Postcards from West Philadelphia
Some Early Twentieth Century Views

By the late nineteenth century, printing technology had progressed to the extent that color picture postcards were being produced inexpensively and in large numbers. It seems as if practically every city and town in the United States had something deemed worthy of recording on a picture postcard. Common subjects were street scenes, schools, historic sites, and feats of engineering and technology. Below are postcard images of West Philadelphia from the first decades of the twentieth century. Click on the images to view them at a larger size.

If you have other postcards or photographs of West Philadelphia scenes that you'd like to share, or if you have more information about the images below, please send us an e-mail.


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Caption on upper right reads:

Philadelphia, Pa.
West Spruce Str.

This is a view of the north side of the 4000 block of Spruce Street, looking west toward 41st Street. It appears to show a planted median in the middle of the street, although it is probably just be a simplification of the image by the postcard artist; trolleys ran on Spruce Street starting in 1885. The buildings in the foreground date to around 1896 and were developed by J. Clark Moore. In the distance, at the end of the block, are a set of brick rowhouses built in 1877 by Clarence H. Clark that have been attributed to the architect Frank Furness.

Postmarked July 25, 1907 in Tunnelton, PA and Livermore, PA.
Delivered to Livermore, PA.

The Hugh C. Leighton Co., Manufacturers, Portland, Me., U.S.A.
Printed in Frankfort o/Main, Germany
No. 785

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Caption on lower right reads:

Elevated R.R. from 32nd St., West Philadelphia, Pa.

The Elevated Railroad, or "El," opened in West Philadelphia in 1907. The opening of the El initiated a building boom that would lead to the development of large tracts of rowhouses and apartment buildings that extended west to the city's boundary at 63rd Street. Today, the El is only elevated west of 45th Street in West Philadelphia; to the east it is now a subway.

No date, postmark, or publisher information.

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Caption on lower left reads:

Philadelphia, Pa., St. Pauls Presbyterian Church 50th Street and Baltimore Ave.

This church still stands. Today it houses the Hickman Temple A.M.E. Church.

Postmarked Dec. 26, 1910 in Philadelphia.
Delivered to Harrisburg, Pa.

The Hugh C. Leighton Co., Manufacturers, Portland, Me., U.S.A.
Printed in Germany

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Caption on upper right reads:

Philadelphia, Pa. College Hall, University of Pennsylvania

Postmarked July 11 [year not legible] at Kingsessing Station, Philadelphia
Mailed to Perkasie, Penna.

O.S. Bunnell, Philadelphia, Pa.
Printed in Germany

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Caption on lower left reads:

5536 College Hall University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia

Postcard unmailed.

Copyrighted 1901 by Detroit Photographic Co.

These two images of College Hall at the University of Pennsylvania date to the first years of the twentieth century. The first shows the south side of the building, facing Spruce Street. The second shows the north side, facing what is now Locust Walk. Designed by architect Thomas W. Richards and completed in 1872, College Hall was one of the first University buildings constructed in West Philadelphia after Penn moved from Center City. The east tower, which housed a clock, was taken down in 1914. The west tower, which housed a bell, was removed in 1929.

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Caption at top reads:

170:--Museum of University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pa.

Verso caption reads:

"MUSEUM OF the University of Pennsylvania, located at 33rd and Spruce. The collections are not only very extensive in American Archaeology and the illustration of folk-lore, but are among the richest in the country in remains of the extinct Babylonian and Egyptian civilizations."

Postcard unmailed. Undated. Published by P. Sander, Philadelphia & Atlantic City

The Museum's vaguely oriental and Italian romanesque exteriors display a remarkable melange of Renaissance and Mannerist inspired sculpture and mosaic work, a combination which creates a masterful expression of American Arts and Crafts aesthetic libertarianism.

The University of Pennsylvania Museum was designed by a team of three prominent Philadelphia architects, all of whom taught on the faculty of the University of Pennsylvania -- Wilson Eyre, Cope and Stewardson, and Frank Miles Day and Brother. The first phase was completed in 1899 and housed the discoveries from an expedition to the ancient site of Nippur. In 1915, the rotunda was completed. The photograph above most likely predates 1915, because its rotunda has been drawn in. Compare it to the postcard shown below...

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... an earlier edition of the postcard above. The photographic image is identical, but has been colored differently and has no rotunda drawn in. Also notice that this edition has a foreground horse and buggy, which was later redrawn into a motor car in the postcard above.

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View from roughly 34th and Walnut, looking southwest along Woodland Avenue (right) with University of Pennsylvania's College Hall [note east clock tower] (center left) and Furness Library (far left)

see more postcards:
Universities | Bartram's Garden
West Philadelphia Institutions | Government Buildings