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Our holdings include hundreds of glass and film negatives/transparencies that we've scanned ourselves; in addition, many other photos on this site were extracted from reference images (high-resolution tiffs) in the Library of Congress research archive. (To query the database click here.) They are adjusted, restored and reworked by your webmaster in accordance with his aesthetic sensibilities before being downsized and turned into the jpegs you see here. All of these images (including "derivative works") are protected by copyright laws of the United States and other jurisdictions and may not be sold, reproduced or otherwise used for commercial purposes without permission.

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[REV 25-NOV-2014]

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Gimbel's: 1905

Gimbel's: 1905

Philadelphia circa 1905. "Gimbel Brothers store, Market and 9th." 8x10 inch dry plate glass negative, Detroit Publishing Company. View full size.

On Shorpy:
Today's Top 5

Who is that

hanging out the window on the next to the top floor, far right of the building? It looks like someone waving to the camera or about to jump!

[Looks more like a What than a Who. - tterrace]

Ah, Leary's Bookstore

In the 1950s I spent many hours among the stacks of books that Leary’s could somehow keep track of. For me it was all pure discovery. And as for this photograph, and all photographs of downtown Philly from that time, I feel as if I look long and hard enough I will see my father, a delivery boy for Wanamaker’s up the street, or my grandmother Alice shopping after the short El ride from West Philly where they lived.

Now a parking lot

The building was torn down in the late 1970s, and now is a parking lot. The other side of the street (the side where the photo was taken) also had 2 other department stores within a couple blocks - Strawbridge's (now where the Inquirer and Daily News newspaper are headquatered, since mid-2012) and Lit Brothers (now the Mellon Bank Center).

$5 Foot Long Special?

Purely an educated guess but that hole mentioned in an earlier comment might well be part of the original New York subway construction. The time frame is right.

[But not the city. - tterrace]

Edit: LOL Memo to self: Pay attention to locations noted in descriptions.

Feeling tipsy?

Cool electrical stuff in here I almost missed!

The first thing that caught my eye was the way they fed overhead lines from underground. The pole left bottom has a stovepipe-like top to keep the rain out but let what looks like a trolley power line sneak out of the top.

Second is that the streetlight on the adjacent pole to the left has a counterweight and I would guess a pivot. Is this so it could be 'hooked' and pulled down for servicing?

That Construction

The construction going on under Market Street in the photo was the digging of the Market Street Subway. The subway digging began in March 1903 and the line opened for business in 1908. That would pinpoint the date of the photo at about 1905. What is truly amazing about this is that the subway tunnel was dug by hand, shoveling the dirt into wooden peach baskets and hoisting each basket out of the ground with a chain hoist and hauling the dirt off in a horse drawn cart. Digging began at the foot of Market near the ferry terminal and exited at the Schulylkill River some 25 blocks west.

Wick Narrow Fabric Company

The building on the left with the sign appears to be the company's headquarters. It hasn't gone far.

Leary's Book Store

Gimbel's was a block long with the end down at 8th Street. This view is from the northwest. The only reason to point this out, however, is to take note of Leary's Bookstore (9 S. 9th Street.) just to the right of the Gimbel's facade. (ARY'S and "Libraries Purchased") I spent many happy hours and far too many dollars there. It closed in 1969.

Also, diagonally across the 8th Street intersection was Lit Bros. Department Store, which has previously made an appearance on Shorpy.


There are so many marvelous things in this dense and busy photograph (e.g. the signs at the far left: Ulman Bros. & Co., Elkish & Plonsky, Wertheimer & Co., etc.) but for me the most timeless element is the gang of boys and men hanging over the construction hole, fascinated with whatever is going on below. One of them is even reaching down: “Here, let me help!”

SHORPY HISTORICAL PHOTO ARCHIVE | History in HD is a vintage photo archive featuring thousands of high-definition images from the 1850s to 1960s. (Available as fine-art prints from the Shorpy Archive.) The site is named after Shorpy Higginbotham, a teenage coal miner who lived 100 years ago.

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