Over the summer in 2012, Philadelphia’s Mural Arts Program hired Interface Studio to undertake a research and mapping project to document the growth and decline of Philadelphia’s once booming textile industry. The results of the research provided context in support of a special Mural Arts Program initiative, Structure and Surface, designed to bridge the manufacturing community of 20th century Philadelphia with present-day artists and designers. The project placed six artists in residence with long-established local textile companies, with the intention that the experiences would provide inspiration for a series of site-specific installations showcasing a proud Philadelphia tradition.
We poured over the Free Library of Philadelphia’s collection of Davison’s Blue Book Textile Directories from 1903 through 2007, tracking the top ten cities by number of textile manufacturing business listings over time. Between 1903 and 1923, Philadelphia had more textile manufacturing business listings in Davison’s than any other city in the country.