Shareholder Spotlight: Eli Kirk Price (1797-1884)

Dana Dorman, Archivist, Library Company Papers Project

Receipt for a Library Company share dated 1733

Image: Receipt for a Library Company share, 1733.

We continue our monthly “Shareholder Spotlight” series by taking a closer look at share #1129 and its first owner, Eli Kirk Price (1797-1884).

Shareholders have always been the backbone of the Library Company of Philadelphia. Starting with the first group of fifty tradesmen who formed the library in 1731, shareholders have provided crucial financial support each year for our mission to “pour forth benefits for the common good.”

We keep careful track of who has owned each historic share, and our list of 9,800+ shareholders includes signers of the Declaration and Constitution, merchants, doctors, soldiers, scientists, artists, philanthropists, politicians, and much more.

Share #1129

This share was first issued to Eli Kirk Price (1797-1884) on March 23, 1863.

Price was a Philadelphia lawyer and politician who had an immense impact on the city. He served as a Pennsylvania state senator from 1854 to 1856, where he is credited with winning approval of the law that consolidated the city and county of Philadelphia. He also helped re-write Pennsylvania’s real estate laws and strengthened women’s property rights.

Portrait of Eli Kirk Price

Image: Portrait from The Biographical Encyclopaedia of Pennsylvania of the Nineteenth Century (Philadelphia, 1874).


Price also helped to found the Fairmount Park Commission, and served as its chairman from 1867 until his death in 1884. He served as president of the University Hospital, the Pennsylvania Colonization Society, and the Numismatical and Antiquarian Society. He was a trustee of the University of Pennsylvania, and a member of the American Philosophical Society and the Historical Society of Pennsylvania.[i]

Price was not new to the Library Company when he acquired share #1129 in 1863. He had previously owned Library Company share #559 from 1827 to 1830, but he acquired this share three decades later in exchange for a gift to the Library Company’s building fund.

The Library Company had been raising funds since the 1850s for a new “fire proof” building to replace its home located near 5th and Chestnut Streets. A register of subscriptions to the fund explains that the directors “felt for a long time serious apprehensions” because its building had become “so completely surrounded by stores and workshops, in some of which hazardous trades are carried on, that it has become exceedingly insecure.”[ii]

The building fund eventually helped construct a new circulating branch at Juniper and Locust Streets. The building opened in 1880.

After Price’s death in 1884, his executors sold the share to his grandson, Eli Kirk Price II (1860-1933).

Like his grandfather, the younger Price was a lawyer and a civic and cultural leader in Philadelphia. He too was a member of the Fairmount Park Commission, and he also served on the city’s Art Jury, which approved publicly funded construction.

Those positions helped him play a major role in the planning of the Benjamin Franklin Parkway and later in lining up support for the new Philadelphia Museum of Art, which opened in 1928. He served as president of the museum from 1926 until his death in 1933.

Black and white aerial photograph of the Philadelphia Museum of Art and surrounding land

Image: This aerial view of the Philadelphia Museum of Art was captured two years after the museum opened its doors. Aero Service Corporation, photographer, Philadelphia Museum of Art [graphic] (Philadelphia, 1930). Glass negative.

After Price’s death, the share passed to his widow, Evelyn T. Price (1866-1946), on May 11, 1933. Her share was forfeited about 15 years later, shortly after her death.

The share has been owned by four people total in its history.

Not yet a shareholder?

Share #1129 is currently available. We work hard to match potential shareholders with historic shares that match their interests, and we would love to match you with Eli Kirk Price’s share or another option. To learn more, reach out to our Development Office at or 215-546-3181 ext. 133.


[i] See the biographical note in the finding aid for the Eli K. Price papers (MSS 0281), University of Delaware Special Collections. (accessed June 10, 2024).

[ii] Fund to erect a fire proof building (Volume 120), Library Company of Philadelphia records (MSS00270), Library Company of Philadelphia.