There is a reason why the Philadelphia Evening Bulletin's slogan was "Nearly Everybody Reads the Bulletin." From the late 19th century until 1982, the Bulletin was a staple of daily life in the city of Philadelphia. Reading it was as much a part of its citizens' daily routine as was going to work or school. At the height of its popularity in the 1950s and 1960s, the Philadelphia Bulletin was the largest-circulation afternoon daily in the country.
But cultural and societal change rang the death knell for the afternoon paper. A dramatic increase in suburban sprawl and traffic-clogged roads contributed to the Bulletin's demise. And just as the Internet today challenges all print newspapers, it was then another disruptive technology—television and the evening news—that made afternoon papers of less interest to the Bulletin's long time readers.
Though the last issue rolled off the printing press on January 29, 1982, the Philadelphia Bulletin lives on in all its glory at Temple University Libraries. The Philadelphia Evening Bulletin Collection is the most comprehensive collection documenting the social, cultural, economic, political, and physical development of the Philadelphia region. The collection consists of the Bulletin's clipping files, or what the journalists of the day sentimentally referred to as the "morgue," and over two million original photographs and negatives that accompanied those articles.
The Bulletin collection, which is the centerpiece of Temple Libraries' Urban Archives, tells of the city's life and its stories. Consider the adversarial relations that defined the political careers of Austin Meehan (1897–1961) and Richardson Dilworth (1898–1974). Their battles over the running of the city government are well documented in nearly 30 packets of clippings. Those studying the roots of the city's contemporary political tension or corruption can discover that local government has perhaps remained the same the more it has changed. The economic changes that resulted in the eastern "Rust Belt"; the cause and effect of the population shifts from the great eastern cities that began with such classic developments as Levittown, Pennsylvania, a model for the large-scale planned suburb; and the impact of the construction of the Interstate Highway System on city neighborhoods and public transportation were also well documented. The clippings, photographs, negatives, and internal index form a related system from which information about almost any aspect of Philadelphia and east coast life can be extracted.
To date, over 30,000 images have been preserved, cataloged and digitized for Internet access. The libraries hold an annual signature exhibit featuring photographs and newspaper clippings from the Philadelphia Evening Bulletin Collection. The event draws attendees from Temple University as well as area universities, historical groups, and the community at large. A McDowell Family Foundation fellowship provides stipends to visiting scholars to use the Philadelphia Evening Bulletin Collection to produce a dissertation, article, book, or similar scholarly work. More recently, the McLean Contributionship established an endowment for the purpose of further digitizing and expanding access to the libraries' Philadelphia Evening Bulletin and Sunday Bulletin archives.
The Temple University Libraries' Urban Archives allow scholarly researcher and local citizen alike the opportunity to access the rich history of America's first great city.
Collection Profile and Overview: Steven J. Bell, Carol Lang, and Margaret Jerrido
Illustrations: Philadelphia Evening Bulletin Collection