1944 (bulk 1935-1944); minutes of the Falls of Schuylkill Republican Club, 1900-1911; four scrapbooks by A. C. Chadwick, 1915-1918 (4 volumes), with newspaper clippings on World War I; and a scrapbook of newspapers, clippings, and ephemera on local history, 1970-1993.

Materials collected over time by the Roxborough Manayunk Wissahickon Historical Society.

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 Roxborough Manayunk Wissahickon Historical Society directly for more information.

Roxborough Manayunk Wissahickon Historical Society
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 Roxborough Manayunk Wissahickon Historical Society for information about accessing this collection.

Collection Inventory

Print, Suggest