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Owl from N.W. Ayer
Owl with book, detail from N.W. Ayer building. A smaller version of this owl marks tour sites with exhibitions or other reasons to enter the building and spend additional time.

PACSCL Presents:
A Book-Lover's Guide to Philadelphia's Historic District
A Walking Tour of Literary, Printing, and Publishing Sites

Best time to tour: weekdays
Length of time: from 1.5 hours to all day, depending on how much time you spend looking at exhibits at libraries and museums (or shopping for books!).
All sites are free of charge unless otherwise noted
Download a printable tour map in Adobe Acrobat format

"At least one historian of printing believes that the first century of printing in Philadelphia was more brilliant in its accomplishments than any of the other colonies during the same period....Pennsylvania led the way in papermaking and the manufacturing of ink. The first American Bible in English was published in Philadelphia as were the first classic, first Shakespeare, first novel, first magazine, and first foreign-language newspaper, besides the first color printing and the largest single book printed in colonial times."

--John Tebbel, A History of Book Publishing in the United States

Philadelphia was the publishing and bookselling center of the new nation, and the neighborhood around Independence Hall and Washington Square has been the center of these activities for almost three centuries. This compact walking tour (less than 1 mile without the southern loop; 1.5 miles with loop) includes optional stops at at five special collections libraries, two museums, a bookshop in the Philadelphia tradition, and a look at a number of buildings connected with Philadelphia printing, publishing, and bookselling.

Franklin at APS
Copy of Lazzarini statue of Benjamin Franklin on Library Hall, American Philosophical Society, directly to the south of the Jefferson Garden

Little feet - diriections
Our tour begins

at Jefferson Garden, American Philosophical Society (southeast corner, Fifth and Chestnut)

Thomas Jefferson, who wrote the Declaration of Independence just two blocks away at Graff House, was also a book collector whose library formed the nucleus of the Library of Congress.

Little feet - directions
From the garden, walk south on Chestnut Street, noting the statue of Benjamin Franklin in a niche on the building. Turn left at the cobblestone walkway to reach the main entrance of the American Philosophical Sociey.

Tour stopAmerican Philosophical Society (A PACSCL member library)
Library Hall, 105 South Fifth Street, Mon-Fri, 9-5
Philosophical Hall, 104 S. Fifthth Street, by appointment

The American Philosophical Society, the nation's oldest and most prestigious learned society, has an international membership that includes about 100 Nobel Laureates. Founded by Benjamin Franklin in 1743 to promote knowledge in the sciences and humanities, it concentrates on the history of science and American History up to the Civil War -- through research, symposia, library resources, and community service. It is the oldest continuously-operating publisher of scientific works in the country. Changing exhibits.

Little feet - directions
Leave the American Philosophical Society, return to Fifth Street. Cross Fifth Street and walk south and west through State House Yard to Sixth and Walnut Streets to enter the Curtis Center, on the northwest corner.

The Curtis Center, Sixth and Walnut Streets, northwest corner
Tour stopEntrances on Sixth Street and Seventh Street

Dream Garden Mural is located on Sixth Street side

Curtis Center plaque
Plaque on Curtis Building
This Georgian Revival office building and factory, erected in 1910, was home to Ladies' Home Journal, Saturday Evening Post, Jack and Jill, and Holiday until the Curtis Publishing Company's demise in 1970. Norman Rockwell fans can see his famous Post covers at the nearby Atwater Kent Museum on 15 S. Seventh Street.
Dream Garden mural
Dream Garden Mural, Curtis Building

Walk into the Center's lobby and admire the 15' by 40' "Dream Garden" mural. This mosaic, said to be the last and favorite work of Louis Comfort Tiffany, produced from a Maxfield Parrish oil painting, consists of 100,000 glass pieces in 260 color tones. Millionaire Cyrus Curtis believed art should be available to all, so when, in the late 1990's, the mural's owners tried to sell and remove it from public view, Philadelphians raised an outcry.

Little feet - directions
Walk through the Center's 6-story atrium (and former printing well)
to Seventh and Walnut.

Bible Society Plaque
Bible House Plaque

The Pennsylvania Bible Society
701 Walnut Street
Tue-Thu 10:30-2:30

The first English language Bible in America was printed a few blocks north on Market Street in 1782, but the plaque is on The Bible House at this address. The Bible Society, in 1812, published the first Bible printed from Stereotype plates, a less expensive printing process, and produced over 17,000 Bibles from these plates. The Society has been at the Walnut Street address since 1853, and sells Bibles in 67 languages.

Little feet - directions
continue around Washington Square, viewing buildings on the west and south sides

About Washington Square and Publisher's Row:

Washington Square, originally called "Southeast Square", was one of five squares laid out by William Penn. The site served as a potter's field for yellow fever victims, a prison, and a Quaker Meeting house. Around the 1820's, it was planted as an arboretum of 400 trees of 50 varieties and renamed to celebrate the upcoming centenary of Washington's Birthday.

Publisher's Row began in 1785 with Matthew Carey's Lea & Febiger firm. Until 1840, Philadelphia rivaled New York as a publishing center, and controlled the inland Southern and Western fiction markets. Both cities relied on coastal and river navigation to reach readers, which is why we have Spring and Fall lists but no Winter lists since icy rivers blocked transport.

N. W. Ayer & Son Building. 210 W. Washington Square.

Tour stopThis splendid Art Deco building, erected 1927-29, was designed by Philadelphia architect Ralph Bowden Bencker and was home to the famous N. W. Ayer & Son advertising agency, creators of such famous advertising slogans as Morton Salt's "When it rains, it pours," DeBeers' "A diamond is forever" and the Army's "Be all you can be." Look for a printing press and other accouterments of the advertising art on the doors. The Egyptian motifs in the building were inspired by a 1920's Egyptian revival after the discovery of King Tut's tomb.

If the building is open, enter the lobby to see additional decorative elements, including the avian sculpture pictured below.

Ayer Door Ayer door detail Ayer lobby sculpturue
Ayer door detail Ayer vestibule detail

W. B. Saunders Publishing (220 W. Washington Square)

In 1888, Walter Burns Saunders founded a small publishing company with the goal of producing the finest quality medical books in the world. He sought out leading authorities as authors and worked to streamline the book production process without sacrificing quality in order to bring the latest in medical information to practitioners as quickly as possible.

Today, W.B. Saunders is part of Harcourt Health Sciences and is headquartered around the corner, in the Curtis Building.

Farm Journal BuildinigFarm Journal Building (230 W. Washington Square)

Quaker farmer Wilmer Atkinson founded The Farm Journal in 1877. By 1997, when it was sold to the Tribune Company, it was one of the oldest and most respected agricultural trade journals, with a circulation of over 600,000. This handsome brick building in the Colonial style was built on the site of the Orange Street Friends' Meeting House.

Washington Square South
Washington Square South. Christopher Morley is reported to have lived in the third house from the left, called "Morley's Inn" by his friends.

"Morley's Inn," S. Washington Square

Christopher Darlington Morley (1890-1957) reached the pinnacle of his popularity as a writer in the 1930's and '40's. Best known for his novel Kitty Foyle (the film version of which earned Ginger Rogers an Oscar for Best Actress), he was, in fact, quintessentially versatile. Erudite and witty, he probed every literary genre and exhibited a style of substance and facility. Though he is perhaps best remembered as a novelist and literary columnist, he is also remembered as a dramatist, essayist, editor, especially in connection with the Book-of-the-Month Club and anthologist of two editions of Bartlett's Quotations, and one of the founders of the Saturday Review of Literature. A great fan of Arthur Conan-Doyle's Sherlock Holmes, he was the founder of the well-known Baker Street Irregulars. Morley's poetry which he wrote in free verse and rhymed had a 17th century lilt to it. His Translations from the Chinese (1932) is considered some of his best poetry. Then again, his poetry was transduced into lyrics in collaboration with such song writers as Jerome Kern. His collection of essays on walks in Philadelphia is still in print at Christopher Morley's Philadelphia.

Christopher Morley was a graduate of nearby Haverford College (another PACSCL member library), and the Haverford College Library holds a comprehensive collection of Morley's works.


Lea & Febiger, 600 S. Washington Square

This attractive building was the last Philadelphia home of a firm that was a force in the U.S. publishing world for more than 200 years. It was founded in 1785 by Matthew Carey, who as a youth served his first printing apprenticeship with Benjamin Franklin in France. He opened his first Philadelphia venture with funding from the Marquis de Lafayette. His innovations included the first use of Greek type in the US,the first use of outside proofreaders, the first book fair, the first U.S. booksellers' association, the establishment of the U.S. reputation of such authors as Sir Walter Scott, as well as a number of advances in book distribution and promotion. In this latter he was abetted by the efforts of his colorful agent, Mason Locke "Parson" Weems, whose influence on the reputation of George Washington will never be fully eradicated.

Carey carried on an extensive correspondence with political and intellectual figures of the day, was active in the establishment the Hibernian Society and other efforts for the relief of poor Irishmen, and made a director of the Bank of Pennsylvania. When he died in 1839, his funeral was the largest seen in Philadelphia to that time.

The firm has undergone many changes of names over two centuries: Carey, Stewart & Co.; M. Carey & Son; M. Carey & Sons; Carey & Lea; Carey, Lea & Carey; Carey, Lea &Blanchard; Lea & Blanchard; Blanchard & Lea; Henry C. Lea; Henry C. Lea's Sons & Co., Lea Bros & Co. and finally Lea & Febiger.

Optional southern loop: Mother Bethel Church, Brinbridge Street Bookstores, Presbyterian Historical Society

Turn right on Sixth Street, walk south two blocks to Mother Bethel Church.

Mother Bethel Church
419 Richard Allen Avenue at the corner of Sixth and Lombard 215-925-0616
Call in advance for a tour of the church and the Richard Allen Museum. The museum is open after Sunday services for one hour, and Tue-Sat 10-3 by appointment only.

Mother Bethel A.M.E. church was founded by free black Richard Allen in 1794. Allen, with Absalom Jones and others, had founded of America's first African American social organization, the Free African Society, in 1787. Jones and Allen each founded an African American church after St. George's Methodist Church, where Allen had been a preacher, instituted segregated seating.

When the yellow fever struck Philadelphia in 1793, African Americans were thought to be immune, and the Free African Society worked tirelessly for the relief of Philadelphia's stricken white residents. When Mathew Carey repeated rumors that African Americans were exploiting the white victims in his A short account of the malignant fever, lately prevalent in Philadelphia: with a statement of the proceedings that took place on the subject in different parts of the United States , Jones and Allen responded with A narrative of the proceedings of the black People, during the late awful calamity in Philadelphia, in 1793; and a refutation of some censures, thrown upon them in some late publications.

Today Mother Bethel has a flourishing congregation. A museum in the church's lower level celebrates the life and work of its founders. The present Romanesque Revival building was constructed 1889-1890.

little feet - directions

From Mother Bethel Church, continue south to South Street (1 block), then turn left and walk 1 block east

Little feet - directionsThe Book Trader
[no longer at] 501 South Street 215-925-0219
10 a.m. - midnight every day

Billed as Philadelphia's largest used book store, the Book Trader offers an eclectic combination of fiction and nonfiction titles, as well as records. Although this Philadelphia institution moved to Old City (7 north 2nd Street) in early 2004, additional bookstores can be found one block to the south, in the 500 to 700 blocks of Bainbridge Street.

Little feet - directions

From the Book Trader, turn north on Fifth Street and walk one block north to Lombard Street, then turn right and enter the Presbyterian Historical Society.

tour stopPresbyterian Historical SocietyThe Presbyterian Historical Society (a PACSCL member library)
425 Lombard Street 215-627-1852
Mon-Fri 8:30-4:30
National Archives and Historical Research Center of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)

Founded in 1852, the Society's library contains over 200,000 volumes and 20,000,000 manuscripts. These represent official records, personal papers, books and images documenting the history of the church and the Reformed tradition in America. There is an exhibition hall where the visitor finds ephemera, books, letters, and other items relating to the church's history.

Little feet - directions
Return to the southeast corner of Washington Square (south Sixth Street).

Lippincott Building
227-231 South Sixth Street

J. B. LippincottJ.B. Lippincott has had many homes since its beginning in 1792 as a bookstall on Market Street -- not surprising, since at one point it was the largest distributor of books in the world, shipping a mind-boggling ten tons of books a day.

One of its many headquarters buildings can be seen on the east side of Washington Square -- and today, as Lippincott, Williams and Williams, it remains a leading publisher of professional health information for physicians, nurses, specialized clinicians and students. Its world headquarters are right around the corner from its Washington Square home, in the 500 block of Walnut Street.

tour stopAthenaeum of PhiladelphiaAthenaeum of Philadelphia (a PACSCL member library)
219 S. Sixth Street - 215-925-2688
Mon-Fri 9-5

Private subscription libraries predated our public libraries. Founded in 1814, this member-supported library -- a National Historic Landmark building in the Italian Revival style -- is furnished with early 19th-century American fine and decorative arts, and its library collections concentrate on architectural and design history prior to 1940. Visitors are welcome to the first-floor gallery. Make an appointment to tour the second floor and see the building's stunning reading rooms with 24-foot ceilings.

Little feet - directions
From the Athenaeum, cross Sixth Street and continue north past the Curtis Building to its twin, the Public Ledger Building.

Tour stopPublic Ledger Building
600-606 Chestnut Street

Public Ledger Building interiorReplacing an 1867 Second Empire building designed by John McArthur, Jr., the Public Ledger Building housed what was arguably Philadelphia's premier newspaper at the turn of the century. Prior to its demise in 1942, the Public Ledger was considered by the ladies and gentlemen of the Main Line, of Chestnut Hill, and Rittenhouse Square to be "the only newspaper any lady or gentleman should read."

Enter the lobby to see its handsome barrel vaulting and its eight-foot statue of Benjamin Franklin, then proceed to the right to see the Lights of Liberty headquarters on the Chestnut Street side. You may want to stop and make a reservation for this popular tour while here.

The Public Ledger was an early pioneer in the use of Richard Hoe's rotary press (1846) and the Bullock-Hoe web press (1868).

Richard Hoe - Rotary Press plaque

little feet - tour
Walk west on Chestnut Street one block to Seventh and then turn right (north). The next two sites are across the street from one another in the middle of the block.

tour stopThe Independence Branch of the Free Library of Philadelphia (a PACSCL member library)
18 South Seventh Street 215-685-1633
Mon, Wed 12-8; Thu, 1-5; Tue, Fri, Sat 10-5

This branch opened in February 2001 to serve five neighborhoods including Chinatown. It has two special collections. Chinese Interest includes over 3000 Chinese language items including books, videos, newspapers, Shakespeare, a large martial arts fiction collection, and children's classics such as Madeline. The Gay, Lesbian, Bi-Sexual and Transgender collection has over 2000 items. Programs offered at the Library include Chinese Web class, Calligraphy class, Chess Club, and several book clubs. It is a dynamic multi-cultural and multi-generational community center.

tour stopAtwater Kent Museum
15 South Seventh Street 215-922-3031
Daily, 10-5, closed Tuesdays and major holidays -- Admission Charge

Across the street from the library is the Atwater Kent Museum of the History of Philadelphia. Housed in the original home of the Franklin Institute, the museum has a small but fascinating collection of historic artifacts and a permanent exhibit of Norman Rockwell's art. The museum would be of interest to children over seven years old. Open daily, 10am - 5 pm, except Tuesday

(Side Trip: Down the street from the library, on Sansom Street, is Jeweler's Row, with more diamonds per square foot than a post-Oscar party.)

little feet - directions
After leaving the Library or the Atwater Kent Museum, walk North on Seventh Street to Market Street.

On the southwest corner is a recreation of the Graff House, in which Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence.

Turn right on Market Street, and continue east three blocks to Franklin Court

Tour stopFranklin Court (part of Independence National Park)
318 Market Street

Even over 200 years after his death, Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790) is probably America's most famous printer, though he was as adept as a writer as he was successful as a printer. His best-known productions are the newspaper the Pennsylvania Gazette and Poor Richard's Almanac, noted for its aphorisms penned by Franklin but in its time a useful, practical almanac. Franklin was also printer to the government of Pennsylvania and set up partnerships in other cities, all of which brought him considerable wealth and freed him to engage in public service. On Market Street are restorations of five buildings, one containing a working reproduction of a printing press and bindery, where you can see 18th century printing and bookmaking in action. There is also the restored office of The Aurora and General Advertiser, the newspaper published by Benjamin Franklin Bache, Franklin's grandson. In the Court itself are steel-frame silhouettes of Franklin's house (demolished in 1812) and his print shop. Through portals one can view archeological remains that include the privy, and underground is a museum devoted to Franklin. The Court was designed by architect Robert Venturi.

Little feet - directions
Exit Franklin Court on the Chestnut Street side. Turn left; the Chemical Heritage Foundation is the first building.

The Chemical Heritage Foundation (a PACSCL member library)
315 Chestnut Street 215-925-2222
Mon-Fri 9-5, by appointment

Chemical Heritage FoundationThe Chemical Heritage Foundation seeks to strengthen understanding of the chemical sciences and technologies. It encourages able students to concentrate their studies in these sciences and industries, and instills in chemical scientists and engineeers a greater pride in their heritage and their contributions to society. Housed in the First National Bank Building, original structure built in 1865.


This concludes PACSCL's book-lover's tour of the historic district.

Developed by the PACSCL Walking Tour Group: Janet Evans (Pennsylvania Horticultural Society), Roy Goodman (American Philosophical Society), Charles Greifenstein (College of Physicians of Philadelphia), Judith Robison (Rosenbach Museum & Library). Web page creation and additional photography by Laura Blanchard.


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