We have recreated the Old Seventh Ward as Du Bois would have found it using GIS and historical census data. Search the database using the map, last name, or address and make your own thematic maps

Getting Started


Maps Overview

There are three tabs- Identify Property, Find Person/Property, and Create Thematic Map- in the application. The data are the same no matter which tab you choose, but what you are able to do with the data changes. The Identify Property tab allows you to search for a specific property, either by typing in the address or searching on the map, to see who lived there in 1900. The Find Person/Property tab allows you to look for an individual or property that meets a certain profile (such as Irish immigrant who has children). The Create Thematic Map tab allows you to view the data spatially, through a series of map layers. You can move back and forth from one tab to the next, so if you make a thematic map and want to know more about the people in particular properties based on the spatial pattern, switch back to the Identify Property tab.

Identify Property

Identify Property

You can type an address in the Search by address: field. The Seventh Ward stretches from 6th Street on the east to 27th Street on the West, Spruce on the north and South on the south. Try the address 814 Lombard Street, then click Go.

Click on the blue links for family 2 and family 3 to learn about the other two families at 814 Lombard Street. Click on the blue link for deaths to see what people who lived at this address died between 1895 and 1900. The people who died may not have been members of any of the families living there in 1900, but the death data give you an idea of how people died in 1900. One of the deaths was due to premature birth; another baby was stillborn; the third death was from inanition (starvation).

Identify Property

The census data for the families living at 814 Lombard Street should appear at the bottom after a few seconds. There were three families living at that address in 1900, probably one family per floor. The data for family 1 appears automatically. This is the household headed by Sarah Coker, a 39-year-old black woman from Maryland who worked as a dressmaker. She had three boarders- people who paid to live in her home. This was a common arrangement, particularly among black and immigrant households.

Identify Property

You can also use the map to identify the people who lived at a particular property. Use the zoom (magnifying glass) tools to make the map larger or smaller and pan (hand) tools to move the map left or right. Try zooming in by clicking on the magnifying glass with the + and drawing box around the eastern side of the map.

Use the slider bar to further refine your location. Make your best guess where 8th Street should be. Now use the pan tool (or the up and down arrows on your keyboard) to move the map down until you see Lombard Street. It's south of Addison and north of Rodman. Use the Identify tool (i in a circle) and click on 808 Lombard Street, which is 5th from the intersection of 8th and Lombard Streets on the south side of the street. This is the home of Morris Bosk, a Russian immigrant who was a tailor. This part of the Seventh Ward was home to many Russian Jews, and Jews often worked in the fabric and clothing business (Jews did and still do own most of the businesses along Fabric Row just south of the Seventh Ward). In order to view the census data for all 8 people in his family, you need to use the scroll bar.

Find Person / Property

From the Find Person/Property tab, you can look for someone who matches specific criteria. For example, you might want to find all the people in the Seventh Ward who had the last name Johnson. Make sure the radio button next to person is selected, then choose Last Name from the dropdown menu and click Add Search Item.

Find Person
Find Person

Now type Johnson in the box next to Last Name and click the Search button. After a few seconds, all 375 people in the Seventh Ward who had the last name of Johnson will appear on the right. Notice that there were black people and white people with the last name Johnson. Were there more blacks or whites? Modify your search to add race. From the dropdown menu, select race, then click Add Search Item. Put a check mark next to Black and click the Search button. Notice that 320 of the 375 people with the last name Johnson were black. Click on the address for one of these people, then click on the Identify Property tab to see more information about that person. Sometimes you will receive the message that the address could not be found because we could not link census records to parcels in our GIS 5% of the time.

Create Thematic Maps

From the thematic maps tab, you can look at GIS (thematic) maps created from the census data as well as historical (background) maps that have been scanned and georectified so that they more or less line up with the GIS maps. Try the background maps first. The 1895 Bromley map is a fire insurance map that provides basic information about street names, property numbers and sizes, and building materials (pink is for masonry, yellow for wood). Use the same zoom and pan tools to move in and orient the map. The map is a little fuzzy because a raster map at a high resolution would take too long to draw in our online GIS.

Thematic Map

Next, try the Original Du Bois Map. This appeared in 1899 edition of The Philadelphia Negro as a color pullout map and featured the social class of each black family that Du Bois interviewed. Du Bois likely based his map on the 1895 Bromley map.

To see the legend for this map, pan down (the legend appears below South Street). You can also turn the background off (none) and choose Du Bois Grade from the Thematic Map list.

You can look more closely at the people and households that make up the spatial patterns you see in the thematic maps by using the identify tool. Choose, for example, the map of total servants and zoom in to the 1800 block of Spruce Street. Click in 1820 (8th from the 19th Street end), then switch to the Identify Property tab to see who the servants were who lived there.

Notice that the census data is incomplete for the servants in family 1 and 3 (probably because the person who spoke with the census enumerator didn't know much about their background). The servants for family 2 were from Ireland and Germany.

Thematic Map


How was the Seventh Ward GIS created?

The Seventh Ward GIS is based on 1900 U.S. Census data. Our team created the database by copying records for 27,000 people from hand-written records maintained on microfilm and Ancestry.com. We first copied the data into Microsoft Excel, then created an ACCESS database.

Original census data Original Census Data
Data in Excel Excel Census Data

We then re-coded the data using the IPUMs codes. We constructed a 15-digit unique identifier for each person, based on the tencode of the address of residence. The City of Philadelphia identifies properties with a 10-digit representing the street (5 digits) and house number (5 digits). We added a family number (from the Census) and then numbered each individual in the house to create the 15-digit identifier.

We created a shapefile (ESRI-format map layer) by digitizing the 1895 Bromley fire insurance map, which was likely the map Du Bois used as a reference in The Philadelphia Negro. First, we cut the Bromley map into individual blocks, then georeferenced these pieces to the City of Philadelphia's current impervious surface layer. Then we drew the parcel boundaries in using ArcView's editing capability.

To create thematic maps, we aggregated the census data by address and linked the census data to the parcels using the property tencode. Avencia, Inc. created the online GIS using ESRI's ArcGIS Server software as a mapping engine and the ESRI's WebADF for the inclusion of dynamic maps on the web site.

How accurate is the 1900 US Census data?

There are a number of known problems with the 1900 US Census. We know from our own research that the census enumerators, who collected the data, were not trained researchers, like Du Bois. They frequently relied on one person in a household, or perhaps neighbors, for information about others. They used their own judgment (sight) in determining race, and there is no category for mixed race in the 1900 census, so the race data is oversimplified. The US Census Bureau provided explicit directions- "enumerator instructions"- that you can review. We know of at least one example of a census enumerator being fired in June 1900 for being drunk on the job. How good do you think the data he collected before being fired were?

The data the census enumerators collected was not as extensive as the data Du Bois collected (you can see his survey questions in the Appendix of The Philadelphia Negro). Also, Du Bois collected his data in 1897 and the census wasn't taken until 1900. Since some people would have moved during those three years, our Seventh Ward GIS does not include the exact same people that Du Bois met. Unfortunately, the survey data Du Bois collected no longer exist, so the 1900 Census data is the best we can do.

We probably created some addition errors during our data collection process. The handwriting of the census enumerators is difficult to read, so we probably spelled some last names wrong (among other variables). Bottom line, we think this data offer the best available source of information about the people of the Seventh Ward around the time Du Bois conducted his research, but they are far from perfect.

Why is there missing data?

The parcels that are colored gray in the thematic maps indicate missing census data. In some cases, there was no census data because the census enumerator didn't find anyone living in the property. In other cases, we could not find the census record for that property. The enumerator walked down the street, stopping at each property to collect data. If someone wasn't home, he came back later or a different day, so the census records are not always in order. We found many of the out-of-order records, but certainly not all.

Will there be future enhancements to the Seventh Ward GIS?

Yes, we have lots of ideas for future enhancements, and we welcome your suggestions. We hope to link historical photographs to the Seventh Ward GIS, in particular those available through PhillyHistory.org, the Philadelphia Department of Records online collection of photographs (that website was also designed by Avencia, Inc.). We will also connect passages from The Philadelphia Negro that describe particular streets, blocks, and alleys.

We would also like to add census data from other years- 1880, 1910, 1920, and 1930. The 1890 census burned, so there are no available records, and censuses after 1930 are not available yet (they become available 72 years after they are collected, so 1940 will be available in 2012). We plan to add additional map layers, such as occupation and schooling, and to enable overlays of two map layers so you can see the relationship between place of birth and occupation, for example. We would also like to fill in some of the missing 1900 census data and create tools for researchers to extract data to analyze outside our online GIS. Eventually, we will provide definitions of all occupations and causes of deaths, and we hope to link historical crime data, as well.

Another dream is to invite former residents of the Seventh Ward to share their stories and family photographs to create a richer representation of the people who lived there over the decades. We would like to host "scan your own photo" events like those organized by the Historical Society of Pennsylvania's PhilaPlace project, the Department of Records, and Avencia, Inc. during the fall of 2007.

Who did all this work?

It took a team of students and professionals three years to create this. Benjamin Berman (Penn '06), Sarah Bertozzi (Penn '06), Anna Holster (Penn MSW '06), Tim Golden (Haverford College '07), Josiah Neiderbach (Penn MCP '08), Eric Augenbraun (Penn '10), Regina Celestin (Penn MCP'07), Jordane Jolley (Penn MSW'07), and Anne Garcia (Penn MSW'07) transferred the 1900 US Census data for 27,000 individuals from microfilm and Acenstry.com to our database. Peggy Wu (Penn MUSA '06) digitized the parcel map layer. Kelly Porter (Penn MCP '08) cleaned the census data and Shimrit Keddem (Penn staff and MUSA '07) linked the census data to the parcel map layer. Brandon Gollotti (Penn '10) collected the birth data and Eric Augenbraun collected the death data. Michael McClaron and Dave from Avencia, Inc. created the online GIS system.

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