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The Free Library of Philadelphia is the public library system serving Philadelphiamarker, Pennsylvaniamarker.


In 1890, George S. Pepper, (the uncle of the provost of the University of Pennsylvaniamarker, Dr. William Pepper), at the suggestion of Dr. Pepper, had earmarked $225,000 of his estate to go towards the foundation of the Free Library of Philadelphia, which was established on February 18, 1891. Lawsuits from private libraries held up the disbursement of the funds until 1894; meanwhile, the city of Philadelphia opened six branches of a separate institution, the Philadelphia Public Library, beginning in 1892. In March 1894 the first branch of the Free Library was opened at City Hall, and later that year the two institutions merged under the Free Library name. By 1898 the Free Library had the largest circulation in the world, at 1,778,387 volumes.

The Free Library of Philadelphia headquarters

The Library's headquarters moved to 12th and Chestnut Streets in 1895. In 1906, it was decided that the Library's permanent headquarters should be along the proposed Benjamin Franklin Parkwaymarker (then known as the Fairmount Parkway), and Logan Squaremarker was chosen as the site in 1910, the same year the Library moved to 13th and Locust Streets. Ground was broken in 1917 and construction began in 1920. The new building was completed in late 1926, and the Free Library of Philadelphia opened for business at its current location on June 2, 1927.

Exhibitions and collections

The Free Library of Philadelphia headquarters

Among the Free Library's exemplary collections is the Print and Picture Collection. Spanning the graphic arts from 1493 to the present time, the Free Library's Fine Art Prints and Photographs collection includes thousands of images. Initially representing only Philadelphia artists, the collection has been extended to include early masters as well as renowned modern printmakers and photographers. You can view prints by such artists as Dürer, Rembrandt, Warhol and Dali. Some of the photographers include Ansel Adams, Bernice Abbott, Ray Metzker, Eadweard Muybridge and Aaron Siskind.

As of 2006, Karen Lightner, Curator of the Print and Picture Collection, has begun an ongoing effort to expand the collection to include artist's books. A 2006 exhibition at the Central Branch of the Free Library, organized by curator Robert Wuilfe, formerly of the arts group Philagrafika, highlighted the important connections between prints and artist's books. The exhibition, entitled "BOUND/UNBOUND:The Dialogue Between Printmaking and the Art of the Book" featured innovative artists from the Philadelphia region, including: Alice Austin, Katie Baldwin, Borowsky Center for Publication Arts at the University of the Arts, Ellie Brown, April Flanders, the Free Library Collection, Rebecca Gilbert, Jesse Goldstein, Neila Kun, Enid Mark, Lindsey Mears, Katie Murken, Claire Owen, Caitlin E. Perkins, Natasha Pestich, Maria G. Pisano, Diane Podolsky, Promised Gifts to the Free Library Collection, Anabelle Rodriguez, Patricia M. Smith, Justin Myer Staller, Silicon Gallery Fine Art Prints, Jill Timm of Mystical Places Press (, Susan Viguers and James Engelbart.

The Philbrick Popular Library on the first floor of the Central Library is where patrons can borrow recently-released materials, fiction, audio books and videos. The second balcony houses the Fiction Resource Collection which consists of literature by writers from over 100 countries.

The Free Library also has Grip, Charles Dickens's first pet raven.Dickens had Grip stuffed after its 1841 death, and the Friends of Libraries, USA (FOLUSA) has designated Grip a literary landmark.


There are 54 library locations of the Free Library of Philadelphia located throughout the city: 49 branches, 3 regional libraries, 1 Central library and 1 Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped.

Many of these branches were funded by Andrew Carnegie, who donated US$1.5 million to the library in 1903. The Bushrod branch was also established in 1903 through a bequest by Dr. Bushrod James.


  1. RE: Cremains / Ravens

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