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Ruth Branning Molloy Collection


Held at: University of Pennsylvania: University Archives and Records Center [Contact Us]3401 Market Street, Suite 210, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19104

This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the University of Pennsylvania: University Archives and Records Center. 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

Ruth Branning Molloy, a poet, writer, photographer, and Philadelphia historian, was born on July 24, 1910 in the Bronx, New York. At the age of fourteen, she graduated from West Philadelphia High School for Girls. Mrs. Molloy estimated that she lived at more than 30 different addresses in West Philadelphia, most of them during her youth.

In 1926, Ruth Branning enrolled at the University of Pennsylvania, where she participated in many clubs and activities, including Sphinx and Key, Bowling Green, and the Freshman Commission. She was also the editor of the 1930 Record Book, and a member of the Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority.

After earning a B.S. in education from Penn, Ruth Branning went to work for The Philadelphia Inquirer. As an editorial assistant in the library, she researched material for "Everybody's Column" and "100 Years Ago," and helped build the department's reference file. In 1932, she married Joseph E. Molloy, librarian at The Philadelphia Inquirer. Most of their married life was spent in West Philadelphia, where they raised their three daughters. They lived for a time at 3822 Locust Street until the University purchased their house and the other houses on their block during a campus expansion. From Locust Street, the Molloys moved to St. Mark's Square where Mrs. Molloy lived until her death in 2002.

Ruth Molloy was a prolific writer of essays, poems and other articles for publications such as the Saturday Evening Post, The Inquirer, The Evening Bulletin, and Mademoiselle and Good Housekeeping magazines. She also took photographs, which were published as photo essays. Her story "Twenty Below, at the End of a Lane," a fictionalized account of her childhood, originally printed in Mademoiselle magazine, was included in the Best American Short Stories of 1956. She was also a regular contributor to The Pennsylvania Gazette and the first ever female Chair of the Editorial Board of the General Alumni Society of the University of Pennsylvania.

Aside from chronicling the history of West Philadelphia for her personal scrapbooks, Molloy was one of the founders of the University City Historical Society. She often gave tours of the University City area and spoke about its history to school groups and organizations. On several occasions, Molloy created exhibits on various aspects of the history and traditions of West Philadelphia and frequently sent letters to possible descendants of West Philadelphians she wanted to know more about. In 1983, she initiated the "Adopt-a-Grave" program, designed to preserve the history of graves at Woodland Cemetery in West Philadelphia.

In 2000, Molloy's book of poems, Finally, illustrated with her photographs, was published by Sutter House. Despite her failing health, she continued to work on her multi-volume history of West Philadelphia until her death, on November 8, 2002.

The Ruth Branning Molloy Papers mostly document Mrs. Molloy's life in West Philadelphia and her association with her alma mater, the University of Pennsylvania. Some of Mrs. Molloy's scrapbooks are dedicated to the history of West Philadelphia before she was born; however, the vast majority of the collection is in some way related to Mrs. Molloy's life in West Philadelphia.

Most of the collection was originally contained in Mrs. Molloy's 33 scrapbooks. Her scrapbooks were titled, "Advertisements" (2 volumes), "Art and Artisans," "Correspondence, Bills (and Letterheads), Wills and Lists," "Crime, Fire, Poetry, and Misc.," "Exteriors, Demolition, and Real Estate," "Exteriors and Interiors" (3 volumes), "(Remember Me?) Forget-Me-Not, Remembrance of Things Past (and Future)," "Groups and Crowds," "Miscellaneous" (3 volumes), "A New Beginning," "Obituaries etc.," "Occasions and Events" (2 volumes), "People" (2 volumes), "Portraits," "Scattered Headlines," "Street Scapes and Open Spaces," "Titles, Dedication, Maps, Introduction, and Interiors-Exteriors," "Untitled" (4 volumes), and "West Philadelphia 20th Century and Me" (5 volumes). While some of these titles have been recycled as folder titles in the collection, many have not been. The titles, dedication page, index, bibliography and other parts of the scrapbook can be found in the miscellaneous series.

The Correspondence series includes both letters addressed to and written by Mrs. Molloy as well as letters pertinent to the history of West Philadelphia that have nothing directly to do with Mrs. Molloy. Aside from the remnants of the scrapbooks, the miscellaneous series contains poetry written by Mrs. Molloy herself as well as a number of other West Philadelphians. Mrs. Molloy's essays and remembrances about her life are contained in a folder under her name in the people series.

The collection also contains Mrs. Molloy's memorabilia from the University of Pennsylvania, histories of West Philadelphia, Penn, and residents of West Philadelphia, photographs, photographic negatives and slides. The memorabilia includes a relief sculpture of Penn professor Joseph Leidy and memorabilia from Mrs. Molloy's University Class of 1930 among Penn others. The photographs are divided into three groups, buildings, groups and events, and portraits. Within these groups, the photographs are subdivided into Penn photographs and West Philadelphia photographs. The slides are divided into three groups, buildings, groups and events, and portraits. Notable slides include a series on the construction of the Women's Dormitory (now known as Hill College House) and St. Elmo's, as well as numerous slides from Class of 1930 Alumni Events throughout Mrs. Molloy's lifetime.

Almost all the books in the collection have something to do with the history of the University or its graduating classes. There are a number of reunion books of various classes ranging from 1879 until 1907, several versions of The University of Pennsylvania Illustrated and many other books on the history of the University. In the book collection are also brochures from student events and the mathematics thesis of Anne and Elizabeth Linton, sisters who taught math to Mrs. Molloy at West Philadelphia High School for Girls in the 1920s. Also included are the yearbooks of Penn's College for Women Classes of 1923 and 1924 as well as the Record of the Class of June 1928 of the Philadelphia High School for Girls.

The papers of Ruth Branning Molloy, author and photographer, are arranged in several series. They include: Correspondence, Miscellaneous, People, Photographs, University of Pennsylvania, and West Philadelphia, (2.5 cubic ft.), and Books, (2 cubic ft.).

The vast majority of the documents and Photographs from the collection are from Mrs. Molloy extensive scrapbooks. In order to make research using the collection easier, the scrapbooks were taken apart and their contents reorganized. Mrs. Molloy's slides are also contained in the collection and can be found as a part of her photograph collection.

These papers were donated to the University of Pennsylvania Archives and Records Center by the family of Ruth Branning Molloy.

University of Pennsylvania: University Archives and Records Center
Finding Aid Author
Seth S. Tannenbaum, Mira Shetty
Finding Aid Date
August 2007, May 2018
Access Restrictions

Access to collections is granted in accordance with the Protocols for the University Archives and Records Centers.

Collection Inventory

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Regarding "Agnew Clinic" painting by Thomas Eakins to Mark Lloyd.
Box 1 Folder 1
From Aunt Emily - "Little Visits Around Historic Philadelphia".
Box 1 Folder 2
Branning Family and RBM.
Box 1 Folder 3
Class of 1930 and RBM.
Box 1 Folder 4
Authored by clergyman.
Box 1 Folder 5
Regarding exhibits put on by RBM.
Box 1 Folder 6
Licht, Walter and daughters of RBM regarding scrapbooks.
Box 1 Folder 7
Box 1 Folder 8
Letters from RBM with clippings.
Box 1 Folder 9
Letters to RBM.
Box 1 Folder 10
Regarding Pine Street, 4102.
Box 1 Folder 11
Trumbauer, Horace to M. M. McLanahan regarding box to hold Shakespeare Folio.
Box 1 Folder 12
University of Pennsylvania, history of.
Box 1 Folder 13
University of Pennsylvania, site of first campus.
Box 1 Folder 14
West Philadelphia events.
Box 1 Folder 15
West Philadelphia history.
Box 1 Folder 16
West Philadelphia neighbors.
Box 1 Folder 17
West Philadelphia personal histories.
Box 1 Folder 18

Box 1 Folder 19
Headlines, incomplete documents, etc.
Box 1 Folder 20
Poetry by RBM.
Box 1 Folder 21
Poetry by various authors.
Box 1 Folder 22
Scrapbook pieces (indices, titles, etc.).
Box 1 Folder 23

Box 1 Folder 24
Box 1 Folder 25
Avil Family.
Box 1 Folder 26
Boice Family.
Box 1 Folder 27
Brookhouser, Frank.
Box 1 Folder 28
Callaghan, Gordon Bottomley.
Box 1 Folder 29
Cole, Orlando.
Box 1 Folder 30
Dechert Family.
Box 1 Folder 31
East, Nic.
Box 1 Folder 32
Ferris, Edythe.
Box 1 Folder 33
Gibbons, Louise Jackson.
Box 1 Folder 34
Harbeson, William.
Box 1 Folder 35
Hess, Kathryn (Kay) Finkel.
Box 1 Folder 36
Horner, Anton.
Box 1 Folder 37
Jackson, Lorraine.
Box 1 Folder 38
Jacobs, Bertha Flicker.
Box 1 Folder 39
Kahn, Louis (and Esther).
Box 1 Folder 40
Kynett, H. H. (Doc) and family.
Box 1 Folder 41
Lamond, Melani.
Box 1 Folder 42
Linton, Anne and Elizabeth.
Box 1 Folder 43
Malcomson, Ruth.
Box 1 Folder 44
Mauchly, John William.
Box 1 Folder 45
McIntyre, John T.
Box 1 Folder 46
Melville, Georgina.
Box 1 Folder 47
Molloy, Joseph Edmond.
Box 1 Folder 48
Molloy, Ruth Branning.
Box 1 Folder 49
Moursund, Dorothy Cook (and family).
Box 1 Folder 50
Nichols, Roy F. and Jeanette P.
Box 1 Folder 51
Rittase, Evelyn Searles.
Box 1 Folder 52
Sayen, Gertrude Kimball.
Box 1 Folder 53
Scott, John W.
Box 1 Folder 54
Smith, Edgar Fahs and Margie.
Box 1 Folder 55
Smith, Lew.
Box 1 Folder 56
Stewart, Douglas.
Box 1 Folder 57
Wettlin, Margaret.
Box 1 Folder 58
Widersheim, John A. (and family).
Box 1 Folder 59
Woodin, John.
Box 1 Folder 60

University of Pennsylvania Buildings.
Box 1 Folder 61
West Philadelphia exteriors: "El" removal, 1956 (w/ neg.).
Box 1 Folder 62
West Philadelphia exteriors: houses, stores, streets (dated) I.
Box 1 Folder 63
West Philadelphia exteriors: houses, stores, streets (dated) II.
Box 1 Folder 64
West Philadelphia exteriors: houses, stores, streets (undated) I.
Box 1 Folder 65
West Philadelphia exteriors: houses, stores, streets (undated) II.
Box 1 Folder 66
West Philadelphia exteriors: landscapes (dated).
Box 1 Folder 67
West Philadelphia exteriors: landscapes (undated).
Box 1 Folder 68
West Philadelphia exteriors: Walnut Street, 4940.
Box 1 Folder 69
West Philadelphia interiors (location known).
Box 1 Folder 70
West Philadelphia interiors (location unknown).
Box 1 Folder 71
1928 Bennett News Staff.
Box OS 1
Lea School.
Box 1 Folder 72
University of Pennsylvania building dedications and ground breakings.
Box 1 Folder 73
University of Pennsylvania reunions.
Box 2 Folder 1
University of Pennsylvania Special Events (commencements, visitors, lectures, etc.).
Box 2 Folder 2
University of Pennsylvania undergraduate life.
Box 2 Folder 3
West Philadelphia community events/gatherings.
Box 2 Folder 4
West Philadelphia identified.
Box 2 Folder 5
West Philadelphia unidentified.
Box 2 Folder 6
Box 2 Folder 7
Box 2 Folder 8
No name.
Box 2 Folder 9
Pages 1-10.
Box 2 Folder 10
Pages 11-20.
Box 2 Folder 11
Pages 21-30.
Box 2 Folder 12
Astronomical Observatory (Drawing), 1955 June 3.
Box 4 Folder 1
Atom-Smasher, 1946 June 10.
Box 4 Folder 2
Bio Pond, n.d.
Box 4 Folder 3
Christian Association Building at 35th and Locust Sts., 1929 April 11.
Box 4 Folder 4
Christian Association Proposed Building (Drawing), n.d.
Box 4 Folder 5
Dedication of War Memorial, 1952 November 19.
Box 4 Folder 6
Dietrich Hall, 1952 September 7.
Box 4 Folder 7
Dietrich Hall (Drawing), 1952 March 20.
Box 4 Folder 8
Dietrich Hall, Wharton School (Drawing), ca. 1950's.
Box 4 Folder 9
Engineering Building, n.d.
Box 4 Folder 10
Event at Franklin Field, 1906.
Box 4 Folder 11
Gates Memorial Pavilion (Drawing), 1950 February 15.
Box 4 Folder 12
Group of students talking under a tree, n.d.
Box 4 Folder 13
Hayden Hall, n.d.
Box 4 Folder 14
Henry Phipps Institute, 1931 May 6.
Box 4 Folder 15
Houston Hall, 1946 August 16.
Box 4 Folder 16
Houston Hall, 1950 April 28.
Box 4 Folder 17
Houston Hall, 1954 October 26.
Box 4 Folder 18
Houston Hall, n.d.
Box 4 Folder 19
In-Patient and Out-Patient Hospital Buildings (Drawing), 1948 March 18.
Box 4 Folder 20
In-Patient Building of the Hospital (Drawing), 1947 November 19.
Box 4 Folder 21
Inside of New Gymnasium, 1927 October 4.
Box 4 Folder 22
Irvine Auditorium, 1928 June 17.
Box 4 Folder 23
Irvine Auditorium (Drawing), 1926 November 14.
Box 4 Folder 24
John Morgan Building, n.d.
Box 4 Folder 25
Logan Hall, 1934.
Box 4 Folder 26
Louis Marshall House, 1948 November 1.
Box 4 Folder 27
Man, woman, and child in garden, n.d.
Box 4 Folder 28
Medical Building, 37th and Spruce Sts., 1945 March 13.
Box 4 Folder 29
Medical Building, 37th and Spruce Sts., 1945 March 13.
Box 4 Folder 30
Medical School Laboratories, 1954 October 26.
Box 4 Folder 31
Morgan Labs, 1934.
Box 4 Folder 32
New Chemistry and Science Building - First Pillar Tightened, 1941 June 10.
Box 4 Folder 33
New Dormitory Construction on Hamilton Walk, 43217.
Box 4 Folder 34
Out-Patient Building of the Hospital (Drawing), 1947 November 19.
Box 4 Folder 35
Palestra, 1927 October 4.
Box 4 Folder 36
Physics Building (33rd and Walnut Sts.) (Drawing) - 2 copies, 1953 February 17.
Box 4 Folder 37
Proposed Building for Anatomy and Bio-chemistry (Drawing), 1925 July 17.
Box 4 Folder 38
Quadrangle Dormitories, 1953 May 10.
Box 4 Folder 39
School of Engineering, 1934.
Box 4 Folder 40
Smith Statue facing 33rd St., ca. 1930's.
Box 4 Folder 41
Smith Statue facing 33rd St., ca. 1930's.
Box 4 Folder 42
Student in the Quad, n.d.
Box 4 Folder 43
Students walking in the Quad, n.d.
Box 4 Folder 44
Unidentified building, 1934.
Box 4 Folder 45
Unidentified building, 1934.
Box 4 Folder 46
Unidentified gate, ca. 1930's.
Box 4 Folder 47
View of woods from terrace, n.d.
Box 4 Folder 48
War Memorial Bronze Statues, 1952 August 27.
Box 4 Folder 49
Wharton School of Finance and Commerce (Drawing), 43246.
Box 4 Folder 50
Wharton School of Finance and Commerce (Drawing)1948 February 9.
Box 4 Folder 51
Zoology Labs, 1934.
Box 4 Folder 52
2 men, woman, and child at a creek, n.d.
Box 4 Folder 53
2 Students in the Quad, n.d.
Box 4 Folder 54

Alumni Association.
Box 2 Folder 13
Box 2 Folder 14
Class Day brochures.
Box 2 Folder 15
Class of 1887.
Box 2 Folder 16
Class of 1927.
Box 2 Folder 17
Class of 1930.
Box 2 Folder 18
History (essays and clippings).
Box 2 Folder 19
General Alumni Society Editorial Board (RBM chair).
Box 2 Folder 20
And West Philadelphia (documents and clippings).
Box 2 Folder 24
Box 2 Folder 21
Lambda Chi printing tablet.
Box 2 Folder 22
Relief of Joseph Leidy.
Box 2 Folder 23

Advertisements (undated).
Box 2 Folder 25
Advertisements: 1890-1919.
Box 2 Folder 26
Advertisements: 1920-1929.
Box 2 Folder 27
Advertisements: 1930-1959.
Box 2 Folder 28
Advertisements: 1970-1999.
Box 2 Folder 29
Box 2 Folder 30
Box 2 Folder 31
Buildings/houses (drawings and sketches).
Box 2 Folder 32
Buildings: Blair Funeral Home/Ronald McDonald House.
Box 2 Folder 33
Box 2 Folder 34
Clippings and documents: 1878-1929.
Box 2 Folder 35
Clippings and documents: 1930-2001 (and undated).
Box 2 Folder 36
Box 3 Folder 1
Crime solutions.
Box 3 Folder 2
Box 3 Folder 3
Food and restaurants.
Box 3 Folder 4
Gazebo column by RBM in University City News.
Box 3 Folder 5
Grand's Restaurant.
Box 3 Folder 6
History (essays and clippings).
Box 3 Folder 7
House tours.
Box 3 Folder 8
Invitations (undated).
Box 3 Folder 9
Box 3 Folder 10
Box 3 Folder 11
Places and Events (undated and miscellaneous).
Box 3 Folder 12
Personal histories.
Box 3 Folder 13
St. Leonard's Academy.
Box 3 Folder 14
Box 3 Folder 15
University City Historical Society.
Box 3 Folder 16
West Philadelphia High School.
Box 3 Folder 17
Woodlands Cemetery and Mansion.
Box 3 Folder 18

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