Browse Collections (12 total)
The African Episcopal Church of St. Thomas was an outgrowth of the African Church of Philadelphia founded in 1792 by the Free African Society, a mutual aid organization, established in 1787 by Absalom Jones and Richard Allen for the purpose of encouraging religion, literacy, and providing destitute members – especially widows and orphans – with financial assistance. Absalom Jones led the congregation and became the first African American admitted to Holy Orders in the Episcopal Church when Bishop William White ordained him a deacon in 1796 and a priest in 1802. Richard Allen formed Mother Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church which became a separate Methodist denomination. Records consist of vestry minutes, pew rents, birth and baptismal records as well as some records of the Free African Society.
Founded in 1695, Christ Church was the first Anglican church to be established in Pennsylvania. This fulfilled the provision outlined by King Charles II in the charter he granted to William Penn in 1681 stipulating that if twenty individuals requested an Anglican clergyman the Bishop of London would appoint one. Accordingly, thirty-nine Philadelphians came together in 1695 to form Christ Church. Located on Second Street, just north of Market Street the Church transitioned from a small frame structure in its early years to the imposing Georgian structure built from 1727-1754 that still stands on the site today. Members of the Continental Congress and early government officials worshipped here and seven signers of the Declaration of Independence are buried on Church property. When the congregation grew too large to be accommodated here the vestry built St. Peter's at the southern edge of the city in 1760 and later St. James. Those United Churches remained a unit until the 1820s and 1830s. Christ Church is an active Episcopal parish today as well as a major historic site.
The records consist of vestry minutes, parish records, accounting and financial records, deeds, architectural drawings, photographs, and audiovisual materials. In addition, there are materials from parish organizations and affiliated institutions such as Christ Church Hospital, Episcopal School, Christ Church Burial Ground, and Christ Church Preservation Trust.
Congregation Mikveh Israel (officially Kahal Kadosh Mikveh Israel), known as the "Synagogue of the American Revolution" is one of the most historic Congregations of Jews in the United States. The oldest Congregation in Philadelphia, Mikveh Israel was informally established by religious minded Jews in British America during the 1740s, and has become the second-oldest surviving Congregation in all of the United States. In Pennsylvania, and Philadelphia in particular, Jews found an environment of tolerance for their religious beliefs and traditions made possible by William Penn's 'great experiment'. The possibilities of economic and religious liberties in Philadelphia drew many Jews to the area, and by 1775 a community 300 strong existed in a city of 35,000.
During the war of Independence, 1775-1783, Jews from New York, Easton, Lancaster, Richmond, Charleston and Savannah sought refuge in Philadelphia from the British occupation. Many members joined the ranks of the Patriots and fought for the revolutionary cause.
In 1782, the Congregation dedicated a new building on Cherry Street that sat 200 persons and had accommodations for the clergy adjoining it. In 1829 the congregation built an Egyptian Revival synagogue on Cherry Street. Designed by William Strickland, it is notable for having been one of the earliest Egyptian Revival buildings in the United States. After moving out of Center City, along with much of Philadelphia's population in the first half of the 20th century, the Congregation announced in 1961 that it would return to construct a new house of worship. A modest building, initially shared between the Synagogue and the Museum of Jewish History, was dedicated and opened in August 1976.
Among items in the archives of Congregation Mikveh Israel are letters written by George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, and a public subscription list for the 1782 building signed by Benjamin Franklin, David Rittenhouse, and other civic leaders. Several notable ritual items also exist, including ornamental bells (“rimmonim”) crafted by renown silversmith Myer Myers.
After the American Revolution, Anglicans became Episcopalians. Led by the Reverend William White, they organized the Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania in 1784. White became its first bishop three years later. Initially, the Diocese spanned a vast area, extending from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh, encompassing the whole of Pennsylvania. By 1910 there were five Episcopal dioceses in Pennsylvania, and the Diocese of Pennsylvania consisted of Philadelphia, Bucks, Montgomery, Chester, and Delaware counties.
The Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania's Archives are home to a vast array of material relating to the people and parishes comprising the Diocese as well as the Diocese itself. Within its stacks are material relating to parishes that have closed, the registers, the vestry minutes as well as documents making up the life of these churches which are no longer with us. It also holds a large volume of histories, both at the parish level comprising both active and closed parishes, as well as histories of the diocese and its various organizations.
The Archives also holds a large volume of material related to those committed to running the Diocese. There are records from the various Bishops, Standing Committee and General Conventions, to better understand the direction we have come from. There are also various print runs of the publications the Diocese has put out as well including a long run of the Church News.
Notable for its early leadership in Baptist organization and evangelism, the First Baptist Church of Philadelphia was prominent both in its region and city and in the transatlantic community of Baptists. Begun in 1698 as a mission of the more suburban Pennepack (now, Lower Dublin) Baptist Church, First Baptist soon became the leading congregation for the city, region, and colonies, gaining independent status from Pennepack in 1746.
In 1707 the church hosted the organizing meeting of the Philadelphia Baptist Association, the first lasting inter-regional organization of Baptists in America, and over the years provided a disproportionate share of this group’s officers. From the beginning, the lives of this association and the First Baptist congregation were intertwined, with the church meeting house hosting meetings of the association and welcoming delegates, called messengers by the Baptists, from as far south as Charleston and as far north as Boston. By the 1760s, the first decade for which minutes survive, the congregation had gained prominence beyond its modest size, including among the transatlantic Baptist network. This prominence had to do with its leaders hosting and shaping the role of the Philadelphia Baptist Association, to which far-flung congregations wrote letters that began, “Dear Mother.”
The life of the congregation and its leaders was also intertwined with that of its city, with several ministers taking teaching posts at the University of Pennsylvania, then the College and Academy of Philadelphia. William Rogers, for example, came from New England to pastor the church but remained in that post for only three years, though active in the congregation and as a supply preacher until his death in 1824. Like several other Baptist ministers, Rogers served as a military chaplain during the American Revolution, an event that made havoc of the congregation’s finances and leadership. While these Baptists supported the American rebellion as a fight for necessary liberties, their former pastor Morgan Edwards criticized the rebels until 1775 when he was convinced to revise his opinion. With his excellent preaching, historical research and publications on early Baptists, and support for formal education leading to the founding and support of Brown University, Edwards embodied the strengths of Baptists. It was under Edwards’ leadership that First Baptist built a new and larger meeting house at the same time accepting the need to lend their pastor to the larger Baptist cause and arranging for supply preaching while Edwards traveled the colonies as an evangelist, church organizer, and historian of Baptists. Despite these successful efforts toward gaining respect and leaders for Baptists, Edwards’ connection with the Philadelphia congregation grew strained during the 1780s, largely because Edwards struggled through bouts of drinking and subsequent church meetings for discipline, only being restored to the congregation’s fellowship in late 1788.
When in 1814 Baptists from twelve states gathered to form a national organization in support of Baptist missions, the meeting was at the First Baptist meeting house in Philadelphia, with two of the four officials chosen being laymen from that congregation and a third, William Staughton, a former pastor. Throughout the next century, the congregation grew in numbers and influence in the city and in national and global mission programs, despite conflicts related to theology, leadership, and relationships with daughter churches, including two competing First African Baptist congregations. Its early interest in circulating religious pamphlets, as well as Philadelphia’s wealth of printers, made it feasible for American Baptists to locate their publishing operations in the city, where they remained until 1961, when operations moved to a new building and printing plant in Valley Forge.
Presbyterians began gathering for worship in Philadelphia in 1692, sharing a building known as the "Barbadoes Warehouse” at Second and Chestnut streets with Baptists and Congregationalists. In 1698, the congregation officially organized as the First Presbyterian Church of Philadelphia. Six years later, the congregation moved to High Street (now Market Street) at the corner of Bank Street, and built the first Presbyterian church building in the city, known as “Old Buttonwood.” Both the first American presbytery and the first synod met in this church building. In 1820, the church moved to a new building on the south side of Washington Square where it remained until the late 1920s, when it moved to 15th and Locust streets. In 1949, First and Second Presbyterian Churches united as First with the congregation moving into the Second Presbyterian Church building at 21st and Walnut streets, where the congregation continues today.
Records scanned for this project include congregation minutes, pew records, and lists of burials.
In the 17th century Swedish settlers landed on the banks of the Delaware River establishing churches in Wilmington, Tinicum and by the mid-17th century in Wicaco outside of what would become Philadelphia. That latter church, Gloria Dei, is Pennsylvania’s oldest congregation. The existing church was built between 1698 and 1700 and originally served a Swedish Lutheran congregation. The church today is part of the Episcopal Diocese and a national historic site. Archival records scanned as part of this project include vestry minutes, registers, financial, correspondence between the original Swedish parishes and the churches in Philadelphia, Delaware and New Jersey as well as their "miscellaneous records."
Presbyterians who favored the religious revivalism of George Whitefield organized a Second Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia in 1743. Second was a “New Side” church as opposed to the “Old Side” First Presbyterian Church. For many years, the congregation worshipped in its building at Third and Arch streets, where the first General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. met in 1789. In 1837, the church moved to Seventh and Arch, and in 1872, to 21st and Walnut. In 1949, the congregation united with First Presbyterian Church.
Records scanned for this project include minutes, pew records, deeds, and burial records.
In 1760 a group of congregants from Christ Church, supporters of the Rev. William Macclanachan, an Anglican minister of evangelical leanings, formed a new church, seceded from Christ Church. They drafted articles of agreement for a new church St. Paul’s and promptly set about raising funds to construct it. Built on Third Street, below Walnut, St. Paul’s opened for services in 1762 and remained an active congregation throughout the nineteenth century. The Church’s building still stands, now home to Episcopal Community Services. St. Paul’s records, housed at the Episcopal Diocesan Archives include vestry minutes, baptismal, marriage and burial records as well as some financial records.
In 1758 the vestry of Christ Church authorized the construction of a new chapel at Third & Pine Streets to accommodate its members living in the southern section of the city. St. Peter's Church, located at the corner of Third & Pine Streets, and Christ Church shared the same vestry, ministers, and records and until they formally separated in 1832 were known as the United Churches of Christ Church & St. Peter's. The formal separation agreement stipulated that records created prior to 1832 were to be maintained by Christ Church so researchers looking for pre 1832 information should check the Christ Church collections. Records created after 1832 were maintained by St. Peter's. Scanned for this project are minutes, pew rents and registers.
Third Presbyterian Church began in 1761 as an extension of First Presbyterian Church, located in a house at Second and South streets. In 1768, the congregation of Third Church moved into their new building at 4th and Pine streets. The church called George Duffield as their new pastor in 1771, without the concurrence of First Church. The resulting rift cemented the split between First and Third. The congregation still worships at 4th and Pine today although the building has been extensively renovated since colonial times. The church is popularly known as “Old Pine” while its official name is Third, Scots and Mariners Presbyterian Church, reflecting two of the mergers that comprise the continuing church.
Records scanned for this project include trustees minutes and pew records.