Encyclopedia of Greater Philadelphia

About This Project

The Encyclopedia of Greater Philadelphia is a civic project to increase understanding of one of America’s greatest cities. Based at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Center for the Humanities (MARCH) at Rutgers-Camden, the encyclopedia project builds from a foundation of civic engagement and brings the work of leading and emerging scholars to a wide general audience. From abolition and the American Revolution to yellow fever and zoos (with cheesesteaks, rowhouses, and hundreds of other topics in between), the digital Encyclopedia and its print volume will offer the most comprehensive, authoritative reference source ever created for the Philadelphia region.

  • Readers will discover the origins and history of this dynamic city and its connections with its nearby neighbors, the nation, and the world.
  • Residents of the Delaware Valley will see how their experiences combine to create the vitality of social, cultural, economic, and political life.
  • Students, teachers, and community organizations will have ready access to reliable information, and policy-makers will find the lessons of the past that are necessary for charting the future.

With lively and informed essays, original maps, and new research on topics of current interest, The Encyclopedia of Greater Philadelphia will create a legacy of understanding for generations to come.



We seek to understand Greater Philadelphia.
The Encyclopedia will be attentive to ways that Philadelphia is distinctive as well as its connections and relationships with the region, the nation, and the world.

We will situate Philadelphia at the hinge between its past and future.
The Encyclopedia will encompass history but also will be forward-looking in ways that are useful to citizens and policy-makers.

We strive to build community.
The Encyclopedia will create linkages between particulars (such as neighborhoods and ethnic identities) and patterns (such as urban development and immigration).

We seek to animate the Philadelphia experience.
The Encyclopedia will be lively as well as informative. Attention will be paid to significant individuals, institutions, and groups that have had impact on the city and region. Emphasis will be placed on the alliances, tensions, and dynamics that make the city work.

We will construct content from multiple ways of knowing.
Contributors will build new knowledge from a variety of sources including texts, visual sources, and artifacts.

We will provide an authoritative reference source.
The Encyclopedia will adhere to the highest standards of scholarship and undergo rigorous review and fact-checking.

We recognize that new knowledge is created both inside and outside the academy.
The Encyclopedia will build upon the foundation of public history and policy work as well as published scholarship.  We invite public input and scrutiny.

We are creating a legacy.


Read more about the Encyclopedia project in Cross-Ties, the newsletter of the Mid-Atlantic Regional Center for the Humanities.

Working Table of Contents

Updated July 2012: Sortable Excel Spreadsheet (subjects, topics, lengths, themes)

Updated July 2012: A-Z List of Topics (PDF)

We continue to welcome public nominations of topics.  Please use the “Nominate a Topic” link on this page.


Logo of Rutgers-Camden

7 Comments Comments

  1. What an exciting project! Hopefully the encyclopedia will include biographical articles on major historical Philadelphians, William Penn and Benjamin Franklin of course, but also other leading contributors to politics, business, arts and sciences, sports and others spheres of our community life over more than three centuries. Individuals like John Wanamaker, Thomas Eakins, Joseph Leidy, and Connie Mack, along with many others, come immediately to mind!

    John Francis Holland Posted April 17, 2009 at 10:01 am
  2. From the discussion two weeks ago, it seems that the Philadelphia volume should be broken into two parts-a print volume which would contain original analytical essays and an on-line version which should contain a lot of names, prominant and not so well known Philadelphians and other places and things that are useful when you need to know something about the metropolitan area. There are many useful essays that should be in the book and they should be based on analysis. I would include sections on the Founding of Philadelphia, Philadelphia as a center for medicine, the economy of early Philadelphia (or 19th cnetury, or 20th century). The political culture of the city (many periods), Shopping in Philadelphia (I would do that) or many other areas of scholarly and popular interest. You should have articles on prominant sections of the city and of major suburbs. In the on-line section, there is room for names and places. A few names might make the printed work, but who needs another essay on Franklin. Good luck, you did a great job at the meeting. Herb

    Herbert Ershkowitz Posted April 29, 2009 at 12:36 pm
  3. Brilliant idea to write a history of the metro region that reflects current historical paradigms, changing historiography and the rise of public history within the discipline. I would just add that a long essay on the importance of science and medicine in the region would be essential.
    [comment received April 24; re-posted by the editors May 1]

    Timothy Kneeland Posted May 1, 2009 at 12:17 pm
  4. The project is excellent and challenging. I recommend including the following:
    Historical importance of the Philadelphia Women’s College of Medicine
    Fairmount Park Art Association [papers at HSP]
    Public sculpture and painting
    All museums in Philadelphia
    Philadelphia Impressionism, International Style architecture and the like
    Utilize “Philadelphia: Three Centuries of Art,” the PMA’s Bicentennial exhibition, reprinted in 1990.
    [comment received April 24; re-posted by the editors May 1]

    Roberta K. Tarbell Posted May 1, 2009 at 12:19 pm
  5. Wow. How did I miss this for such a long time?! I have a couple of suggestions: The importance of science and medicine, historically, today and in a vision for the future–treatment, research, teaching and the ever-developing roles of patients and families (i.e. consumers) in all of the above as well as advocacy and public education–deserves much more than just a long essay, especially in view of Philadelphia’s status as the birthplace of American medical education and, by extension, of American medicine. I would also suggest devoting significant attention (and space!) to this region’s historical, current and, I hope, future status as a hub of libraries and information centers of all kinds: public, academic, medical, organizational, business, law, historical and genealogical, governmental, the list goes on. I’m not just saying that because I’ve worked as a librarian at the Free Library for over 23 years, but because it’s true…and because, like most libraries, the Philadelphia region’s tend to be taken for granted, though they’re among the best and, in their totality, most diverse anywhere.

    Barbara Pilvin Posted October 15, 2009 at 11:41 am
  6. Is this wonderful resource still being updated?

    Catherine Collins Posted March 20, 2018 at 4:21 pm
  7. Yes, we are continuing to add topics! Watch the “what’s new” box on our home page for the latest updates.

    curator Posted March 21, 2018 at 1:54 pm

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