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. The historic artifact collections contain silver, liturgical furniture, paintings, prints and memorial art as well as architectural elements. They date from the earliest days of the Church to the present and they 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 Ann 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 baptised; and two pieces by cabinetmaker and parishioner, Jonathan Gostelowe, a baptismal font in 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, the parish registers, as well as the files of the various rectors, sermons, photographs and audio-visual holdings. Records of affiliated institutions include those of Christ Church Hospital (now the Kearsley Home), Episcopal Academy and Christ Church Chapel. Certain key items that elicit great interest are the 1762 seating chart, the 1776 Vestry minutes in which the Reverend Jacob Duché 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.
Records of St. Peter’s Church and some records of St. James Church are also included within the archives of Christ Church as they collectively formed the United Churches of Christ Church and St. Peters until 1832 when they divided. St. James was part of this union until 1828.
Christ Church has a significant collection of rare books. The Bray Library, sent to the church by Thomas Bray at the turn of the eighteenth century, comprised some 291 volumes of Bibles, commentaries on the Bible, sermons, classical texts, mathematical books and more. One hundred and seventy-six of these survive, on loan to the Library Company of Philadelphia. The intent behind the Bray Library was that the books circulate among parishioners. Other bibles, hymnals, and published collections of sermons have all been given to Christ Church over the years, including the famed “Vinegar Bible” in which the Parable of the Vineyards had a major typographic error, translating it to “vinegar.” Also of note is 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 attributed to Francis Hopkinson, signer of the Declaration of Independence, jurist and sometime organist at Christ Church. One of Christ Church's most treasured documents is the Book of Common Prayer, amended by the Reverend Jacob Duché in 1776 at the direction of the Vestry to elminate references to the King and the Royal Family.
Electronic Databases of artifacts and archives
In 2005 Christ Church, through the generosity of the Barra Foundation and other private funders, began a project to more thoroughly catalog the artifact and archival holdings of Christ Church and create an on-line database to make these significant collections more accessible to the public through key word searches. Images of these artifacts and documents are included although generally only one page from each document is shown.
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.
Click here to view Christ Church’s on-line holdings of artifacts, archives and library materials.
Of particular interest to genealogists are the parish registers which list baptisms, marriages and funerals. These were indexed in 1930 as part of a WPA project, enabling the Church to find records of past parishioners. Many of these listings have now been entered into a searchable database to allow users to find records of past church members.
Information currently available includes:
Our hope is to continue this transcription process and add burial records to this database as funding permits. Records for baptisms and marriages performed at St. Peters can also be found amongst these records, as they formed a part of the United Churches of Christ Church and St. Peters.
When entering a name in the search field, note that the search returns all entries with that name in any field, i.e. individual, parent, or spouse, will be found.
Click here to search the parish registers.
In 1964, the Church of the Latter Day Saints microfilmed the Christ Church registers. Personal Ancestral Files are available free of charge from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Click here to download a copy.