Nominate A Topic

What would you like to know about Philadelphia and its history? Nominate a topic and tell us why you’d like to see it in The Encyclopedia of Greater Philadelphia. To submit your ideas to the editors, simply scroll to the bottom of this page.

239 thoughts on “Nominate A Topic

  1. The history of the development, growth, and regulation of the alcoholic beverage industry, including hard liquors, in Philadelphia and the financial and social impact of Prohibition are natural subjects for a Philadelphia encyclopedia. Disclosure: I have a personal interest in the subject because my Irish immigrant Great-Grandfather Ralph Sullivan was a liquor dealer in Philadelphia for many years.

  2. To the Committee:

    I am the Great Granddaughter of Douglas Marks, a well known West Philadelphia Green Grocer of the late 19th. Century, and his wife Annie. I am looking for family history, but also generally for information about Philadelphia Green Grocers. Family word of mouth is that Douglas operated a group of horse drawn wagons which sold fruit and vegetables up and down the allies of West Philadelphia door to door. I don’t know much more about the business, however. Your help would be greatly appreciated. Many thanks.

  3. Why not add something about the union reform that occurred in Philly during the early 60s with The Voice and the Teamsters?

  4. How about an essay on the history of medicine and of health-care-practitioner training (human and animal) in Philadelphia? Many people don’t know that this city was the birthplace of medical education in the United States!

    And with that: the history of psychiatric care in Philadelphia, which is where American psychiatry began…

    …and, unless it’s already been suggested: Philadelphia’s role in Civil War-era medicine, including Satterlee, the enormous Union hospital in West Philadelphia to which many Gettysburg Battle survivors were taken and which earned an impressive record for its low mortality rate. (Today’s Clark Park is on that site, though the hospital extended north of it to what is now 45th and Pine, and I believe south, east and west of it as well.)

  5. How about an essay on Latin American and Latin@ migration to Philly? I mean it’s thanks largely to Latin American and Latn@ migration that Philly grew in population for the first time in decades, according to the 2010 Census. I might be interested in writing one. Although I’m in Massachusetts and have been since 1995, I still feel more at home in Filadelfia (especially now that it’s Latinizing) than in New England.

    I also agree 100% with Dallett. A section of biographies on real lives of real Philadelphians (famous and less famous) would be great.

  6. This is all terrific, but to me what is lacking is Philadelphians! There are so many incredible life stories that make the city’s history much more compelling. How about a section on biography (of both the famous and not-so-famous)?

  7. What about disasters? By my (very rough) count, Philadelphia has had, since about 1835, more than 65 major fires, 27 fatal explosions, about a half dozen ship disasters, two each floods and significant hurricanes as well as eight other deadly weather events, six building collapses and more than 20 train wrecks. Also Philadelphia building codes, which of course reflect responses to these.

  8. From the 18h century, Philadelphia was the center of professionally-made (as opposed to homemade) American lighting fixtures. Its elegant chandeliers and wall scones were found nationwide from the middle of the 19th century. The original central chandelier in the 1857 Academy of Music is still in use.

    The story of how this industry began should be told.

  9. African American political achievements in Philadelphia

    Not very many cities have produced so many African American mayors and Congress members. Even fewer of those cities have not had a majority black population. The success of biracial political alliances in Philly is distinctive and ought to be a point of pride. I have written about this extensively in _Subordination or Empowerment?_ (Oxford University Press).

  10. Richard Waln provides a human bridge linking the merchant world of Philadelphia that was involved in importing and exporting goods from the Caribbean, North Carolina, London, and/or greater Philadelphia to the human struggles of abolition and freedom. This entrepreneur moved his operations to New Jersey and after the Revolution became heavily involved in New Jersey Supreme Court manumission disputes involving African American men, women, and children in West and East Jersey, who were held in bondage while they were free blacks. Waln will be a key contact for the Pennsylvania Abolition Society on questions of New Jersey writs of habeas corpus disputes. The “famous” Quakers are well known for their humanitarian efforts, such as Benezet and Woolman, and even Allinson. Waln’s story is an emerging one, and illustrates the impact Philadelphians have when they leave the City of Brotherly Love. Let me know if you would like a brief essay on Waln, drawing from the HSP and Haverford Quaker Special Collections, to illustrate one man’s transition from selling slave-made products and selling a slave owned by his wife to a man who became of voice advocating “a natural right to liberty”. Sue Kozel

  11. A fine entry for the Greater Philadelphia Encyclopedia would be Roebling, N.J., in Burlington County. The John A. Roebling’s Sons Company built its Kinkora Works Steel and Wire Mill starting in 1905, and built the adjacent village of Roebling to house its workers. The Kinkora Works produced steel wire for seven decades, including the wire in the cables on the George Washington and Golden Gate Bridges. The Roeblings followed the example of George Pullman in Chicago by erecting solid brick buildings in their village – more than 750 houses, two workingmen’s hotels, an inn, a community hall, and stores. Details are contained in my book, The Roebling Legacy ( This entry could go under Iron & Steel in the Workshop of The World category. Please let me know if you would like me to write the entry.

  12. Though recounting the history of a fellowship whose members are anonymous presents certain problems, I suggest an article on Alcoholics Anonymous in Philadelphia (Philadelphia being a very early — February 1940 — location for A.A., and the Philadelphia A.A. members having been responsible for the first true nationwide publicity for A.A., the Jack Alexander article in the SatEvePost in 1941. I would be happy to write the piece. {I serve as editor of CULTURE ALCOHOL & SOCIETY [Newsletter of the Kirk/CAAS Collections at Brown], which published my AHA piece on “Problems in the History and Historiography of Alcoholics Anonymous.”)

  13. The rowhouse and what it represents in Philadelphia’s history. Gets into the peculiar form of landholding that made it affordable (ground rent), forms and adaptations inside and out as family or fashion demanded, and so on. I’d love to work with someone on this article, should you choose to add this topic.

    So many wonderful suggestions!

  14. William Penn laid out his city in a grid pattern to allow for fresh air and prevent fire. What is the story behind his suveyors plans for the suburban counties that are found today. Numersous streets laid out by Thomas Holmes remain such as Street, Almshouse , Bristol and County Line roads in Bucks COunty.

  15. The following topics were submitted on comment cards at the Greater Philadelphia Roundtable program, “City of Neighborhoods,” on March 28, 2012, at the Philadelphia History Museum at the Atwater Kent:

    – Gentrification of Philly neighborhoods
    – Why do some cities fail and others succeed?
    – Museums
    – Banking history
    – Philadelphia / decline 1970s
    – the City during the wars and conflicts of the 20th century
    – Urban development / real estate legislation
    – Public schools – changes in locations, feeder patterns – impact of continued closing of neighborhood schools on surrounding communities
    – Public transportation
    – Public health and hospitals
    – Workhouses
    – Prisons
    – More about neighborhoods p-l-e-a-s-e
    – Markets (food) in Philly, history and future
    – Business
    – Contributions of the Jewish community to Philadelphia, i.e. Gratz family
    – Significance of urban renewal on the quality of life in the city
    – Impact of Section 8 housing on neighborhoods
    – The expanding role of Charter Schools (since the 90s) on education in Philly
    – The ethnic basis of neighborhoods, by way of their houses of worship
    – The role of South Street in the history of immigration
    – Neighborhoods identified by “parishes”
    – Effects of use of public transportation vs cars on communities / neighborhoods
    – A recipe collection from all the diverse populations in the city
    – Civic / community organizations history

  16. This encyclopedia would benefit immensely with entries on “Restaurants,” both collectively and individually. Collectively, restaurants have helped revive portions of Philadelphia and have allowed residents and visitors to reimagine the city. Individually, restaurants (past and present) such as Bookbinders, Horn and Hardhart, The Vesper Club, Arthur’s, Le Bec Fin, White Dog Cafe, The Continental, Vetri, and many others each inspire stories about the character of Philadelphia.

  17. Philadelphia and jazz

    I’ve always wanted to see the John Coltrane House be renovated and made into a museum and/or school for jazz. Strawberry Mansion needs to be reminded that it was once a thriving part of the city and could be again.

  18. I would love to see the following topics:

    (1) Immigration – historically and prospectively.
    (2) The african american experience – compare and contrast versus other large northeastern cities.
    (3) Municipal Brand: Beyond the gilded age, how did the rest of the world forget all the aspirational allure of Philadlephia – the ivy league regatta’s and equestrian culture, the mansion’s of delancey and rittenhouse, Jack + Grace Kelley, the Philadelphia Story…even more recently, the soap opera (was it One Life to Live or All my Children) or the series Thirty Something…

  19. The following topic nominations were received on comment cards at the Greater Philadelphia Roundtable discussion program, “Philadelphia, the Place that Loves You Back,” on February 22, 2012, at the Independence Visitor Center:

    – Hidden City Philadelphia
    – #whyilovephilly campaign
    – Young Involved Philadelphia
    – Wagner Free Institute of Science
    – Childhood in Phila – play; childhood icons
    – 1876 Centennial Exhibition
    – Photography
    – Urban crisis narrative in Philadelphia
    – Food co-opes, or cooperatives overall
    – Toynbee tiles (as public art and mystery)
    – Yellow Seeds – Asian American community newspaper (1970s)
    – The history of row houses
    – The history of voting
    – We need to educate the city about its programs; make us smarter, then we’ll promote

  20. I nominate the industrial and agricultural history of Philadelphia (and its nearby counties.) Chester County was the breadbasket of the British Empire, and a good deal of flour and wheat was exported from Philadelphia to global markets. This led to great technological innovations like those developed by Oliver Evans, a much-overlooked inventor who was the first to automate the flour milling industry. The Greater Philly area still has some of the best preserved examples of American industry (mills of various kinds) in the country.

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