Date of Award

Fall 2004

Document Type

Restricted Thesis

Terms of Use

© 2004 Elisabeth Oppenheimer. All rights reserved. Access to this work is restricted to users within the Swarthmore College network and may only be used for non-commercial, educational, and research purposes. Sharing with users outside of the Swarthmore College network is expressly prohibited. For all other uses, including reproduction and distribution, please contact the copyright holder.

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts


History Department

First Advisor

Robert Weinberg


In this thesis, Oppenheimer explores the rise of free libraries and the fall of subscription libraries, focusing particularly on the shifts that occurred in the 1930s. Based primarily on library documents, legal records, and the correspondence of Philadelphians, Oppenheimer traces the history of the Library Company of Philadelphia and the Philadelphia Free Library, the first subscription and free libraries in Philadelphia respectively.


Co-recipient of the Paul H. Beik Prize, awarded in 2005.