Our Documentary Heritage showcases holdings drawn from the vast collections of the Pennsylvania State Archives.

A circa 1920 image of Lancaster’s Central Market, drawn from Glass Lantern Slides of Pennsylvania Market Houses in Record Group 1, Records of the [Pennsylvania] Department of Agriculture, is one of many in the custody of the Pennsylvania State Archives, Harrisburg. Designed by James H. Warner, an English-born architect, and erected in 1899 near the city’s Penn Square, the market is an imposing example of Romanesque Revival-style architecture. The marketplace, providing twenty thousand square feet to vendors, is built of red brick decorated with stone, and its façade is anchored by unusual twin towers topped by terra cotta roofs. Farmers have sold produce at this site since the mid-eighteenth century, earning for it the distinction as the country’s oldest continuously operating public farmers’ market. Visit Central Market’s website to learn more about its history and hours.

Although most of the lantern slides in this series are not labeled, they do include images of farmers’ markets in York, Carlisle, and Harrisburg, among other communities, both large and small. Farmers’ markets continue to provide a venue for local farmers to sell fresh farm produce, meats, and goods directly to urban customers under health and safety regulations established and enforced by the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture.

The slides were made about 1920 by the Bureau of Markets, created in 1917 in the Agriculture Department to assist producers, processors, wholesalers, and retailers in promoting the sale of Pennsylvania agricultural commodities. The bureau’s divisions specialized in fruits and vegetables, poultry and eggs, livestock and dairy products, marketing and consumer services, market development, and fair fund administration. In 1871, the branches of Fruits and Vegetables and Poultry and Eggs were transferred to the Bureau of Foods and Chemistry, and the Division of Market Development was expanded in 1982 to form the Bureau of Agricultural Development. The bureau furnishes advice and assistance in marketing, compiles information on supply and pricing, administers certification standards and grades farm products, and licenses dealers in agricultural products. The bureau administers the disbursement of the Pennsylvania Fair Fund for state and county farmers’ fair organizations, statewide agricultural organizations, and qualified youth organizations. It is also responsible for enforcing laws pertaining to agricultural marketing under the General Agricultural Commodities Act of 1968.


Willis L. Shirk Jr. is an archivist with the Pennsylvania State Archives.