Civil War Philadelphia and Its Countryside



Christ Church in Philadelphia  20 N. American Street, Philadelphia, PA 19106

Hours/Access Policy  Monday - Saturday 9:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m., Sunday 1:00 pm - 5:00 pm
Closed Mondays and Tuesdays in January and February, January 1, Easter Sunday, Thanksgiving and Christmas

Contact Information  Christ Church Preservation Trust Staff (215) 922-1695

PDF version of this page.

The original church structure was a small brick and wooden structure that fit into its Quaker-dominated surroundings in the late 1600s. The current church was started in 1727, and has long been considered one of the finest Georgian structures in America. The steeple, financed by a lottery organized by Benjamin Franklin, was the tallest structure in the colonies for 56 years.

The interior of the church is as impressive as the exterior. It includes the baptismal font from the 1300s donated by All Hallows Church London in which William Penn was baptized, a pulpit from 1769 built by Thomas Folwell and a chandelier still in use since its installation in 1740.

Those who worshiped regularly at Christ Church include George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Betsy Ross, Robert Morris, Absalom Jones, Benjamin Rush, John Penn (William Penn's grandson), Francis Hopkinson and many others.

The church today is still an active Episcopal parish and also the location of daily talks for visitors about the history of the church.

Christ Church’s rich heritage is well documented by an extensive collection of artifacts as well as archival and library materials. The historic artifact collections contain silver, liturgical furniture, paintings, prints and memorial art as well as architectural elements. They date from the earliest days of the Church to the present and they include some of the most important pieces of Philadelphia silver including communion silver presented to Christ Church by Queen Anne, c. 1710, an early baptismal bowl made by Philip Syng, Sr., c. 1715 and another flagon made by Syng, similar in style to the Queen Ann piece.

The collection also includes some major pieces of liturgical furniture including the pulpit by John Folwell, c. 1769; an early English baptismal font in which William Penn is reported to have been baptised; and two pieces by cabinetmaker and parishioner, Jonathan Gostelowe, a baptismal font in and a communion table made in 1788. The church’s collections are not static, but continue to grow. New pieces of communion silver have been given in memory of parishioners; vestments have been commissioned for special occasions and portraits of rectors line the halls of Neighborhood House.

The archives, which include the historic and ongoing records of Christ Church dating from 1695 to the present, comprise nearly 300 linear feet. They include vestry minutes, financial records including pew rental information, title records, the parish registers, as well as the files of the various rectors, sermons, photographs and audio-visual holdings. Records of affiliated institutions include those of Christ Church Hospital (now the Kearsley Home), Episcopal Academy and Christ Church Chapel. Certain key items that elicit great interest are the 1762 seating chart, the 1776 Vestry minutes in which the Reverend Jacob Duché crossed out the references to the royal family, and a 1799 letter from George Washington to his former pastor, William White, thanking him for a copy of his new sermon. 

Records of St. Peter’s Church and some records of St. James Church are also included within the archives of Christ Church as they collectively formed the United Churches of Christ Church and St. Peters until 1832 when they divided. St. James was part of this union until 1828.

Christ Church has a significant collection of rare books. The Bray Library, sent to the church by Thomas Bray at the turn of the eighteenth century, comprised some 291 volumes of Bibles, commentaries on the Bible, sermons, classical texts, mathematical books and more. One hundred and seventy-six of these survive, on loan to the Library Company of Philadelphia. The intent behind the Bray Library was that the books circulate among parishioners. Other bibles, hymnals, and published collections of sermons have all been given to Christ Church over the years, including the famed “Vinegar Bible” in which the Parable of the Vineyards had a major typographic error, translating it to “vinegar.” Also of note is A Collection of Psalm Tunes with a few Anthems and Hymns some of them exclusively for the United Churches of ChristChurch and St. Peter's in Philadelphia, 1763 attributed to Francis Hopkinson, signer of the Declaration of Independence, jurist and sometime organist at Christ Church.  One of Christ Church's most treasured documents is the Book of Common Prayer, amended by the Reverend Jacob Duché  in 1776 at the direction of the Vestry to elminate references to the King and the Royal Family.

Civil War Collection

Christ Church of Philadelphia’s Civil War collection includes materials related to the Church and its efforts (especially of the Dorcas Society) to support the Union during the war. Some of the collections below have been digitized and are available on the Christ Church site.

Collection Highlights, or of interest

The Home Front and Civilians:


1. CC archives has microfilm of their archives (originals at HSP). Dorcas Society records document church women who made clothes and food for soldiers. It began in1859 as a sewing society but when war broke out they focused their work on making items for the troops. May 1861 letter from Captain E.M. Woodward of company B thanking them—good letter. Thank-you letters often indicate the urgent need for food and clothing.

2. Poem about knitting women by Mrs. Edward A. Souder 1861 memorializes their work.

3. Thank-you letters from Women’s Penn Branch of U.S. Sanitary Commission 1307 Chestnut St thanking them for donations responding to call at Battle of Gettysburg. Date July 6, 1863.

4. Strong split in congregation over war and the Emancipation Proclamation with some  members being outspokenly pro-southern such as Butler, Ingersoll and    Cadwalader and another like Meredith eventually being a founding member of   UL. This congregation’s stand on war and slavery in sharp contrast to Holy Trinity.

5. Rector Dorr assistant Cameron McRae from North Carolina submitted his resignation to the vestry to return to NC—microfilm vestry minutes. 1860’s and in John William Wallace A Discourse Delivered at HSP October 27, 1870 Dorr’s 1861 fast-day sermon is quoted—odd in that it ignores pending crisis in the country.

6. The American Vine. A Sermon preached in Christ Church, Philadelphia (1861) – Object ID (V 701)

7. Burial account records, interment orders., 1861-1869

8. Calvary Monumental Church. Financial records. Account Books., 1848-1871, V514: Account book of the treasurer of Calvary Church Association, 1848-1855

V515: Account book of the warden of Calvary Church, 1865-1871

9. Calvary Monumental Church. Financial records. Bills, receipts, accounts., 1855-1883, F611: 1855

F612: 1865

F613: 1866

F614: 1867

F615: 1868

F616: 1869

F617: 1870

F618: 1871

F619: 1874

F620: 1877

F621: Vouchers for removal and re-erection of Church, 1882

F622: Vouchers for removal and re-erection of Church, 1883

10. Christ Church Hospital. Board of Managers. Meeting minutes and committe reports., 1804-1942, There are 7 volumes that record board of manager meeting minutes:

V446: 1804-1824

V447: 1824-1846

V448: 1846-1859

V449: 1882-1914

V450: 1914-1930

V451: 1931-1940

V452: 1940-1942

And 2 volumes housing committee reports:

V453: Weekly committee record book, 1819-1835

V454: Building committee, minutes, 1857-1861

 11. Christ Church Hospital. Treasurer. Property income books., 1842-1932, There are 13 property income books. Arranged chronologically they are as follows:

V481: [ca. 1842]

V482: [ca. 1853]

V483: 1854-1856

V484: 1854-1858

V485-V487: 1855-1860 (3 copies)

V488: 1858-1869

V489: 1863-1871

V490: 1872-1881

V491: 1882-1901

V492: 1902-1921

V493: 1922-1932

12. Christ Church Hospital. Treasurer. Special accounts., 1819-1872, n.d., The following special accounts are represented in the records of Christ Church Hospital.

V494: Matrons’ Account Book, 1819-1835

V495: Matrons’ Account book, 1835-1851

V496: New building account book, 1856-1862

V497: Farm account book, 1857-1861

V498: Farm account book, 1862-1865

V499: Farm account book, 1867-1872

V500: Account book, Commercial bank

13. Christ Church Hospital. Treasurer. Title papers., 1792-1915, V501: Estate book, 1863-1915

V502: Schedule of Properties, 1814; Title records

F581, OF19: Kearsley bequest

F582, OF20: Dobbins bequest

OF21: Property purchased 1792 (Fifth above Market)

14. Christ Church Hospital. Treasurer. Vouchers., 1819-1921, There are 12 chronologically arranged volumes in this record group. The volumes are divided as follows:

V469: 1819-1830

V470: 1831-1838

V471: 1838-1846

V472: 1846-1855

V473: 1856-1864

V474: 1864-1875

V475: 1875-1888

V476: 1889-1899

V477: 1899-1907

V478: 1907-1913

V479: 1913-1916

V480: 1919-1921

15. Commercial Bank, account books., 1859-1866, Two bank account books dated: 1859 to 1865, and 1865-1866.

16. Commercial Bank, check book., 1859-1861

17. Committee on Endowment, minutes and other documentation, 1864-1866, Volume details meetings and tracks progress of the endowment.

18. Committee on Library and Relics, record Book., 1861-1862, Record book. Contains committee meeting minutes as well as an indexed guide to 26 items deemed part of the churches collection of books and antiques. Entries include the pulpit, an old bible, chandelier, organ and various furniture.

19. Committee records. Committee on Endowment, correspondence and draft appeals., 1864, Correspondence, circulars, and other documents related to the endowment.

20. Committee reports, 1864, Report of the committee to examine the use of the church for burial service and the use of vaults for the burial ground.

21. Dorcas Society, 1859-1913, Dorcas Societies existed throughout the United States by the middle of the nineteenth-century. These women’s groups were typically religiously affiliated. It is unclear as to when the first Dorcas was established, however the Christ Church branch was founded by at least 1859. A lack of founding documents suggests that the group probably dates to an earlier time. Inline with the Dorcas Society at large, the Christ Church ladies provided clothing and other textiles. There is sufficient evidence that the group also gave away monetary allotments.

The Christ Church chapter doled out provisions to the local needy and also to various regiments of [Union] soldiers throughout the Civil War. Surviving correspondence is particularly telling. Civil War soldiers were grateful for provisions received of the women’s group; they wrote at length of their gratitude and of their experiences as soldiers of war. Also evidenced in the records is the relationship the Dorcas developed with the United States Sanitary Commission

22. Dorcas Society. Correspondence, 1861-1863, this folders houses incoming and outgoing correspondence of the Christ Church Dorcas Society. The letters all pertain to provisions (mostly clothing and other textiles) sent to various Civil War troops. A majority of the letters were received of soldiers expressing appreciation for the supplies. Other correspondents include the Pennsylvania branch of the United States Sanitary Commission. The few existing outgoing letters are particularly exceptional. They detail the types of items sent by the church group and to whom.

23. Dorcas Society. Receipts and memoranda., 1861-1862

24. General Account Books. Journal., 1836-1862

25. Meeting minutes., March 24, 1845 - February 28, 1866, The meeting minutes from the Spring of 1865 refer to the death of President Abraham Lincoln. The vestry of Christ Church elected to drape the church in black for a period of three months and muffle the church bells to mourn the death of the president.

26. Womens Auxillary Groups. MIssionary Society. Account book., 1861-1868

27. Receipt book, general expenses, 1839-1862

For more information about Christ Church Philadelphia’s Civil War Collections, please visit the following pages:

 Online Archives


This project has been generously supported by the Honorable Larry Farnese, PA Senator, the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources,
the Department of Community and Economic Development, and the Samuel S. Fels Fund.


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About the Guide Civil War in Philadelphia Philadelphia Collections Notes for Researchers