For the final meeting of the 2022-2023 program year, Mike McGratch and the History and Library Committee of PSPA hosted members at the Van Pelt-Dietrich Library Center of the University of Pennsylvania on Thursday, June 1, 2023 at the Library lat 3420 Walnut St., Philadelphia, PA 19104.
Primarily, the goals of this field trip related not only to building awareness among PSPA of the archival resources that are available but also to spread the word about the breadth and depth of the resources as well as about using the modern research tools that are available. Lynne Farrington, Director of Programs and Senior Curator, Special Collections was our speaker and helped all of us to better understand the innovations that have enhanced research in the PSPA collection.
A major asset of PSPA, the Library of the Philadelphia Society for Promoting Agriculture was deposited with the University of Pennsylvania in 1888, at a time when the Society’s activities had ceased and very few living members remained. It was the discovery of the Society’s papers stored in the basement of the new university library (now the Furness Fines Arts building) that led to the revival of the Society in the early twentieth century. Thus, the Library survives both as a monument to the past and as a source of new beginning.
Rich in artifactual value, the manuscripts of the early American period also provide uncommon resources for the study of the American farmer’s quest for improved farming practices. As the economy of the new nation became dependent on a scientific approach to farming that would develop agriculture into a strong basic economy, the records of the Society’s correspondence and activities document the results of new methods of planting, fertilizing, harvesting, and the breeding and care of livestock.