If you need an excellent resource for histories of Quaker meeting houses, T. Chalkley Matlack’s notebooks are well worth a look. He compiled a vast amount of information concerning meeting houses in Philadelphia, New Jersey, and a few other places. Matlack’s project is impressive to say the least. Each hand-written notebook provides the histories and photographs of meeting houses in a specific state, county, etc.
He best explained his reasons for writing in the introduction to his first notebook:
“During the passage of the early days of 1928 the idea of collecting photographic views of Friends’ Meeting Houses took hold of the mind of the compiler of this work. The gathering together of pictures of Meeting Houses in the form of post-cards, photographs, or drawings, had often been tried by others with in some cases, very admirable success, yet quite incomplete, irregular in size, and without written detail of the meetings they illustrated. In planning the collection here under consideration, the compiler designed to personally visit each meeting locality, if possible to reach it, and not only secure photographs of the Meeting House from more than one point of approach, but to add, others of the environment, often very attractive and beautiful, the school houses… , the boarding homes…, and the burial grounds…. Another, and probably the most important feature of the project, was to gather historical data concerning each meeting. This part of the work gradually developed into a search among meeting records, histories, and various writings bearing upon the subject. The deeper the research the more intense became the interest. Many persons assisted with personal knowledge and recollections that were especially interesting, helpful and valuable… This collection of Friends Meeting Houses comprises the history of 267 meetings; and pictures 219 localities visited by the compiler. T.Chalkley Matlack, Moorestown, New Jersey, Twelfth Mo. 1st, 1933.”
There are 21 notebooks in the collection, and each one communicates the time and effort that Matlack put into them. After scanning and trying to document many pictures of meeting houses with very little information included, Matlack’s notebooks were a wonderful change: each meeting house is given more than a name or date, it is given a context too. The notebooks are very thorough. The histories are informative and, in some cases, contain amusing anecdotes about the meeting houses.
For more information about this collection, please visit the Finding Aid.