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Mapping the Sesquicentennial
Sesquicentennial Main Entrance (1925 or 1926).

Over the past few months, we've been excited to add over 2,900 photographs from the Department of Records Sesquicentennial Collection to With photographs of everything from rodeo cowgirls to a reconstruction of High Street in 1776, the collection gives a truly unique view of one part of Philadelphia's history.

Like many of the photographs on, the images from the Sesquicentennial were often associated with a particular location. The Sesquicentennial International Exposition was held from May through November 1926 in the area around the intersection of Broad Street and Pattison Avenue by present-day FDR Park and the stadiums. While we know where the Sesquicentennial took place, assigning current locations to the photographs proved a bit more difficult than initially expected. The photos often depicted specific buildings or exhibits located within the Sesquicentennial grounds but did not give exact addresses. Fortunately, the Sesquicentennial collection at the Philadelphia City Archives contained a map of the Exposition that clearly outlined the location of certain buildings and attractions. Unfortunately, with the exception of a few major roads such as Broad Street, Packer Avenue, and Pattison Avenue, this map did not look very similar to the current Philadelphia street map.

Two-layer map of the grounds of the Sesquicentennial International Exposition.

In order to geocode (map the photographs to a specific location), we needed to find some way to sync the older 1926 map with a current-Philadelphia map. Thanks to the help of one of's software developers, we were able to do just that. Using a piece of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) software, the developer was able to create a two-layer map that placed the current street map on top of the historic map. To ensure that the maps had the same orientation, he found several points that were in the same location on both maps- the intersections of Oregon Avenue and Moyamensing Avenue, Broad Street and Packer Avenue, and Broad Street and Pattison Avenue. By lining up the two maps using these three intersections, a reliable composite map of the two images was made. To download a copy of the map, visit Azavea Commons. Azavea is the software company who created for the Philadelphia Department of Records.

Thanks to our brand new two-layer Sesquicentennial map, we were able to successfully geocode many of the photographs in the Sesquicentennial collection. Just one more example of how technology can help us relate the past to the present. Head over to to check out the complete Sesquicentennial collection!


Images scanned in the last 3 months

Total maps and photos scanned and available online

Unique Visitors in the last 3 months

The Philadelphia City Archives are one of the country's largest municipal archives, with an estimated 2 million photographs that date from the late 1800’s. These gorgeous pictures paint a stunning portrait of Philadelphia and its industry, architecture, culture and people.

Focus on the Staff

Thanks to the dedicated staff, we keep adding new photos to the website and creating fun features. In this new section of the newsletter, we'll give you a glimpse into who helps keep running. This month, say hello to Addye!

What do you do on
I create an asset (or record) for each negative on the site. Then I scan each negative and convert it into 3 resolutions. I upload one resolution to the site, I put another resolution in a computer drive so the City Photographers have access to it to print orders to send people who've purchased photos from the site, and the last resolution is burned to an archival CD and kept in the City Archives. Then each negative is housed in a new envelope and is filed in the City Archives, as well.

Are there any great pieces of Philadelphia history that you've learned from working on PhillyHistory?
I would have to say it's that, at one point in time, just about everything was produced in Philly. If it didn't come from here, it wasn't being made.

What's one of your favorite PhillyHistory photos?
It's a shot of an empty alley, where the damage to the negative created a design in the photo so it looks like a beautiful tree grew in the middle of the street - almost like it was meant to be there. People have actually ordered prints of it, I believe. I think it symbolizes PhillyHistory, in that you never know what you're going to find, and the beauty of preserving the city's history catches everyone's eye.

What are People Saying about Here's What Some of You Have Told Us!

"Thank you. You guys are great. I am a huge fan of this site and spend many hours at a time viewing the photos. It is like a window back in time that I find very addicting."

"Stunning photography and well done online collection!"

"I was thrilled and excited to find this site on the web, and will continue to search through it to witness the photographic history of the great city of Philly. Thank you all very much for all of your work and perseverance."

"I wish every city had this kind of resource. Good luck with all you're doing."

"This is the coolest website ever...I love it!"

Thank you all and on behalf of all of us at and the Philadelphia Department of Records, we wish you and your families a wonderful Holiday Season!

Do you have something to say about Let us know at

This message was sent to you as an 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'

Where Do Photos End Up Being Used? All Around the World!

The collection of photographs on just keeps growing! There are currently 73,500 photographs and maps available with more added each week. The images that appear on are just one step in the preservation process for each photograph. After the interns scan each negative, the scan is converted into three different digital resolutions that are stored in three separate locations, ensuring that multiple digital copies of the image are preserved for the future. To learn more about preservation efforts, visit our Behind the Scenes page.

This photograph of the 2nd Street Market was used to promote preservation of the building.

These three resolutions are also used for specific purposes. The lowest resolution is uploaded to, and the medium resolution (400 dots per inch or dpi) images are used to print the photos that are purchased on PhillyHistory. The high resolution (600 dpi) are used to fill digital photo requests from various individuals and organizations who wish to use photos in books, magazines, newsletters, or documentaries. And we get a lot of these requests! photos have appeared in an exhibit and booklet commemorating the Please Touch Museum's move to Memorial Hall in Fairmount Park as well as two exhibits at historic houses in Society Hill. They've been printed in a book on Philadelphia synagogues and appeared in issues of Chemical Heritage and Railroad Model Craftsman Magazine. photos have also been featured in a number of documentaries on subjects ranging from the history of Temple University to a tour of West Laurel Hill Cemetery to a biography of bandleader Chick Webb. The United States Department of Health and Human Services even requested PhillyHistory photographs for a documentary on the flu pandemic of 1918.

We also receive requests for photos from people around the world. Recently, we provided a production company in Japan with eight high-resolution digital images to use in a television documentary on influenza that will be broadcast on one of the largest television network in Japan (Tokyo Broadcasting Systems, Inc.). And we've also received e-mails from Israel, Italy, and other countries about researching and locating photographs on While the photographs on depict the history and neighborhoods of Philadelphia, they truly have international appeal!

If your organization is interested in high-resolution images, please contact

Be the First to Know What New Photos We Add to the Site! View the Latest Additions to Using RSS Feeds

Although there are already over 73,500 photographs and maps on, we continue to add new photos every week. After all, with an estimated 2 million images in the photograph collection of the City Archives, there's a lot more photos that we can add! With tens of thousands of images available, we wanted to make sure that there were simple and easy ways for PhillyHistory users to be notified when photos they are looking for are added to the database.

If you are a registered user (accounts are free and easy to create!), you can save your searches as bookmarks. On the Search page, set your search criteria (e.g. keywords, address, etc.) and click the 'Search' button. Once the results have loaded, click on 'My Bookmarks,' located above the thumbnail images on the right side of the page. Type a name for this search and click 'Save'. Photos and maps that fit your search criteria will be included in the results as they are added to the site. Instead of having to enter the same search criteria every time you visit, you can just click on the bookmark and it will automatically set the criteria for you.

If you'd like to know exactly when additions and changes are made to, you can select to receive 'news' (like a warning) about your bookmarks as an RSS news feed. RSS stands for Really Simple Syndication and tracks when changes or updates are made to a website. On, an RSS feed tracks when new images that meet the search criteria saved in your bookmarks are added to the website, and when changes are made to those images. To set up the RSS feed, click on the orange icon located next to the name of one of your bookmarks (easily accessed from the 'Search' page). On the next page, select how you would like to subscribe to the feed and then click 'Subscribe Now.' Now whenever an addition or change is made to the images that match your bookmarks, that change will be tracked and easily viewable whenever you access your RSS feed reader. To see the new added photographs, simply click on the link in your RSS feed reader.

We are not the only ones using RSS feeds. Because they are a powerful way to quickly and efficiently view changes that are made to a website, other websites offer this feature too.Some websites even use RSS feeds to track changes made on other websites!! For instance, EveryBlock Philadelphia, a website that features regularly updated news and public record information from across the city, includes links to photographs on Rather than having to constantly search PhillyHistory for new images, they simply subscribe to our RSS feed and by checking the feed, they know exactly which photos were added and quickly integrate the new photos into their website.

In addition to viewing bookmarked searches, the blog can also be tracked and viewed using an RSS feed. Subscribe to a RSS feed for just one more way to view the amazing photographs of Philadelphia's history.

Philadelphia Stories: Yours, Mine, Ours

In August 2007, over eighty photographs from were featured in the exhibit Philadelphia Stories: The Building of a Great American City held at the Art Institute of Philadelphia 1622 Chestnut Street Gallery. There was such a wonderful response to the exhibit that we've decided to do it again! The Philadelphia Department of Records has partnered with the Historical Society of Pennsylvania to make photographs from, as well as images from the collection of the Historical Society, available in Philadelphia Stories: Yours, Mine, Ours, a new exhibit currently on display at the Art Institute of Philadelphia.

Over 40 never-before-exhibited images paint a picture of the evolution of life in the city's neighborhoods from the invention of photography to the present day. The images draw from the City of Philadelphia's Department of Records' archive of over 2 million images, as well as the extensive photographic holdings of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania (HSP). The collection is enhanced by the contributions of ordinary Philadelphians who donated historic family images during the "Scan Your Memories" events sponsored by the Philadelphia Department of Records and HSP.

Philadelphia Stories: Yours, Mine, Ours will be on display in the 1622 Chestnut Street Gallery from December 3, 2008 - January 23, 2009. The exhibit is free and open to the public.


Your Neighborhood in Photographs:

While South Philadelphia remains the most searched for neighborhood on, there has been a tight, back and forth race for second place between Mayfair and Fishtown with Mayfair prevailing for the past few months. Just this past month, however, searches for Fishtown have surged, making it currently the second most searched for neighborhood on!

In honor of Fishtown, this month's "Your Neighborhood in Photographs" brings you photos of the neighborhood in the early 1900s.


Southwest Corner - Girard Ave. and Front Street-102-104 Girard Avenue, July 7, 1905. Shackamaxon Street Sewer- Ferry House, 1901.

Have a Question or a Comment?

With over 73,500 photographs and maps, dozens of blog entries, an entire Fine Art Collection, and a website full of special features, contains a wealth of information. Now we're looking for some information from you! Do you have a question about a certain photograph? Are you wondering about how we geocode or map the location of certain photos? Are you curious about information in a blog entry? Do you have the perfect suggestion for a new feature? Or do you just want to make a comment? Let us know! As we continuously revise, expand, and add more photographs to the website, we want to ensure that remains a location where people find the answers to their inquiries, the solutions to their history mysteries, and the perfect refresher for their memories. We welcome your questions and comments at all times. So when you get a chance, send us an e-mail at, introduce yourself, and tell us what YOU would like to know!