Based on the Athenaeum’s collection of more than 5000 images from talented and prolific Philadelphia photographer, Jacob Stelman, this exhibit features more than 100 of his best photos. Featured here is the changing face of commercial Philadelphia at mid-century, a time when “downtown” was the uncontested retail capital of our region. The stores, theaters, restaurants, supermarkets and hotels Stelman captured run the stylistic gamut from Art Deco to Modern to Googie to Tiki, and provide a glimpse into an era before the uniform design of corporate chains dampened the robust individuality of both commercial architecture and signage. From the corner drug store to landmark structures such as Frank Lloyd Wright’s Temple Beth Shalom in Elkins Park, Stelman’s masterful lens recorded the dynamic vitality of the ever-changing Quaker City. 

The Jacob Stelman Archive was donated to the Athenaeum of Philadelphia in 2001 by George E. Thomas. The Athenaeum gratefully acknowledges the efforts of Dr. Thomas in saving this exceptional body of work and ensuring its long-term preservation.


Drug Stores





Commercial Part 1

Commercial Part 2



Temple Beth Shalom

This exhibition was sponsored in-part by The Ellis Coffee Company


Copyright © 2012 The Athenaeum of Philadelphia