Independence Seaport Museum has an impressive collection of artifacts, objects and documents relating to the maritime past of the greater Philadelphia area. Collection items cover historical periods from the 16th to 21st centuries and vary in size and shape. If you are curious about specific objects in the Seaport Museum's collection, please contact Terry Potter, Director of the J. Welles Henderson Archives and Library.
Highlights of the collection:
People of the Port
- Naval heroes like John Barry, Stephen Decatur, Richard Dale and more
- Sea captains and their families
- Longshoremen in their skilled trades
- Merchants like Stephen Girard and Thomas P. Cope
The U.S. Navy in Philadelphia
- The birth of the Navy and it's first commanders
- Design and building of the original six frigates of the Navy
- The U.S. Navy Arsenal at Washington Avenue
- Frigates, cruisers and battleships built by Philadelphia shipbuilders
- The Naval Asylum and Home in Philadelphia
- Operations and work in a federal shipyard
Working on the Delaware River
- Shipbuilders like William Cramp, Joshua Humphrey, Neafie & Levy...
- Naval architects like John Lenthall, Merv Lewis, Thomas Bowes...
- Longshoremen like Abraham Moses, Joe Sergi...
- Sail makers like James Forten and the Vanderherchen Sons Sail Loft...
Education, health and welfare of seamen
- Pennsylvania Nautical School
- Seamen's Church Institute
- Philadelphia Maritime Exchange
Shipbuilding along the Delaware River
- William Cramp and Sons Ship and Engine Building Company
- Neafie & Levy Shipbuilding Company
- RTC Shipbuilding Company
- New York Shipbuilding Company
- Sun Shipbuilding Company
- John H. Mathis Ship and Yacht Building Company
- Gangway boards and planks
- Figureheads and ornamentation
- Flags and pennants
- Sails, rope and nets
Views of the port of Philadelphia
- Lithographs and prints
- Paintings and watercolors
- Rare maps
- Historic photographs
- Instrument makers like John E. Hand & Sons Company...
- Ship chandlers and suppliers like Riggs and Brother Company...
- Shipbuilders like RTC Shipbuilding and John H. Mathis Company...
- Shad fishing and oystering on the Delaware River and Bay...
Recreation on the Schuylkill and Delaware Rivers
- Sailing and yachting
- Traditional small craft vessels of the Delaware River and New Jersey
- Rowing clubs and organizations
- Soupy Island and other recreational centers
- First-hand accounts of immigrants to Philadelphia
- Steamer trunks, luggage and chests
- Menus, itineraries, photographs and ephemera from voyages
- Journals from passengers and oral histories
Transportation in the waterways
- Bridges on the Delaware River
- Steamers and ferries
- Passenger liners
- Military ships and vessels
- Pennsylvania Railroad and the railroads
Commerce and Trade
- Merchants like Odgen and Cuthbert and the Massey family...
- Sea captains to China like White Matlack and Thomas Truxton...
- Businessmen like the Walsh brothers in Japan...
- Defenses of Philadelphia during the American Revolutionary War
- Hometown heroes of the War of 1812
- The Philadelphia Arsenal and early submarine technology in Civil War
- The Cruiser Olympia and the Spanish-American War
- Cruisers and battleships of World War I
World War II and Cold War Submarine Becuna and World War II