Libraries and Historical Societies
For visitors looking to conduct research or attend a lecture on early American history, check out these libraries and historical societies in the Philadelphia region.
American Philosophical Society
An eminent scholarly organization of international reputation, the American Philosophical Society promotes useful knowledge in the sciences and humanities through excellence in scholarly research, professional meetings, support of young scholars, publications, library resources, a museum and community outreach. This country's first learned society, the APS has played an important role in American cultural and intellectual life for over 250 years.
Chester County Historical Society
This Historical Society located in West Chester contains the museum, library, photo archive, and cultural center. The society utilizes these organizations to preserve and educate the history of the area through various exhibitions and programs throughout the year.
David Library of the American Revolution
This non-profit research library specializes in American history from 1750 – 1800. The library houses over 40,000 rare books and 10,000 reels of microfilm. The organization also hosts free lectures of various American Revolution History scholars.
Hagley Museum and Library
The site of 1802 gunpowder works founded by E.I. Du Pont. Along with the museum and library, visitors can explore the vast site that includes the restored mill and home and gardens of the Du Pont family. The library specializes in the development of American technology and business enterprises from the late 1800s to the present.
Historical Society of Pennsylvania
An 1842 historical society that houses and maintains over 600,000 printed items relating to Pennsylvania and its regional history as well as manuscripts pertaining to 17th, 18th, and 19th-century assets. While research is typically the main reason for visiting, the Historical Society of PA also offers exhibitions featuring some of their artifacts. Visitors can also learn about the society's other rare documents, such as a first draft of the U.S. Constitution and an original printer's proof of the Declaration of Independence.
Library Company of Philadelphia
The Library Company of Philadelphia is an independent research library concentrating on American society and culture from the 17th through the 19th centuries. Free and open to the public, the Library Company houses an extensive non-circulating collection of rare books, manuscripts, broadsides, ephemera, prints, photographs, and works of art.
McNeil Center for Early American Studies
The McNeil Center facilitates scholarly inquiry into the histories and cultures of North America in the Atlantic world before 1850. The Center offers pre- and post-doctoral fellowships to encourage use of the Philadelphia area’s magnificent manuscript, rare book, and museum collections, conducts a seminar series to promote intellectual community among local and visiting faculty and graduate students, and organizes occasional national conferences to foster interdisciplinary research.
Rosenbach of the Free Library of Philadelphia
One of the largest collections of literature, with 30,000 rare books and 130,000 manuscripts housed in an 1800's house. The museum and library now provides space for researchers as well as tours and exhibitions devoted to the literature and period rooms.
The Athenaeum of Philadelphia
A special collections library founded in 1814 in an effort to connect American history with antiquities. Today the collection covers American interior design history and architecture, with a strong focus from 1800 to 1945. Tours by appointment are available, along with reserving space in the research rooms.
Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library
Founded by Henry Francis du Pont, Winterthur (pronounced “winter-tour”) is the premier museum of American decorative arts, reflecting both early America and the du Pont family’s life here. Its 60-acre naturalistic garden is among the country’s best, and its research library serves scholars from around the world. We invite you to visit and explore this place of beauty, history, and learning.