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Friends Historical Library

Friends Historical Library reading room

Department Overview

Friends Historical Library was established in 1871 to collect, preserve, and make available archival, manuscript, printed, and visual records concerning the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) from their origins mid-seventeenth century to the present.  

Extent of our collections

With more than 45,000 books, pamphlets and serials, 60,000 photographs, 400 major manuscript collections, and 9,000 volumes of original meeting records, Friends Historical Library is one of the outstanding research facilities for the study of Quaker history. The Library also maintains the Swarthmore College Archives and the papers of the Swarthmore Historical Society.

Research topics

Besides the obvious focus on Quaker history, the holdings are a significant research collection for the regional and local history of the middle-Atlantic region of the United States and the history of American social reform. Quakers played prominent roles in almost every major reform movement in American history, including abolition, African-American history, Indian rights, women's rights, prison reform, humane treatment of the mentally ill, and temperance. The collections also reflect the significant role Friends played in the development of science, technology, education, and business in Britain and America.  

Using the collections

Access policies are designed to provide maximum convenience to researchers consistent with the library's responsibility for preservation of the materials entrusted to its care and reasonable protection of individual privacy. While the Library's primary mission is the support of scholarly research on topics related to Quakers, Friends Historical Library is open to all serious researchers. Only a very small amount of the collection is currently available online.  


Quaker Records at

Many Quaker records from FHL and other Quaker libraries were scanned by and can be accessed through that website. If you do not personally subscribe to Ancestry, note that many public libraries have subscriptions that can be used by library patrons. Not all of our genealogy records are on the Ancestry site; see our full inventory of Quaker Meeting Records for more. Some of our patrons have reported poor indexing and incorrectly identified resources within the Quaker Meeting Records on the Ancestry site.  Please feel free to contact FHL staff at 610-328-8496 for help interpreting records. Click here to connect to from the FHL Reading Room.

Connect to from home

Hazard Index of New York Yearly Meeting Records

Now available!

Access Hazard Index

Now Online: Lucretia Mott Speaks

This newly-launched timeline chronicles the extraordinary and prolific speaking gifts of Quaker minister, abolitionist, and women's rights advocate Lucretia Mott.

Explore the timeline

Search for Books & Periodicals

Link to Tripod catalog

Search for Archives & Manuscripts

Search the Digital Library

Link to Images & Manuscripts database