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Featured Photographs
Visit and take a look at our many new additions.
Did you miss previous featured photos? See more here.

Tenement House Inspection - 1909

People Traveling Through Snow- 1914

Featured Blog Entry
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Fires, Fights and Benjamin Franklin: Philadelphia's Volunteer Firemen
by Spencer Willig

"The alarm of fire being given
Onward we did go
Their house we broke, and their engine took
And beat their members also."

(From "The Franklin Hose Song," c. 1850)

Tracing their roots back to a proud roster of founding fathers and fires fought, the volunteer fire companies that preceded the establishment of the Philadelphia Fire Department combined the best and worst traits of the city they served. Community-minded, innovative and tough, Philadelphia's amateur firemen also earned a reputation for brawling, boozing and bitter rivalry equal to anything ever reported to have happened in the parking lot after an Eagles game... read more.

Volunteer Firemen - Founder's Week - 1908
S. Broad Street and Spruce Street

Fire - 1897
N. 13th Street and Market Street



It's Spring! A New is here, and the Inquirer loves it!

Have you noticed PhillyHistory's new face? If you frequent the search page, you will notice that there are now more search options, more view options and several exciting new featured tools:

The 'Details' display for each photograph is now easier to read (see example here). Moreover, if you are interested in viewing photographs that represent or contain a particular subject (e.g. 'Bridge', 'Horse', 'People') you can now search for photos by predetermined 'Topics'. We are still building this search option, so check it on a regular basis to see what photos we added to each Topic. Additionally, the 'Neighborhood' list is now much more extensive -- neighborhoods are broken down into more specific, commonly recognized areas and names.

With the click of a button ('Share This Photo') you can now e-mail any photo along with a message to a friend or family member you want to surprise with a historic photo of their neighborhood or of their house or school. Rather than searching for your favorite photos every time you visit the site, you can now add photos to your 'My Favorites' page and view them again every time you log in to your account. And, if you are interested in finding photos taken near the one you are currently viewing, simply click on the 'See Nearby Photos' icon and a list of nearby photographs will be generated, along with a map indicating where they were taken in relation to the photo you are viewing.

The new version of PhillyHistory also includes features that will enable multiple organizations to contribute material to a single shared system in the future and features that will support other media such as recordings, drawings, music, etc.

** Everybody is nuts about PhillyHistory! Have you read the terrific article recently published in the Philadelphia Inquirer? Two full pages described wonderful stories about the project and people like you, who love PhillyHistory. The online version even has a slide show of "Then and Now" photos. Check the article and make sure you have a look at the slide show (the link is at the bottom of the article)! **

We would love to know what images you have found using the new features, and remember all the photos are for sale for as little as $10! Please share your stories with us at

And How About Photos Without a Location or An Address?

Kindergarten Education - 1929

Applicants for Reserve - 1910


The photographs housed at the Philadelphia's City Archives have been taken by fifteen decades' worth of City photographers who each represented a City department. Today every photograph on is labeled with a 'Collection ID' which is made up of the department name for which the photographer worked (e.g. 'Public Works,' 'Schools,' 'Department of Public Safety') and the number of the negative.

Over the years City photographers painstakingly documented the location of each photograph. It is this address that uses to map (a.k.a 'geocode') the location of each photo, which allows you to search photos by addresses, intersections, or neighborhoods.

Occassionally, a photograph does not contain enough information to be properly 'geocoded' or given map coordinates. The new release of contains a search tool that allows you, the users, to find these photographs that have not been given a location (that's more than 5,000 hidden treasures!). Simply check the box located under the map at the bottom left side of the main search page: "Include records without a location", and all photographs -- both those that have an address and those that do not -- will show in the results.

See above two incredible photographs we have unearthed using this tool.

Save the Date!

Love exploring photographs? Come see many of the most striking historic images up close and personal! The Art Institute of Philadelphia and have partnered to bring you an exhibit that features Philadelphia’s many fascinating images from The exhibit will take place in the Art Institute’s 1622 Chestnut Street Gallery and will run from August 3rd until August 30th.

This message was sent to you as a enrolled user of, the City of Philadelphia Department of Records web-based photographic collection. To subscribe to this list, e-mail with the subject 'subscribe'