As of July 6th, APS offices are open to staff and invited visitors. The Society will remain closed to the public for at least the rest of the summer. Library & Museum staff now have access to our collections and will respond to reference and photoduplication requests as soon as possible. However, please note that response times may be delayed due to increased demand. The Society will continue a robust slate of virtual programs throughout the summer and fall. Read more about virtual programming and resources that can be accessed remotely. For further information on the APS reopening and its COVID response, please click here.

Early American History Collections

The American Philosophical Society was an important early repository for historical material in the late colonial and early republic periods and continues to acquire materials related to the 17th through 19th centuries.

The APS was an important early repository for historical material in the late colonial and early republic periods. Through the generosity of donors like Thomas Jefferson, the collecting savvy of long-serving librarian John Vaughan (18031841), and the planning of the Society's Historical and Literary Committee (18151820), the Society gathered an immense number of manuscript and printed sources relating to the new nation. By 1840, the APS had a large collection of Benjamin Franklin’s manuscripts, the Lewis and Clark Journals, and more than 11,000 books in its library. In addition, the Society’s own archive is an important source for understanding early American science. Future collecting efforts built upon this base during the 20th century when the APS acquired the papers of the artist-entrepreneurial Peale-Sellers family, the papers of the naturalist Benjamin Smith Barton, and the Thomas Paine Collection of Richard Gimbel.

A few of the collections are highlighted below.