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Explore Story Collections

Stories offer an individual narrative of a specific subject. They are the building blocks of Story Collections.

 

This story collection originated as “The History” component of the University of Pennsylvania Archives’ online West Philadelphia Community History Center, inaugurated in 2009 by Penn’s director of Archives, Mark Frazier Lloyd, and the Penn historian Walter Licht.  

The Centennial Exposition of 1876, a world's fair of epic proportions constructed in West Fairmount Park, attracted almost 10 million visitors in the six months of its operation. The imprint of that event is still to be seen in parts of the park. 

Historic trends in migration, immigration, housing, employment, education, income, and health are shown in maps and graphs drawn from the U.S. Census and other government documents. 

Dick Clark’s American Bandstand, a popular though controversial TV program targeted toward teenage consumers, marked Philadelphia as the national epicenter of pop music during its seven-year run at ABC’s affiliated WFIL-TV at 4548 Market St.

West Park Apartments from the west

For three quarters of the past century, public housing has controversially served low-income residents of several West Philadelphia neighborhoods.

 

From 1834 to 1977, Philadelphia maintained its public hospital on the west bank of the Schuylkill River. The facility evolved from being a multipurpose almshouse to its single role as a full-service hospital.

Mantua Street Scene

In the decades after World War II, Mantua was a poor majority-African American neighborhood in West Philadelphia’s northeastern section. In the 1980s, Mantua Against Drugs worked to halt the spread of crack cocaine in this neighborhood. 

Hannah Schoff Family

Hannah Kent Schoff, a resident of Powelton for some 60 years, is known for her leadership of the campaign to establish a juvenile court system in Philadelphia; and for her leadership role in establishing the Parent Teacher Association (PTA) as a national organization with state affiliates.

Thomas E. Miller made his mark in history in South Carolina, where he bravely served as a four-time black legislator and one-time representative to the U.S. House between the Reconstruction and Jim Crow eras. Miller spent at least a decade of his later life in the Powelton neighborhood. 

Black and white portrait photograph of Sadie T.M. Alexander wearing glasses, print jacket, and blouse with large bow.

Sadie Tanner Mossell Alexander was a distinguished Philadelphian and Penn alumna who was the first African American woman in the United States to receive a Ph.D. degree in economics.  West Philadelphia’s splendid Penn Alexander Partnership School is named in her honor.

Mill Creek, once a power source for various mills, achieved notoriety in the 20th century as an underground culverted sewer and submerged floodplain that wreaked havoc with the West Philadelphia landscape.

An early 20th-century postcard displays the Market Elevated subway at 32nd and Market Streets.

The Market Street Elevated or “El” shaped 20th Century West Philadelphia.

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