The Library Company of Philadelphia will be closed Monday, December 24, 2018 through Tuesday, January 1, 2019.

Normal hours will resume on Wednesday, January 2, 2019.

Donations will be received  through the end of the year. For more information please  contact the Development Department.

The Library Company follows the policy of the School District of Philadelphia for all weather related closings and delayed openings. Please continue to check our website for current information.

Beginning January 2, 2019 the Print Department Reading Room hours will be 9:00am-4:45 pm, Monday-Thursday/Appointments preferred.


The front facade of The Library Company of Philadelphia at 1314 Locust Street, Philadelphia, PA.


A photo of the Library Company of Philadelphia first floor Reading Room filled with researchers.


Group of well-dressed women posed before a large gate.

For Scholars

A researcher using the Library Company of Philadelphia collections in the first floor Reading Room.

For Educators

The 2013 Summer Seminar for School Teachers participants with Richard S. Newman.

Upcoming Exhibition

Stylish Books: Designing Philadelphia Furniture

Upcoming Events

Gallery Tour: Stylish Books
Jan 16 @ 2:30 pm – 3:30 pm
Gallery Tour: Stylish Books @ The Library Company of Philadelphia | Philadelphia | PA | US

Curator-led Galley Tour of Stylish Books

Wednesday, January 16


Join us for a gallery tour led by the Curator of Art & Artifacts, Linda August. 

Printed designs spread new ideas. Artisans, as well as their patrons, relied on books as a way to learn about the latest fashions in interior decoration. Philadelphia became a center for creating stylish furniture. The Library Company played a role by acquiring architecture and design books, which its members, who included cabinetmakers, frequently read and used. On display will be items spanning the 18th through 19th century. Highlights will include: Thomas Chippendale’s book, A Gentleman and Cabinet-Maker’s Director; the only known copy of the tradecard of Benjamin Randolph (a Library Company member); and colorful plates by Désiré Guilmard, who inspired Philadelphia cabinetmaker George Henkels.

From Tragedy to Triumph: Teaching about Black Girlhood in the Late 19th Century
Jan 16 @ 4:45 pm – 8:00 pm

From Tragedy to Triumph:  Teaching about Black Girlhood in the Late 19th Century 

A Case Study of the Sanders-Venning Family

Wednesday, January 16

 4:45pm: Arrival and Registration

5:00pm – 6:30pm: Workshop and Collection Review

7:00pm – 8:00pm: Lecture

Presented by Dr. Nazera Sadiq Wright, Associate Professor, University of Kentucky

Close reading of primary sources provides ways to study broad historical movements through the eyes and lives of people who usually are not in textbooks. This workshop features scrapbooks and friendship albums made by free black young women in the north post-Civil War and offers insight into black middle-class life throughout the 1800s.  Information and resources shared will bolster social studies, language arts, and art curriculum as the sources shinelight on 19th century political and social history, especially on topics of childhood, social and economic class, and art and literature.  Teachers will leave with books, reproductions of sources, and prepared unit plans. Act 48 credit will be given, and free dinner and admission are provided.

This program is supported in part by the Library Company’s McLean Contributionship Educational Outreach Initiative, National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Dolfinger-McMahon Foundation. The McLean Contributionship Educational Outreach Initiative was funded through the Endowment Campaign for the Program in African History.

The Program in African American History brings together scholars and interested members of the public to explore and discuss every aspect of the experience of people of African descent in the Americas from the beginnings of European colonization through 1900.  For more than forty years, the African Americana collections of the Library Company have helped nurture and sustain rich scholarship that has added dramatically to our knowledge and understanding of that experience—and public exhibitions, lectures, and programs have sought to involve the broadest possible audience.

Collection Review: Preserving the Past
Jan 22 @ 2:30 pm – 3:30 pm
Collection Review: Preserving the Past @ The Library Company of Philadelphia | Philadelphia | PA | US

Preserving the Past: Early American Object Collecting

Collection Review

Tuesday, January 22


Philadelphia was the center for early American object collections, with Pierre du Simitiere’s American Museum, the Library Company, and Peale’s Museum. In the 19th century, people often collected and saved pieces of American history through relics. George Washington’s hair, snippets of the Star Spangled Banner, and other examples from the Library Company’s collection will be displayed.

Library Company Seminar: Designing Afrofuturism
Jan 24 @ 6:00 pm – Mar 21 @ 9:00 pm
Library Company Seminar: Designing Afrofuturism @ The Library Company of Philadelphia | Philadelphia | PA | US

Designing Afrofuturism: Imagining Black Futures through Art, History, and Literature

January 24 / January 31 / February 28 / March 21

6:00pm – 8:00pm

“Designing Afrofuturism” will examine the surviving art, architecture, and technology from indigenous civilizations across the African diaspora. Complemented by the upcoming Library Company exhibition “From Negro Pasts to Afro-Futures: Black Creative Re-Imaginings,” this seminar, led by Dr. Walter Greason (Associate Professor at Monmouth University), will explore how historical African American leaders envisioned the future. “Designing Afrofuturism” will draw upon the Library Company’s prodigious African American History collections, including rare Afrofuturist literature and drawings, poems and songs, and speeches and protests. Participants will learn how to reinterpret these historical records as the foundation of a twenty-first century global society and to pursue that vision through recent public exhibitions, public art campaigns, and community literacy programs.

About the Seminar Leader:
Dr. Greason’s research focuses on the comparative, economic analysis of slavery, industrialization, and suburbanization. He serves as the Treasurer for the Society for American City and Regional Planning History, which is holding its national conference this year in Cleveland, Ohio, from October 26 through 29, 2017. With a variety of co-editors, Dr. Greason has published Planning Future Cities(2017) – an innovative look at architecture, urbanism, and municipal design – as well as The American Economy (2016) – a provocative examination of race, property, and wealth in the United States since 1750. His scholarly monograph, Suburban Erasure, won the Best Work of Non-Fiction award from the New Jersey Studies Academic Alliance in 2014. He also won grants from the Mellon Foundation (2011) and the National Endowment for the Humanities (2016).

Space is limited, so early registration is encouraged!

To pay by check contact Colleen Gill, Development and Membership Coordinator, at or 215-546-3181, ext. 136. For more information about the seminar series, contact Will Fenton, Director of Scholarly Innovation, at or 215-546-3181, ext. 119.

Library Company Seminar: Benjamin Franklin & Immigration
Mar 6 @ 6:00 pm – 9:00 pm

Benjamin Franklin & Immigration 

March 6, 2019

6:00pm – 9:00pm

Few people of Benjamin Franklin’s generation understood better the importance of immigration to the British colonies of North America. Franklin’s ideas about immigrants and immigration evolved as his career moved from being a colonial leader in Philadelphia to a citizen of the world. His thinking about populations and about ethnic differences derive from his mutual concerns about laboring peoples and the environmental and economic circumstances of the North American colonies. By examining the Library Company’s historical records from Franklin’s time in Philadelphia, London, and Passy, we can trace how local circumstances shaped Franklin’s early thinking and how later experiences encouraged him to fashion a more global vision about immigration problems, goals, and strategies. Readings complementary to the Library Company’s holdings will enable participants to contextualize Franklin’s writings about peoples in North America and elsewhere, including indigenous peoples of North America, Ireland, and India; Scottish, Scots-Irish, and Irish peoples; Germans; Africans; French, and others.

Join Dr. Carla Mulford, a leading scholar on Franklin, as she curates original records that reveal Franklin’s shifting views on immigration, demographics, economics, and the environment. After an interactive presentation of historical materials in our reading room, participants will enjoy an intimate dinner and conversation in the Logan Room.

About the Seminar Leader:

Carla J. Mulford has published widely in the field of early American studies, but Benjamin Franklin has been her preoccupation over the last twenty years. She has published twenty articles and book chapters on Franklin, in addition to The Cambridge Companion to Benjamin  Franklin (Cambridge UP, 2009) and Benjamin Franklin and the Ends of Empire (Oxford UP, 2015). She is currently working on a new book, tentatively titled Benjamin Franklin’s Electrical Diplomacy. Professor of English at Penn State University, she is the Founding President of the Society of Early Americanists.

Space is limited, so early registration is encouraged!

To pay by check contact Colleen Gill, Development and Membership Coordinator, at or 215-546-3181, ext. 136. For more information about the seminar series, contact Will Fenton, Director of Scholarly Innovation, at or 215-546-3181, ext. 119.

Making a Republic Imperial
Mar 28 @ 9:00 am – Mar 29 @ 8:00 pm

Making a Republic Imperial 

Thursday, March 28, 2019

The Library Company of Philadelphia

1314 Locust Street, Philadelphia, PA

Friday, March 29, 2019

McNeil Center for Early American Studies

3355 Woodland Walk, Philadelphia, PA

How and why did the newly independent United States become an empire?  The answer to this question is not obvious. Before the American Revolution, the colonies and the continent beyond them were spaces of contest, collaboration, and competition among European empires, Native American powers, and enslaved and free African Americans. The founding generation of the early republic added its own imperial ambitions to this mix, revealing competing visions for the new nation, intense debate in the new citizenry about whether and how quickly the republic should expand, what role it should play among international states, and what its character and purpose should be. Some began calling their nation an “empire” almost as soon as they started calling it a republic, while others wondered if the idea of an expansive republic was a contradiction in terms. Yet in just seven decades, the fledgling republic had become an imperial juggernaut with ambitions to rule a continent and beyond. By the 1840s, the United States had refined its tools for dispossessing Native peoples and asserted a political economy grounded in black enslavement. It had conquered an immense amount of territory and claimed the Pacific Ocean as its western boundary, while setting its imperial sights upon regions, peoples, and resources much further afield.

At this conference, six panels of scholars will use empire as an analytical framework for thinking and writing about the early republic. They will employ a wide variety of methods and approaches to investigate how and why the new nation became an empire, and to explore the meaning and utility of empire as a category of analysis for understanding the history of the early republic.

Conference Program

Additional Conference Details 


All sessions at the Library Company of Philadelphia, 1314 Locust Street, Philadelphia

9:00–9:45AM             Registration & Coffee

9:45–10:00AM           Welcome

Cathy Matson, PEAES and University of Delaware

Daniel K. Richter, McNeil Center and University of Pennsylvania

10:00–11:30AM         Indigenous Sovereignty and the Ambitions of U.S. Empire

Chair: Michael Blaakman, Princeton University

Emilie Connolly, New York University
“Strategies of Succession and the 1797 Treaty of Big Tree”

Lauren Brand, Southern Nazarene University
“Facing West in Indian Country”

Garrett Wright, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
“Ambassadors to the Federal City: Central Plains Indians Discover the American Empire”

Comment: Elizabeth Ellis, New York University

11:30AM–12:00PM   Break

12:00–1:30PM            Industry, Trade, and the Imperial State

Chair: Cathy Matson

Susan Gaunt Stearns, University of Mississippi
“Selling the West: Frontier Merchants and Imperial Authority, 1780-1811”

Lindsay Schakenbach Regele, Miami University of Ohio
“How the National Firearms Industry Helped Make an Early Republic Empire”

Alicia Maggard, Williams College
“Pacific Mail, Industrial Empire: Building U.S. Power in the Pacific”

Comment: Honor Sachs, University of Colorado, Boulder

1:30–3:00PM              Lunch on your own

3:00–4:45PM              Knowledge Production and the Tools of U.S. Empire

Chair: Alexandra Montgomery, University of Pennsylvania

Tisa Wenger, Yale University
“Making Settler Secularism: Morse’s Geographies and American Religion”

Sveinn Jóhannesson, University of Cambridge
“Scientific Knowledge and Empire in Jacksonian America”

Michael Verney, University of New Hampshire
“Selling Empire: Publishing and Presenting Naval Imperialism in the Early American Republic, 1842-1860”

Comment: Ned Blackhawk, Yale University

4:45–5:00PM              Keynote Introduction

Emily Conroy–Krutz, Michigan State University

Michael Blaakman, Princeton University

5:00–6:00PM              Keynote Speaker

Kathleen DuVal, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
“Debating Empire, Race, and Nation in the Early Nineteenth Century”

6:00–7:00PM              Reception



All sessions at the McNeil Center for Early American Studies, 34th and Sansom Streets, Philadelphia

9:00–9:45AM             Registration & Coffee

9:45–11:30AM           Race, Slavery, and Geographies of Empire

Chair: Emily Conroy–Krutz, Michigan State University

Nancy Gallman, McNeil Center and Lewis & Clark College
“Unmaking an American Republic: Settlers, African Americans, and Constitutional Law in the Spanish Florida Borderlands”

Brandon Mills, University of Colorado, Denver
“From a Settler Empire to a Global Empire: Reconsidering the African Colonization Movement”

Scott Heerman, University of Miami
“Freedom in Chains: U.S. Empire, the Illegal Slave Trade, and the Case of East Texas, 1836-1845”

Comment: Rashauna Johnson, Dartmouth College

11:30–11:45AM          Break

11:45AM–1:30PM     Law and the Politics of Imperial Expansion

Chair: Bethel Saler, Haverford College

Jessica Choppin Roney, Temple University
“Inalienable: The Limits of an Empire Based Upon Natural Rights”

Julia Lewandoski, University of California, Berkeley
“An Empire of Indian Titles: Private Land Claims in Early American Louisiana, 1803-1840”

Camille Suarez, University of Pennsylvania
“This Land is Not Your Land: The Land Claims Act of 1851, Unratified Treaties, and the Dispossession of Californios and Native Americans”

Comment: Sarah Rodriguez, University of Arkansas

1:30–2:30PM              Lunch on your own

2:30–4:00PM              Imperialism and Its Discontents

Chair: Andy Shankman, Rutgers University-Camden

Margot Minardi, Reed College
“Pax Americana? The Imperial Ambivalence of American Peace Reformers”

Nick Guyatt, University of Cambridge
“Imperialism and the American Imagination”

Amy Greenberg, Pennsylvania State University
“When No Means No: The Question of Consent in the Ideology of Manifest Destiny”         

Comment: Rosemarie Zagarri, George Mason University

4:15–5:00PM              Closing Remarks                  

Michael Blaakman, Princeton University

Emily Conroy-Krutz, Michigan State University

5:00–6:00PM             Reception

The Program in Early American Economy and Society at the Library Company of Philadelphia, the McNeil Center for Early American Studies, the Department of History at Princeton University, and Iona College’s Institute of Thomas Paine Studies are pleased to co-sponsor this two-day conference bringing together scholars of imperialism in its multiple early North American forms and spaces.

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287th Annual Dinner Sponsors