Home to the first two drafts of the U.S. Constitution, an original printer’s proof of the Declaration of Independence, and the earliest surviving American photograph, the Historical Society of Pennsylvania (HSP) is one of the nation’s largest libraries. Published in conjunction with the anniversary of the Society’s founding in 1824, Two Hundred Years is the first book to survey the more than twenty-one million documents, newspapers, graphics, and rare books in its archive.
The book presents one hundred essays highlighting carefully preserved artifacts, spanning the seventeenth to the late twentieth century. Drawing on everything from letters and maps, paintings and photographs, family Bibles and musical scores, Two Hundred Years reflects on the early days of the nation, the relationships colonists had with indigenous peoples, the rapid development of Philadelphia, and the evolution of banking, engineering, and medicine, among other industries and sectors. Through such collections as the Pennsylvania Abolition Society Papers and the archives of the Balch Institute for Ethnic Studies, HSP enables stories to come to light, including those of women, people of color, and immigrants, that would otherwise go untold. Creative artists and their audiences, technological innovators, and the people they impact, are all represented in this extraordinary book. Two Hundred Years is not only a beautifully illustrated tour of the HSP’s vast holdings but also a comprehensive story of the origin and recent past of the United States told through the artifacts and documents carefully preserved, protected, and treasured by one of the nation’s oldest historical institutions.
Contributors: Lee Arnold, David Barnes, Katy Bodenhorn Barnes, Georgia B. Barnhill, Wendy Bellion, Rebecca Brannon, David R. Brigham, Kathleen M. Brown, David B. Brownlee, Jane E. Calvert, Mark Clague, Jeffrey A. Cohen, Marie A. Conn, Charles T. Cullen, Susan G. Davis, Richardson Dilworth, Megan J. Elias, Patrick M. Erben, Joel T. Fry, Alice L. George, James N. Green, Emma Hart, Sandra M. Hewlett, Martha Hutson-Saxton, Emma Lapsansky-Werner, Christina Larocco, Michael J. Lewis, Walter Licht, David M. Lubin, Anna O. Marley, Holly A. Mayer, Amy Meyers, Randall M. Miller, Elizabeth Milroy, Kristen Nassif, Therese O’Malley, Nell Irvin Painter, Robert McCracken Peck, Danya M. Pilgrim, Kymberly Pinder, John H. Pollack, Daniel K. Richter, Jessica Choppin Roney, Dan Rottenberg, Janny Scott, Matthew Skic, Patrick Spero, Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, John C. Van Horne, Anne A. Verplanck, David Waldstreicher, Sarah J. Weatherwax, Ralph Richard Whyte, Kathryn E. Wilson, Michael Winship, James Wolfinger, Karin Wulf, Aaron V. Wunsch.
David R. Brigham is the Librarian and CEO of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania. He has organized dozens of exhibitions and written about early American art and cultural institutions, twentieth-century African American art, and public art. He earned his M.A. and Ph.D. from the Department of American Civilization at the University of Pennsylvania.