Christ Church’s Historic Collections
Christ Church’s rich heritage is well documented by an extensive collection of artifacts as well as archival and library materials.
Our historic artifacts include liturgical furniture, paintings, prints, memorial art and architectural elements. They date from some of the earliest days of the church to the present and include some of the most important pieces of Philadelphia silver, including communion silver presented to Christ Church by Queen Anne, c. 1710, an early baptismal bowl made by Philip Syng, Sr., c. 1715 and another flagon made by Syng, similar in style to the Queen Anne piece.
The collection also includes some major pieces of liturgical furniture including the pulpit by John Folwell, c. 1769; an early English baptismal font in which William Penn is reported to have been baptized; and two pieces by cabinetmaker and parishioner, Jonathan Gostelowe, a baptismal font and a communion table made in 1788. The church’s collections are not static but continue to grow. New pieces of communion silver have been given in memory of parishioners; vestments have been commissioned for special occasions and portraits of rectors line the halls of Neighborhood House.
The archives, which include the historic and ongoing records of Christ Church dating from 1695 to the present, comprise nearly 300 linear feet.
They include vestry minutes, financial records (including pew rental information), title records, seating charts, parish registers, sermons, photographs, audio-visual holdings and the files of various rectors. Certain key items that elicit great interest are the 1762 seating chart, the 1776 Vestry minutes in which the Reverend Jacob Duche crossed out the references to the royal family, and a 1799 letter from George Washington to his former pastor, William White, thanking him for a copy of his new sermon.
Christ Church holds records of the following affiliated institutions: Christ Church Hospital (now the Kearsley Home), Episcopal Academy and Christ Church Chapel. It hosts records of St. Peter’s Church and some records of St. James Church as they collectively formed the United Churches of Christ Church and St. Peter's until 1832, when they divided. St. James was part of this union until 1828.
The Bray Library’s Rare Book Collection
Christ Church has a significant collection of rare books. The Bray Library, sent to the church by Thomas Bray in the 18th Century, once comprised 291 volumes of Bibles, commentaries on the Bible, sermons, classical texts, mathematical books and more. Of these texts, only 176 have survived, and they are on loan to the Library Company of Philadelphia.
Christ Church has received other bibles, hymnals, and published collections of note, including a famed “Vinegar Bible” (one of a limited number of bibles with a typographical error in the text of the Parable of the Vineyards, which translated “vineyard” to “vinegar”). Christ Church also holds A Collection of Psalm Tunes, with a few Anthems and Hymns some of them exclusively for the United Churches of Christ Church and St. Peter's in Philadelphia, 1763, a work attributed to Francis Hopkinson, signer of the Declaration of Independence, jurist and sometime organist at Christ Church.
Accessing the Church Collections
Thanks to the generosity of numerous funders including the Pew Charitable Trusts and the Barra Foundation, Christ Church can grant access to the artifact and archival holdings of its storied past.
The following links provide digital viewing of artifact imagery, church information, vestry minute books, parish registers, life event records, interior details, and much more.
For a more in-depth look at archival holdings, microfilm copies are available at Christ Church and at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania as well as other repositories.
Explore Christ Church’s online holdings of artifacts, archives and library materials here:
- For searchable records of parish registers and the Vestry books, visit Philadelphia Geohistory Database
- For information and photos of artifacts, archives and library materials, see Past Perfect*
*Note that the Past Perfect site has detailed instructions on how best to search the archives based on keyword, advanced criteria, catalogs, genealogy, individuals and by a random image search.
We will conduct individual searches of our church registers for baptisms, marriages, and burials performed here for a minimum fee of $25.00 for research on one person. Each additional name or couple will be an additional $15.00. This is not refundable. Our records begin in 1708.
If you would like additional information, please send a check made out to Christ Church Preservation Trust, notated for “Research” to the following:
Christ Church Preservation Trust
20 N. American Street
Philadelphia PA 19106
Send a list of all names that you wish researched with actual or approximate dates of birth, marriage or death. (We do not need a full history of your family, just names and dates.) For more information or for an appointment, contact one of our research staff.
Archived Virtual Talks
Digitizing the Records of Philadelphia's Historic Congregations: Hidden Stories and Surprising Uses (Recorded on November 16, 2022 at the Athenaeum of Philadelphia)
1:30PM: Welcome, overview of project and website Watch
1:45PM: Paul Peucker, The Yellow Fever Pandemic of 1793 and the Moravians Watch
2:15PM: Brandon Zimmerman: Resurrect Dead: Mount Vernon Cemetery and the Burial Ground of the Second Presbyterian Church of Philadelphia Watch
3:00PM: Mike Krasulski, St. Paul’s and its Contributions to the Growth of Religion in Philadelphia Watch
3:30PM: Kathryn Pyle, A congregation’s response to its racial history Watch
4:15PM: Hidden stories from Transcribers:
Jean Craig, Pew Rent records and Social History Watch
Elizabeth Mosier, Accidental Findings: Ephemera as Literary Inspiration Watch
Josie Smith, Discovering Genealogies in the Philadelphia Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends Manumissions Records, 1772-1790 Watch
6:00PM: Keynote address: Julie Winch, Between the Lines and Across the Lines Watch
Elizabeth Willing Powel: Philadelphia’s First Political Influencer (Recorded on May 19, 2022) Watch
Elizabeth Willing Powel and her husband Samuel, a vestryman of Christ Church and Mayor of the city of Philadelphia, were at the center of political and social activity in Philadelphia throughout the late eighteenth century. The couple entertained the era’s dignitaries in their elegant townhouse that still stands on South Third Street.
The Rev. Thomas Bray and His Associates: Patrons of Libraries and Black Education in Early Philadelphia (recorded on September 27, 2021) Watch
From the end of the 17th century to the early 19th century the Rev. Thomas Bray, an Anglican clergyman, and after his death in 1730 his Associates, provided books to Philadelphia and operated schools for the education of young Black Philadelphians, both enslaved and free.
Benjamin Franklin and His Lightning Rods Across the Atlantic (recorded on June 10, 2021) Watch
A co-presentation with the Benjamin Franklin House in London, United Kingdom.
The Treasures of Christ Church (recorded on May 13, 2021) Watch
Join Philadelphia Museum of Art curator, David Barquist as he highlights some of the important material culture objects of Christ Church.
Sustaining the Christ Church Steeple for the Ages (recorded on April 22, 2021) Watch
The Christ Church Steeple dates to 1754 and was built by colonial mastercraftsman Robert Smith. Learn about Smith's work in colonial America and how the Steeple has been sustained over the ages.
Franklin & His Leather-Apron Men and Women (recorded on April 15, 2021) Watch
Co-presented with the Carpenters' Company. Historian Jay Robert Stiefel hosted a lecture that highlights Franklin and other colonial artisans and their life in colonial America.
Benjamin Ruch and Christ Church (recorded on February 18, 2021) Watch
Stephen Fried discusses his book, Rush, about the extraordinary life of Benjamin Rush.
Better Angels in America's Civil War (recorded on February 4, 2021) Watch
The story of Christ Church Rector Benjamin Dorr and his son. As a son fights to save the Union, his father strives to save a divided church.