In 2018, the Library Company of Philadelphia launched our seminar series to offer community members an opportunity to explore the rich historical records of our collections. More than an exhibition of treasures, each seminar provides participants with access to carefully-curated materials such as historical documents, books, and prints, together with conversation guided by experts in a learning experience that promotes discovery, discussion, and reinterpretation.

In Fall 2019, we will offer our seminars in two formats.

All seminars will unfold over three sessions with interactive presentations and curated access to collection items in the Library Company reading room.

Traditional seminars include one reception in the Logan room. Tuition is $250 for the general public and $200 for shareholders.

Premium seminars include dinner after each session (three total) in the Logan Room. Tuition is $500 for the general public and $350 for shareholders.

To promote accessibility, need-based scholarships will be made available. Students, artists, and first-time participants, in particular, are encouraged to inquire with the program director, Will Fenton.

To register for the seminar, please contact Dayjah Brock, Events & Programs Coordinator, at or 215-546-3181, ext. 149. For more information about the seminar series, contact Will Fenton, Director of Scholarly Innovation, at or 215-546-3181, ext. 119.

From the LCP Blog…

About the Director of Scholarly Innovation

Victorian Sweets: Exoticism & Agrarianism in Local Confectionery

Eric Berley and Ryan Berley are co-owners of The Franklin Fountain and Shane Confectionery. Kevin Paschall is the head chocolate maker at Shane Confectionery.

Convenes 5:30-7:30 p.m. on November 21, December 5, and December 17, 2019

The first session includes a dessert reception catered by The Franklin Fountain.

Using 19th century advertisements, photos, packaging, and broadsides from the Library Company of Philadelphia’s rich collections, co-owners of The Franklin Fountain Eric Berley and Ryan Berley and head chocolatier of Shane Confectionery Kevin Paschall will explore the written and visual culture of the eighteenth- and nineteenth-century trades of confectionary, chocolate, and ice cream. The first session will reflect on 18th and 19th century ice cream culture, such as “pleasure gardens,” local cream, and exotic flavors offered right here in Philadelphia. In the second session, participants will examine a range of 19th century chocolate recipes and advertisements made for urban consumers that tout far-flung origins while trumpeting pastoral manufacturing. The final session will look at the inherent tensions expressed in local confectionery and the global sugar trade.

Shane Confectionery is the oldest continuously operating confectionery in the United States, with candy made on site since 1863. The Shane family took over the business in 1911, installing elaborately carved woodwork, stained glass and curved windows to showcase the chocolates and confections crafted in the kitchens above. In 2010, the business transitioned to brothers Eric & Ryan Berley, owners of the nearby Franklin Fountain, who embarked on a meticulous restoration of the building and business. Candies and bean-to-bar chocolate continue to be made on-site, with an emphasis on natural, locally-sourced, fair trade ingredients, seasonal specialties, and old-fashioned quality.

Owned and operated by brothers Eric & Ryan Berley, The Franklin Fountain was founded in 2004, but is an authentic re-creation of an American ice cream parlor and soda fountain, circa 1915.  Ice cream made on-premises is scooped and served in cones, sundaes and floated upon ice cream sodas drawn from a 1904 bronze & onyx soda fountain. Hot fudge, caramel and other toppings are made using fresh, local, fair trade ingredients. Soda jerks are dressed in period attire, serving customers an authentic early 1900s experience in a historic building with ornate tin ceilings, marble counters and mosaic penny tile floors.

Past Seminars

Mirror of a City: Images of Philadelphia, 1780-1950

Erika Piola, Director of the Visual Culture Program, Library Company of Philadelphia

Sarah Weatherwax, Curator of Print and Photographs, Library Company of Philadelphia

Convened 5:30-8:00 p.m. on September 26, October 10, and October 24, 2019

The Print and Photograph Department at the Library Company of Philadelphia holds one of the few public historical, American popular graphic arts collections in the country. With a focus on the visual history of Philadelphia from the era of the early nation through post-World War II, the graphic materials chronicle the evolution of the city and the story of their creators, collectors, and distributors like few others.

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

Dr. Walter Greason, Monmouth University

Convened January 24, January 31, February 28, and March 21, 2019

“Designing Afrofuturism” examined 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, explored how historical African American leaders envisioned the future. “Designing Afrofuturism” drew upon the Library Company’s prodigious African American History collections, including rare Afrofuturist literature and drawings, poems and songs, and speeches and protests.

Benjamin Franklin & Immigration

Dr. Carla J. Mulford, Pennsylvania State University

Convened 6:00 – 9:00 p.m., March 6, 2019

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. Dr. Carla Mulford, a leading scholar on Franklin, curated records that reveal Franklin’s shifting views on immigration, demographics, economics, and the environment. Drawing upon documents from Franklin’s time in Philadelphia, London, and Passy, participants in traced 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.

Graphic Materials: Early American Political Cartoons and Propaganda

Dr. William D. Fenton, Library Company of Philadelphia

Convened October 23, November 8, November 20, December 4, 2018

Led by Dr. Will Fenton, “Graphic Material” excavated the broadsides, engravings, political cartoons, caricatures, and ephemera that transformed early American politics. Canvasing the African Americana, John A. McAllister, and Political Cartoon collections, Fenton offered participants hands-on access to the Library Company’s vaunted visual culture materials. In addition to an eye-opening companion to election-year politicking, “Graphic Material” connected participants with leading practitioners, including award-winning editorial cartoonists Signe Wilkinson, Dwayne Booth, Ben Passmore, and John Cole.