The Frederick Graff Collections consists of architectural and engineering drawings, maps, lithographs and photographs documenting the growth of Philadelphia and its water works system. |
Philadelphia pioneered in urban technology, developing its watering system almost a half century earlier than New York or Boston. Following the innovative and aggressive policies of the merchant-led committee system of government, the Philadelphia system first employed the use of steam engines, iron pipes and turbines. Assuming the city's continued growth, the Fairmount Water Works were designed to supply enough surplus energy to provide for future water supply needs. This technological achievement aided the growth of industrialization in Philadelphia, and served as a model for other cities to build similar systems.
The Fairmount Water Works (1815-1911), the primary focus of the collection, was a great source of civic pride. Attracting citizens and tourists who were fascinated by both its technology and beautiful buildings and gardens, Fairmount also served as an inspiration for many artists and as an aesthetic model for industrial architecture. Moreover, concerns about industrial and residential development gave impetus to the creation of Fairmount, the largest urban park system in America, in an attempt to prevent pollution of the water north of the Water Works.
The primary responsibility for the Philadelphia Water Works belonged to the Frederick Graffs, Senior and Junior. Through most of the nineteenth century, the Graffs, as Chief Engineers, designed and supervised the construction and operation of the Water Works. Out of this long association with the city, they collected an extensive set of visual items illustrating the technological, aesthetic and social dimensions of the Water Works. The Graffs maintained a close association with The Franklin Institute because of the Institute's role as technological adviser to the city; thus when Graff, Junior, died in 1890, the family donated their Water Works Collection to The Franklin Institute as a permanent historical collection.
Digitization of this collection was funded by The Philadelphia Water Department.
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