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St. John's Lutheran Church Collection

Identifier: SJC

Scope and Contents

This collection consists primarily of records from the construction of St. John’s Lutheran Church, dedicated in Philadelphia in June of 1809. These records date from 1807 to 1812. They are receipted bills for materials and labor that document the prices of craftsmen at this historical moment as well as the work that went into the construction of this building. A small number of photocopied documents from later dates as well as a mounted image are also included in this collection.

The receipted bills make up the first series. They are largely organized according to numbers that were assigned for the church’s record-keeping. This numbering system generally puts them in a loose chronological order. The numbered documents are kept in the first subseries while those that lack numbers form the second subseries. These unnumbered records are arranged by date. The date by which a bill is filed is the latest one marked on it. Within this subseries, the final folder holds those documents that are without a date. Some documents were mounted for exhibition purposes and are housed in a separate box. To preserve the intellectual organization of the papers, these have nonetheless been entered into the numbered and dated ordering of the first series.

All other documents are in the second series. Its first folder contains photocopies of documents that date from 1901-1956. They are church publications, reports and bulletins. The second folder in this series contains a mounted image of the church vestry room.


  • Majority of material found within 1807-1956

Language of Materials

Materials in English.

Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

The St. John's Lutheran Church Collection is the physical property of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Archives. The Museum holds literary rights only for material created by Museum personnel or given to the Museum with such rights specifically assigned. For all other material, literary rights, including copyright, belong to the authors or their legal heirs and assigns. Researchers are responsible for obtaining permission from rights holders for publication and for other purposes where stated.

Biographical / Historical

St. John’s Church was the first English Lutheran church in the United States. It was formed in 1806 in order to provide church services in English rather than German. The initial congregation was formed by members who separated from Zion’s German Lutheran Church at Fourth and Cherry streets. Reverend P.F. Mayer was the first pastor with his tenure lasting 52 years.

The new church was granted an Act of Incorporation in 1808. On March 9th of that year, the cornerstone was set on Race Street between Fifth and Sixth Streets. The building was dedicated in June of 1809. Its building committee consisted of John Goodman, Jr. , Christlieb Bartling, John Rugan, Michael Fox, John Hay, Adam Eckfeldt and John Greiner.

St. John’s Church was designed in the Federal style by Frederick Graff, who is best known for constructing the Philadelphia Water Works in Fairmount Park. Its front portal was a highly regarded work of architectural design. The interior decoration included a large gilded eagle, symbolizing the church’s patron saint, that was commissioned from William Rush between 1809 and 1811. It was installed above the sounding board of the pulpit until 1847 when it was removed to the Assembly Room of Independence Hall. In 1914, it was moved again to above Rush's wooden statue of George Washington near the Liberty Bell. Its signification thus shifted from religious to patriotic. This sculpture is now at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

The church was demolished in 1924 to make way for the Benjamin Franklin Bridge. A palladian window and sash from the building remain in the collection of the Philadelphia Museum of Art.


2 linear feet


This collection consists primarily of records from the construction of St. John’s Lutheran Church, dedicated in Philadelphia in June of 1809. These records date from 1807 to 1812.

Custodial History

The material that now forms the St. John's Lutheran Church Collection was transferred to the Archives from the American Art Department in the summer of 2012.

Processing Information

This collection was processed and described by Alethea Rockwell in 2012.

Guide to the St. John's Lutheran Church Collection
Alethea Rockwell
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note

Repository Details

Part of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Library and Archives Repository

Philadelphia Museum of Art
PO Box 7646
Philadelphia PA 19101-7646 United States