Civil War Philadelphia and Its Countryside



Friends Historical Library of Swarthmore College
Swarthmore College, 500 College Avenue, Swarthmore, Pennsylvania 19081-1398

Hours/Access Policy
8:30-4:30 Monday-Friday, 10-1 on Saturdays when Swarthmore College is in session.   

Contact Information
Friends Historical Library of Swarthmore College, 500 College Avenue, Swarthmore, Pennsylvania 19081-1398   610-328-8496

Institutional:    Library catalog:  TRIPOD

PDF version of this page.

Established in 1871, Friends Historical Library is located on the campus of Swarthmore College in suburban Philadelphia and is open to the public. Its mission is to document the history of the Society of Friends (Quakers) and its concerns from the 17th century to the present.

Civil War Collection
Friends Historical Library documents the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) with its primary focus on the Mid-Atlantic Region.  There is no distinct Civil War collection, but meeting records document how Quakers, a pacifist denomination, responded to the Civil War, and family and personal papers document how individual Quakers responded to the Civil War.

Collection Highlights
Of particular relevance to the Civil War are archives and papers concerning Quaker involvement in the anti-slavery movement, particularly from the 1750s onward, with African-American education   from the same time period, papers of Quaker abolitionists, records of organizations such as the Friends Freedmen Association, formed to provide education to the newly emancipated slaves in the 1860s, as well as papers of Quakers and Quaker organizations involved in freedmen’s education from the 1860s into the 1930s and beyond.   Some Quakers did reject traditional Quaker pacifism and joined the Union Army or otherwise supported the military efforts.

Home Front/Civilians

Papers of Quaker families and meetings for the Civil War period.

The African-American Community

Papers of individual Quakers and Quaker organizations reflecting the long involvement of Quakers in African-American concerns including emancipation, education and legal status, from the 1750s and before, to date.

The Medical Contribution

Papers of Quakers providing relief to freedmen may include reports on health conditions in the refugee camps and elsewhere.

Militaria and Diaries

Some Quakers rejected traditional Quaker pacifism and joined the Union Army. Friends Historical Library as several family papers including correspondence with soldiers.

Lincoln in Philadelphia

Meeting records include contacts with Lincoln and/or the national government primarily concerning Friends concerns with conscription.  Specific Lincoln items include a manuscript journal recording a visit of a Wilburite Friend from Chester County to Lincoln as part of a Quaker delegation in 1864,  a letter from Lincoln to Iowa Quakers in response to their endorsement of  the emancipation proclamation, records of the Yearly Meeting of Progressive Friends (Longwood) about a delegation sent to Lincoln in 1862 to urge him to free the slaves.  Lincoln’s ancestors did attending Exeter Friends Meeting in Berks County, Pennsylvania.

Research Tools

  • Manuscript inventories -- on-line and in-house
  • Finding aids – on-line (Under Family & Personal Papers, Organizational Records, Visual Collections, Quaker Meeting Records, College Archives and History Resources) and in-house

Information on some, but not all, of the collections may be found on TRIPOD, the joint catalog shared by Swarthmore, Haverford and Bryn Mawr Colleges available on-line at

Other finding aids may be accessed through the Friends Historical Library website


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