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Special Collections

MEMBER OF PACSCL (Philadelphia Area Consortium of Special Collections Libraries)

The Paul J. Gutman Library maintains various research groups which are housed separately from the library's main book collection.  These collections are comprised of items which are noteworthy and demand special consideration.

List of Current Groups

Textile Industry Historical Collection

Philadelphia Collection

Senator Arlen Specter Archives 

University Archives

Description of Collections


Textile Industry Historical Collection

The Textile Historical Collection is comprised of material related to the development of the textile industry in the United States

Picture of Textile Factory

This collection contains a full range of materials documenting the social, technological and economic vicissitudes of the American textile industry.  Presently, over 5,000 volumes, ranging from 18th century European texts on dyeing to contemporary doctoral theses on textile history, are included in this collection.  Over 100 journal titles, published before 1945, are held; of this number, over 30 titles include issues published before 1900. The Library actively pursues original manuscript documents relating to the history of textiles.  These papers include business records of over 20 different companies and the personal papers of at least 30 individuals important in the development of the textile industry.  There is also a separate collection of over 300 volumes of textile company histories.  The acquisition of textile related ephemera; for example, trade cards, letterheads, advertising material, posters, handbills, and photographs is also an ongoing activity.

While the main focus of the collection is the American textile industry, holdings of material published in other countries is substantial. Contemporary English publications on the history of the British textile industry are purchased and in many instances only held by our library in this country. This is particularly true of British textile company histories, which are often privately published by the company. Also noteworthy is the extensive amount of late 19th century material available on the French textile industry. Over 200 volumes and a large number of French textile machinery catalogs are included in the collection.

Over 500 trade catalogs for all types of textile machinery are held. Along with this industry material is a group of over 1000 dyeing catalogs from various United States dyestuff companies. Although, the emphasis of the collection is given to material relating to the production of fabric; the collection is also well represented in the areas of design and apparel. Highpoints include: a French counter-book of the 1800's, a number of shirting catalogs from the late 1800's, a manufacturer's display kit of baseball uniforms from the 1930's, original fashion drawings with fabric swatches from the 1940's and long runs of specialized fashion magazines.

Also included is a growing collection of Victorian Trade Cards relating to the textile industry in Philadelphia. These advertising cards were a primary marketing tool in the later part of the 19th century. Due to the high quality of design and abundant use of color, many individuals, at the time, actively collected these marketing giveaways. Beside being eye catching, in many instances, valuable information regarding products products and production techniques were included on these cards. Many of these cards are available for viewing at our digital collection: Victorian Trade Cards.

Several people and firms have  donated their archives to the Library,  these include: 

Fred Fortess was an authority on the use of fabrics in clothing and a long-time professor at the Philadelphia College of Textiles and Science (now Philadelphia University). He worked at the Celanese Fibers Marketing Company for 31 years before joining the Philadelphia College of Textiles and Science in 1973 as Director of Apparel Research and head of its School of Textiles. He served as President of the American Association of Textile Chemists and Colorists (AATCC) as well as on numerous other committees. He received the Medal of Honor of the Southern Burn Institute for contributions to fire safety and the Harold DeWitt Smith Award of the American Society of Testing and Materials. Fortess died in Philadelphia in 1991. The Fred Fortess papers house the administrative and research materials of Fred Fortess, and dates from 1940 to 1999, with the bulk of the collection dating from the 1970s and 1980s. It consists of a variety of research materials relating to the manufacture, care, and evaluation of fibers and fabrics, as well as administrative and educational records from Fortess? appointment at the Philadelphia College of Textiles and Science. This collection is unique in showcasing both the career and scientific contributions of Fred Fortess as well as the evolution of the textile industry and the Philadelphia College of Textiles and Science over the course of several decades. (View full finding aid.)

Dearnley Brothers Worsted and Spinning Company was owned by John H. Dearnley, the son of a British wool merchant, and produced worsted and woolen yarns during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The company was eventually passed on to Dearnley?s son, Charles E. Dearnley, who created the Dearnley Top Company, Incorporated in 1946. This collection contains the companies? business records and personal papers of Charles E. Dearnley. This collection dates from 1908 to 1963, and consists of ledgers, appraisal documents, financial records, and photographs detailing the companies? creations and dissolutions, production, and legal affairs. (View full finding aid.)

The Hugh Nelson, Incorporated (Columbia Carpet Mills) company was one of the oldest surviving carpet manufacturers in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Hugh Nelson owned the company until his son-in-law, Edward M. Schmauder became owner and president. Schmauder ran the company for 28 years before selling it in 1978. The carpet mill finally closed in 1983. The Hugh Nelson, Incorporated (Columbia Carpet Mills) records date from 1931 to 1957, with bulk dates from 1941 to 1957. This collection is mostly made up of correspondence between Hugh Nelson, Incorporated and vendors with which it did most of its business, especially from 1955 to 1957. (View full finding aid.

Joseph R. Foster and Sons was a Philadelphia dyeing and finishing yarn company, specializing in worsted and wool yarns. The Joseph R. Foster and Sons records houses four ledger books detailing 16 years of the company?s business records between 1930 and 1946. (View full finding aid.)

Henry Whitaker had founded the firm of Whitaker and Sons in Rochdale, England, in 1796. He visited the United States in 1807 and returned in 1809 to relocate the business to Hudson, N.Y. In 1813 he again relocated to Philadelphia, where he established the Cedar Grove Mills on Tacony Creek. The William Whitaker and Sons, Incorporated records house a small portion of the records of the company. The collection dates from 1921-1977, with bulk dates of 1930 to 1964. This collection consists mostly of financial reports, graphs, and a map of the Cedar Grove Mills. (View full finding aid.)

Philadelphia Collection


This collection supports the research needs of the architectural programs at Philadelphia University.

Nineteen and twentieth century publications which focus on Philadelphia and surrounding communities in support of the College of Architecture and the Built Environment. These materials include a number of comtemporary publications discussing various aspects of the 1876 Philadelphia Centennial Exhibition. This fair acted as the genesis for the founding of Philadelphia University.

Also a number of Philadelphia area postcards, from the turn of the century to the present, have been acquired. These are exclusively devoted to images of buildings and local landscape. This collection provides our students and the university community with a visual history of change in Philadelphia. These cards are available for viewing online at: Philadelphia & Environs.

 Senator Arlen Specter Archives

The historical papers and memorabilia of Arlen Specter

This collection consists of materials in a range of formats documenting the life, public service and political career (1980 to 2010) of Senator Arlen Senator. These materials support the activities of the Arlen Specter Center for Public Service. 

University Archives

The Archives are intended for the use of University community. The contents consists of  material relating to the history of the school since its founding in 1884.

At the 1876 Centennial Exposition, local textile manufacturers noticed that Philadelphia's textile industry was falling behind its rivals' capacity, technology, and ability. In 1880, they formed the Philadelphia Association of Manufacturers of Textile Fabrics, with Theodore C. Search as its president, to fight for higher tariffs on imported textiles and to educate local textile leaders. In early 1884, Search taught the first classes of the Philadelphia Textile School to five students at 1336 Spring Garden Street. The school was officially opened on November 5, 1884. The Philadelphia University early institutional records house the papers of Philadelphia University from its inception and through its early years. 


Picture of University Building

circa 1890, Textile School, Philadelphia.

Types of Publications

  • Complete set of School Yearbooks.
  • Complete set of School catalogues.
  • Complete run of all alumni publications.
  • Class notes both by students and faculty.
  • Minutes of the Broad of Trustee Meetings.
  • Annual Reports of the School and Departments.

(View full finding aid for Philadelphia University Early Institutional Records)

An appointment must be made with the School Archivist, Stan Gorski, at gorskis@philau.edu, for access to this material.

Archive collections available online:

Architectural History of School Buildings

Images and information on the history of each building presently owned by the University.  Included is material related to the various land purchases that have been made by the University.

History of Philadelphia University

A chronological history of the University is available with images; this presentation shows the physical and educational development of the institution since its founding in 1884.



For Access to Special Collection materials, contact:

Sarah Slate
Assistant Director for Special Collections & Reference

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