The Purpose of the Guide

This publication provides researchers with a comprehensive inventory of the Balch Library's primary holdings.  It contains all of the manuscript and microfilm collections to which the library holds title as of March 1992, and it lists them in an accessible, easy-to-use format.

Until recently, published guides represented the primary means of describing manuscript collections, and they were the only finding aids that could be used outside the walls of the repository.  This is no longer true.  Most of the manuscript collections and all of the newspapers in this guide have already been entered in OCLC and submitted to either the National Union Catalog of Manuscript Collections or Newspapers in Microform.  Others will be entered as they are processed and cataloged.  We realize, too, that published finding aids become out of date as soon as the library accessions new collections.  Since the Balch Library is actively expanding its holdings, new accessions were being added as this guide was on its way to the printer.

With these limitations firmly in mind, we believe that published guides remain an important means of describing manuscript collections.  In a young repository like the Balch Library with a broad collecting policy, they play an especially vital role.  The guide provides researchers with a comprehensive introduction to our holdings, and it allows them to compare resources for different ethnic groups.  It also makes clear that in addition to ethnicity and immigration the library has significant resources for a variety of topics, including the history of women and the family, health studies, the labor and radical movements, education, religion, journalism and entrepreneurship.  Equally important, it represents a blueprint for the kind of collection that we are developing.  We hope that it will provide researchers in future years with the incentive to check our holdings and see where we are.

A leitmotif of this publication is collection development.  The Balch Library is continuing to actively build its resources, and it relies on the support and cooperation of researchers and ethnic communities to document their history.  We hope that readers will see gaps in the collection as opportunities to work with us to collect records, and also recognize that we have limited our collecting for some groups to avoid competition with other repositories.  For example, we defer to Philadelphia's Afro-American Historical Cultural Museum in regard to primary African-American sources, and we rely on the Philadelphia Jewish Archives Center to document the regional Jewish community.  (The library continues to acquire secondary sources for Blacks and Jews, as well as for other groups.)

A second motif of the guide is information retrieval and access.  Like most research libraries, the Balch devotes a substantial part of its resources to providing access to its collections.  At the same time, we do not want to give the impression that this guide, or any other finding aid, will make original research quick and easy.  In planning a visit to the institute, researchers should keep in mind the verse by Paul Valery that is inscribed on the facade of a Paris library:

It depends on those who pass

Whether I am a tomb or treasure

Whether I speak or am silent

The choice is yours alone.

Friend, do not enter without desire. [1]

We believe that this guide, combined with an appropriate level of desire, will allow the diligent researcher to discover and explore the riches of the library.

History of the Balch Library

The Balch Institute owes its existence to two separate impulses: personal philanthropy and the ethnic revival.  Its roots extend back to 1917 and the death of Emily Swift Balch, the matriarch of a prominent Philadelphia family.  Mrs. Balch's will provided that her estate be held in trust for her sons during their lifetimes.  If they died without children it would then be used to establish a library to commemorate the family.  In the 1920s both sons died without surviving children, and each added to his mother's bequest.  The sons also specified that the new organization would be called the Balch Institute and that "it shall include both a good library and an auxiliary museum..."[2]

The funds were invested for a generation.  Then the trustee of the estate asked Orphans' Court of Philadelphia to help interpret and implement the bequests.

Orphans' Court considered the Balch estates through the 1960s, acting both to resolve legal issues and to create an organization within the scope of the family's intentions.  The presiding judge put special emphasis on developing an institution that would be practical and serve a useful purpose in the community.  As a new concern for America's ethnic and immigrant heritage developed in the middle of the decade, the court expressed a growing interest in documenting and interpreting these aspects of United States history.

The Balch Institute was incorporated on April 12, 1971.  A report filed with Orphans' Court in 1975 described the philosophy behind the new organization:

The Balch Institute is a privately endowed independent research library, exhibition gallery and multi-purpose educational organization emphasizing American political, ethnic, immigration, racial and minority group history.  The Balch Institute emphasizes the importance of the wide variety of cultural elements that have made our collective American culture and is dedicated to the documentation and extension of this heritage as an integral part of understanding America as it was, as we know it today and as it develops.[3]

The Institute's first six years were characterized by rapid growth.  The Board of Trustees and staff acquired the site and oversaw the design and construction of the institute's building, a six story library/museum facility, located one block from Independence Hall in center city Philadelphia.  The construction was completed and the building dedicated in May 1976. 

During the same period, the staff began to develop a national research collection from scratch.  The Institute's mission was interpreted broadly, and we set out to create a library that would serve the needs of both scholars and the public and that would include resources on all of America's ethnic and racial groups.  Fueled by an active field staff and relying on both donations and a sizable acquisitions budget, the Institute acquired approximately 50,000 volumes and nearly 1,000 linear feet of manuscript collections between 1971 and 1976.  These materials constituted an important research collection, and they also established the direction for the library's development.

Five major manuscript collections acquired in the early years reflect the institute's breadth as a multicultural resource.  Three of these collections document southern and eastern Europeans during the "Second Wave" of American immigration which extended from the early 1880s to World War I: the papers of Italian-American educator Leonard Covello; the records of Atlantis, the first successful Greek newspaper in the U.S.; and the records of the Philadelphia chapter of Workmens' Circle, a national Jewish fraternal organization.  These were among the ethnic groups which had been ignored by scholars and were a special focus of historians during the early years of the ethnic revival.  The types of sources --- records of beneficial societies and ethnic publishers and personal papers of individual immigrants and ethnic community leaders --- were also typical of the materials that were then being identified as essential in documenting ethnic history.

In addition to collecting sources on southern and eastern European immigration, however, the institute also focused on other ethnic and racial groups from the beginning.  For example, the Covello Papers document Puerto Rican migration and settlement in East Harlem from the 1940s to the 1960s, as well as the earlier Italian community there.  The other two major collections, case files of the American Friends Service Committee (A.F.S.C.) and the papers of Swedish-American historian Amandus Johnson, have a different focus.  The A.F.S.C. records consist of approximately 20,000 case files of refugees who requested assistance in emigrating from Nazi Germany or postwar Europe to the U.S. from the mid 1930s through the late 1940s.  The Johnson Papers consist of extensive research files on Swedish colonial settlement in the Delaware River Valley, as well as Johnson's organizational records from his work as a founder or leader of a number of mid-20th century Swedish-American organizations.

These and the other manuscript collections acquired in the first six years covered twenty-one ethnic and racial groups, from African Americans to Ukrainians.  They were strongest for Philadelphia and New York City, but they extended across the middle Atlantic states and represented other parts of the country as well.  Most of the manuscripts were donated, although some, including a fairly large number of German-American documents and letters, were purchased from dealers.  The institute also selectively purchased microfilm editions of manuscript collections held by other repositories.  Two notable examples are the microfilm sets of the American Colonization Society Records (Library of Congress, 323 reels) and the Ignatius Donnelly Papers (Minnesota Historical Society, 167 reels).

The library's book and periodical holdings grew even more rapidly during the early years.  By 1976 they had reached approximately 50,000 volumes and were supplemented by a large collection of print ephemera.  The institute acquired publications almost entirely through purchase, and the holdings covered seventy different ethnic and racial groups.  The library's print collection was intended for both scholars and the public, and special emphasis was placed on secondary sources that would be used by college and university students in the region.  T he library's collection of recent literature has become an increasingly important resource for students and the public as well as for scholars.

Ethnic press publications are the other major focus of the print collection, including approximately 5,000 newspaper, almanac, magazine, and other periodical titles.  Ethnic imprints also include local histories, autobiographies and memoirs; music and song books; and a wide variety of church organizational publications.  Most date from the end of the 19th century through the first half of the 20th century.  The print collection also includes ethnic and dialect fiction, immigrant and citizenship guides, and sheet music, as well as sources on radical fiction, the labor movement, socialism, American nativism and ethnic stereotyping.

The initial collecting program was broad and exploratory, and it extended beyond immigration and ethnic studies to include the history of the early federal period, the labor movement, and radicalism.  By 1975 the board and staff recognized a need to define more narrowly the institute's collecting focus.  During its meeting of September 1975 the Board of Trustees approved a Collections Acquisition Policy stipulating that all new acquisitions "must have a direct relationship to the immigrant and ethnic experience in North America."  The policy further outlined acquisitions procedures, and it listed documentary materials which the institute collects: archives and manuscripts, serials and periodicals, books and pamphlets, broadsides and broadsheets, posters, maps, sheet music, post cards, printed ephemera, photographs and slides, and audio-visual materials.

The opening of the new building in May 1976 represented the completion of the institute's first phase.  The next phase held several challenges.  First, the Balch Family endowments, reduced by construction and acquisition costs, did not produce enough income to meet the needs of a large organization.  Raising funds to meet operating costs was accordingly a top priority.  Second, the institute needed to define its program and collecting policy in relation to other organizations with similar missions.  Third, the library needed to make its collections accessible to researchers and continue to expand its holdings.

During the next several years, the institute settled into its new building, consolidated its holdings, and started to develop museum and education programs.  The library opened on a regular six-day schedule in April 1979.  It then began a series of projects to catalog books and periodicals, process manuscript holdings, and microfilm important newspaper titles.  Each was a significant undertaking, and each depended on a combination of institute funds and outside support.

Between 1979 and 1983 the library completed two projects supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities to microfilm newspaper titles and process manuscript collections.  Cataloging the 60,000-volume book collection was the largest undertaking.  The library joined OCLC (now the Online Computer Library Center) in 1980 and received the first of two successive cataloging grants from the Pew Charitable Trusts in 1981.  Cataloging was especially difficult because of the large number of titles in languages other than English and because approximately 25% of the collection required original cataloging.  While English is the main language in the collection, there are titles in forty other languages as well, including sizeable Yiddish, Ukrainian, Greek, Italian, Polish, Slovak, Norwegian, Lithuanian, and Swedish holdings.  The staff cataloged the entire book collection on OCLC between 1982 and 1988.  At the same time, the library created an in-house catalog for its photograph collections and added manuscript collections to OCLC.  We added periodical titles to OCLC in 1989-1990 with support from an LSCA Title III grant.

Cataloging and other technical services had an immediate payoff.  As the library's holdings became accessible, research use increased steadily.  By 1985 we averaged 2,000 research visits a year.  Another payoff was that the library's staff developed skill and expertise in working with multiethnic, multi-language collections.  And in the mid-1980s the institution funded two positions, staff archivist and cataloging assistant, which were initially grant supported.  This allowed us increasingly to establish control over new collections as they were received.  Finally, we were able to analyze the library's strengths and weaknesses and to make well-informed decisions about new acquisitions.

Cataloging and processing also forced us to make decisions about holdings on the federal period and the labor and radical movements which had been acquired in the early years.  All of these materials were outside the scope of the 1975 Collections Acquisition Policy.  It seemed clear, however, that the labor and radical publications and microfilm were closely related to immigration history and that the more traditional political histories were not.  The institute accordingly decided to retain existing labor and radical collections but to not add to them.  Mainstream political histories were deaccessioned, and the proceeds were added to the library's acquisitions fund.

With cataloging and processing programs underway, the institute began to put renewed emphasis on collection development.  In the early 1980s the Board of Trustees' Library Committee and staff reviewed the library's strengths and needs and worked together closely in refining the institute's collecting policy and setting specific goals.  One of the institute's important and distinguishing features is its breadth: it is the only organization which documents and interprets all ethnic and racial groups in the United States.  The Library Committee reaffirmed this mission while establishing some practical limits.  The revised policy provides that the library collects material on all American ethnic groups for the period 1789 to the present.  Because of existing local and national collections, two exceptions were added: the library does not collect African-American material prior to 1865 or Native American material except as it relates to the urban movement and the ethnic revival beginning in the 1960s.  The library also does not acquire materials created in the countries of origin except for those which directly relate to emigration.

The Library Committee and staff next established some realistic guidelines for starting an active collecting program.  The guidelines recognize the institute's restricted financial resources and the importance of cooperating with other repositories: 1) The library does not purchase manuscript collections and in general does not compete with other repositories.  2) The library acquires books and other publications nationally.  3) The library does targeted manuscript collecting nationally, but active archival collecting would focus on the ethnic communities in eastern Pennsylvania for the time being.[4]

There are two large and historically important multiethnic communities in eastern Pennsylvania, one in the Philadelphia area and the other in the anthracite coal fields in the northeastern part of the state.  The library started the Anthracite Region Ethnic Archives (AREA) Project, its first regional collecting program, in 1983.  From the 1880s through 1914 eastern and southern European immigrants were recruited to work in the mines and other industries of the Anthracite Region.  Today the area retains a strong multiethnic identity, and it supports an array of ethnic organizations, including the national offices of several fraternal benefit societies.  The AREA Project was funded for three years by the National Endowment for the Humanities and was headquartered in the LUCAN Center in Scranton, which is approximately 130 miles from the institute.

The Anthracite Project was very successful.  The library accessioned forty collections amounting to more than 400 linear feet of records and personal papers during the three years of the project.  It has accessioned another 200 linear feet of records from the region since grant support ended in 1986.  Nearly all of the AREA Project collections document eastern and southern European groups.  Some examples are national office records of Carpatho-Rusyn, Polish and Slovak fraternals, personal papers of a national Polish-American publisher, architectural drawings by an Italian American architect, and business records of a husband and wife team who produced and broadcast Italian language radio programming throughout the region.  They also include records from many local organizations and small collections of personal papers.

The resumption of active collecting also helped us to define more clearly what we mean by "ethnic" and to identify the kinds of sources that we want to collect.  The institute does not assign ethnic labels or identity, and we have traditionally accepted the identity chosen by the individuals and organizations whose papers and records we collect.  A formulation published in the Immigration Research Report has provided us with a more formal working definition while retaining the criteria of self-conscious choice:

An ethnic group is an aggregate, category or group of people who, by birth, share a common culture, social structure, and/or physical appearance differing from those of other similar groups, and who identify with or are identified with that group.[5]

Self-conscious choice also helps to define the kinds of sources that the library collects.  We realize that a vast array of historical sources provide information on immigrant and ethnic communities, including the records of businesses, labor organizations, and public welfare agencies, to name only a few.  Given finite space and resources, however, we decided to limit our collecting to papers and records that are created by ethnic communities or by organizations that are created exclusively to serve them.  These include the personal papers of immigrants and ethnic leaders, records of ethnic beneficial and cultural organizations, and records of service agencies and advocacy groups, as well as research files and professional papers of scholars in the field.

The institute continued to collect personal papers and organizational records in Philadelphia and the surrounding Delaware Valley during the AREA Project, and it has pursued collections nationally on a selective basis.  Examples of national acquisitions over the last few years include the papers of Italian-American novelist Garibaldi Lapolla; Slovak entrepreneur Charles Belohlavek; Welsh-American historian Edward G. Hartmann; and the national office records of the Pan Macedonian Society, a Greek fraternal based in New York City.

The library has extensive expansion space despite the steady growth of its holdings.  In 1985 it accepted the Philadelphia Jewish Archives Center and the Scotch-Irish Foundation Library and Archives as affiliated collections.  Both are housed at and administered by the Balch Library, but they remain the property of their respective parent organizations, the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia and the Scotch-Irish Society.

In 1989, the library received funding from the Pew Charitable Trusts to undertake its second three-year regional collecting project, this time in Philadelphia and the surrounding Delaware Valley.  The program, the Delaware Valley Regional Ethnic Archives Project (DelREAP), got underway in April 1990.  Project staff have obtained more than 200 new accessions in nearly two years of operation. DelREAP allows the institute to work actively with ethnic communities throughout the six county metropolitan area to identify and work to preserve organizational records and personal papers.  As the result of the project, the library is strengthening and expanding its resources for all of the ethnic and racial groups in the greater Philadelphia area.

How to Use the Guide

The guide is designed to be straightforward and easy to use.  Entries are organized in sections by ethnic or racial group, and the sections are arranged alphabetically.  The first part of each section describes manuscript collections, and the second part describes microform serials.  There are also three umbrella sections: multiethnic, Asian, and Latino.  The multiethnic section contains three kinds of material:

1.  Collections whose primary focus is three or more groups.  (Collections which contain material on two groups are entered under each group.)

2.  Microform manuscripts and newspapers that document radicalism and the labor movement.  Examples include the Darlington Hoopes Papers and the Socialist Labor Party Records.  These materials were acquired before the adoption of the library's Collections Acquisitions Policy in September 1975, and they have been retained because of their relationship to ethnicity and immigration.

3.  Collections which contain commentary about one group by another.  These consist largely of materials that depict nativism and racial and ethnic stereotyping.

While we have tried to be consistent, we have made exceptions for the sake of clarity and convenience.  For example, the American Friends Service Committee Refugee Services Committee entry appears both in the Jewish and the multiethnic sections.

In creating entries, we have followed standard archival practice.  The main entry contains the basic ingredients of description: the formal name of the individual or organization creating the materials (with life dates for individuals), the kinds of material, its dates, and the size of the collection.  Main entries for organizations are under the current national name of the organization.  Our holdings for the Wilmington (Delaware) Turners, for example, appear as a subheading under American Turners (not the earlier name, American Turnerbund).  The terms most frequently used to describe the material that makes up a collection are "papers" (i.e., collections created by individuals), "records (i.e., collections created by organizations), and "photographs," although we have used other terms such as "document" and "volume" when they provide a more accurate description.

The body of the entry contains a brief biography or history and a description of the materials in the collection.  The length of the entry depends on the complexity of the collection, as well as our knowledge of the contents.  The descriptions for collections which are processed are more detailed than for those which are not.  After the body of the entry is a separate line which describes the primary language(s), the availability of a register or inventory, and restrictions on use.  A register is a detailed finding aid and indicates that a collection is fully processed; an inventory is a preliminary listing and indicates that the collection is not fully processed.  If a use restriction is shown, researchers are encouraged to contact the library for information before visiting.  When the collection represents a donation, the donor's name is given at the end of the entry.

Photographs are separated from manuscript collections during processing, and they are entered separately in the guide after the manuscript collections with which they were accessioned.  The main entry for photographs may be an abbreviated form of the main entry for related manuscript collections, and the descriptions are typically very brief.  The key to using the library's photograph collections is an in-house visual catalog, and the descriptions in the guide are intended to help researchers decide if a visit to the library is worthwhile.[6]

The registers and inventories described throughout the guide are available through interlibrary loan.  Researchers are encouraged to contact the library for additional information on collections or to clarify questions that the entries may raise.

The Serials subsections which appear in most of the sections list all of the library's microform periodicals.  These represent a small sampling of the library's total of 6,000 serials titles, although they typically include the oldest titles in the collection and those with the greatest research value.  The entries are organized alphabetically by title.  Each entry contains the title (with a parallel title if present), span dates, quantity, and language if published in a language other that English.  The entry also contains publishing information if known including the starting and ending dates name of the first publisher, and affiliated organizations.  All of the library's microform holdings are available through interlibrary loan.

A final word should be said about the organization of the guide.  In order to arrange the entries in a format that is usable and accessible, we have assigned them to sections by ethnic or racial groups.  Our guiding principle has been the self-identity of the individual or group that is being described, as well as the identity generally ascribed to them by others in the community.  In the few cases when there has been a difference between the two, we have tried to accommodate both.  For example, the Russian Orthodox Catholic Mutual Aid Society appears under Carpatho-Rusyn and Russian.  We have used the Harvard Encyclopedia of American Ethnic Groups as our primary authority for the currently used names of ethnic and racial groups, and we have relied on the Library of Congress Subject Headings as a supplementary source.  Errors in organization are the product of accident or ignorance and do not reflect ideological decisions on the part of the institute or its staff.

1. Il depend de celui qui passe

Que je sois tombe ou tresor

Que je parle ou me taise

Ceci ne tient qu'a toi.

Ami, n'entre pas sans desire.

1.  This is one of a number of verses by Valery inscribed on the walls of the Palais de Chaillot, Paris.

2.  Report of Orphans' Court Division, Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia, April 29, 1975, page 3.

3.  Ibid., pages 14-15.

4.  For a more detailed description of the institute's collecting program, see R. Joseph Anderson, "Managing Change and Chance: Collecting Policies in Social History Archives," American Archivist 48 (Summer 1985): 196-203, and "Building a Multi-Ethnic Collection: The Research Library of the Balch Institute for Ethnic Studies," Ethnic Forum 5 (Fall 1985): 7-19.

5.  Nancy C. Jabbra, "Toward a Definition of Ethnicity," Immigration Research Report Vol. 1, No. 1 (Spring 1987), 5.

6.  The visual catalog and selected photograph groups are described in Judith Felsten, "Photo Group Processing for a Theme Repository," Picturescope 32 (Spring 1985).