Civil War Philadelphia and Its Countryside

German Society

611 Spring Garden Street Philadelphia, PA 19123  215-627-2332

Hours/Access Policy
Mondays and Tuesdays, 10 am to 4 pm. It is helpful to staff if you email or call ahead in preparation for a visit.

Contact Information
Joseph P. Horner Memorial Library German Society of Pennsylvania
611 Spring Garden Street
Philadelphia, PA 19123

Institutional -
Library home page -
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Founded in 1764 as an organization dedicated to helping newly arrived German immigrants, the German Society of Pennsylvania today offers cultural programs to further the understanding of German and German-American contributions to the history and culture of the United States. The Society’s Horner Library was founded in 1817 as a lending library serving the reading interests of the membership, and a portion of the historic library is preserved today as a scholarly resource (Main Collection), including rare 19th-century German popular works of fiction and non-fiction. In 1867 the Society also established a German-American Archive, now known as the German American Collection, containing books, pamphlets, periodicals and manuscripts that document German-American history and culture since the 18th century. The Carl Schurz Collection contains popular, educational, and political literature related to German-American relations and culture.

The Library’s holdings are three-quarters in German and one-quarter in English, including approximately 25,000 volumes in the Main Collection; 10,000 books and pamphlets in the German-American Collection; 3,500 books and pamphlets in the Carl Schurz Collection; and 80 linear feet of manuscript holdings, including the German Society’s own institutional records from its founding in 1764 to the present day.

Civil War Collections
The John F. Ballier papers, ca. 1831-1892 (2.5 linear feet) comprise documents related to the Civil War service of John F. Ballier, as commander of the 21st and 98th Regiments of Pennsylvania Volunteers, including correspondence, personal writings, guard reports, muster rolls, military orders, and printed military circulars and general orders. A few items pertain to the erection of the soldiers' monument for the 98th Regiment in Battleground National Cemetery, Washington, D. C., in 1891. Other papers of Ballier include a resolution of the National Guard of Pennsylvania, Third Regiment, acknowledging Ballier's retirement in 1876; and a personal scrapbook containing correspondence, memorabilia, ephemera, and clippings documenting his Civil War service as well as other aspects of his life, including many items related to German-American societies and festivities in Philadelphia in the following decades. Also included are records of discharges and payments to veterans of Ballier's Pennsylvania regiments, as well as other regiments in Pennsylvania and in other states; and a volume entitled Pennsylvania Militia Legion cashbook. Other items held at the German Society of Pennsylvania that belonged to John F. Ballier and were personally donated by him include two swords, a ceremonial sash, a pistol holster, and a wooden trunk that served as his regimental desk.

Other collections dating from the same era although not directly related to the Civil War:

Cabinetmakers Beneficial Association of Philadelphia (Tischler Unterstützungs-Verein) minute book (in German), 1860-1867. With items in English dated 1887-1898 laid in. (Ms. Coll. AE 757)

Künstlerverein der Namenlosen records, ca. 1858-1881 (5 volumes). Includes literary contributions and original artwork of this Philadelphia-based artists’ association.

Collection Highlights
The Library’s collection of German-American newspapers on microfilm includes long runs of two Philadelphia newspapers, the Freie Presse and Der Demokrat, that span most of the second half of the 19th century. In addition, holdings of some German-American periodicals, such as Die Abendschule (St. Louis; 1854-1940) and Deutsch-Amerikanische Monatshefte (Chicago; 1864-1867), include the era of the Civil War.

Other relevant holdings include books and pamphlets dating from the 1860s through the later 19th century pertaining to the Civil War, on subjects such as Abraham Lincoln, slavery, and German-American participation in the war, as well as items by or about German Americans who fought in the war, such as Franz Sigel and Carl Schurz. Mostly in German with some items in English, and including German translations from English, as well as works published in Germany.

Some sample pamphlets from the German American Collection
Sihler, W. (Wilhelm),1801-1885. Die Sklaverei im Lichte der Heiligen Schrift betrachtet. Baltimore : [s.n.], 1863. (GAC Pamphlet AL 200)

Sigel, Franz, 1824-1902. General F. Sigel's Rede : gehalten in der grossen deutschen Massen-Versammlung in der Concert Halle zu Philadelphia, am 3ten Oktober 1863. [s. l. : s. n., 1863]. 1 p. [Sigel reflects on German-American identity in the context of the American Civil War.] (GAC Oversize)  

Schurz, Carl, 1829-1906. Rede des General Schurz, gehalten am 16. September in der Concert Hall zu Philadelphia. [Pa.? : s.n., 1864]. 16 p.  (GAC Pamphlet AA 182.2)

Die Sclaverei in den Südstaaten Nord-Amerika's / dargestellt von einem katholischen Missionär. Frankfurt a.M. : Verlag für Kunst und Wissenschaft, 1865. (GAC Pamphlet AL 220)

Die schreckliche Tragödie in Washington : Ermordung des Präsidenten Lincoln : Seine letzten Stunden und die Todes-Scenen : Ein ausführlicher und zuverlä̈ssiger Bericht ... Philadelphia, Barclay & Co., 1865. (GAC Pamphlet AM 360.1)

Das Verhör der Meuchelmörder und Verschworenen wegen der Ermordung des Präsidenten Abraham Lincoln ... : Das Interessanteste sämmtlicher bekannten Verhöre, enthaltend die vollständigen Zeugenaussagen .... Philadelphia : Barclay und Co., 1865. (GAC Pamphlet AM 360.2)

Sklaverei und Emancipation der schwarzen Rasse in den Vereinigten Staaten von Nordamerika: Geschichtliche abhandlungen, von C. Goedel. Hrsg. vom Züricher Comité zur Unterstützung der befreiten Farbigen. Zürich, Schabelitz (C. Schmidt), 1866. (GAC Pamphlet AL 240)

Reference Sources

Finding aids
The Library's finding aids are accessible online at the PACSCL (Philadelphia Area Consortium of Special Collections Libraries) Finding Aids website.

Bibliographical References/Research Tools
An overview of the Library’s collections is found in: Kevin Ostoyich, The German Society of Pennsylvania: a guide to its book and manuscript collections (Washington, DC: German Historical Institute, 2006), available online in pdf format.

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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