Civil War Philadelphia and Its Countryside

The Library Company of Philadelphia  1314 Locust Street, Philadelphia, PA 19123

Hours/Access Policy
Reading room and gallery: 9:00 a.m.-4:45 p.m., weekdays; Print room by appointment only.

Contact Information
Institutional: 215-546-3181; 215- 546-8229 (Print Department)
Rachel A. D’Agostino, Curator of Printed Books,
Sarah Weatherwax, Curator of Prints and Photographs,

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The Library Company of Philadelphia is an independent research library specializing in American history and culture from the 17th through the 19th centuries. Open to the public free of charge, the Library Company houses an extensive non-circulating collection of rare books, manuscripts, broadsides, ephemera, prints, photographs, and works of art. The mission of the Library Company is to preserve, interpret, make available, and augment the valuable materials within its care. We serve a diverse constituency throughout Philadelphia and nationally and internationally, offering comprehensive reader services, an internationally renowned fellowship program, online catalogs, and regular exhibitions and public programs.

Civil War Collection
Comprising some of the Library Company’s most diverse materials, our Civil War-related holdings include not only books but also recruiting posters, photographs, comic valentines, song sheets, playbills, pictorial envelopes, lottery tickets, paper money, leaflets, handbills, fans, humorous moveable “transformation” cards, ribbons, buttons, tickets, trade cards, and much more. Much of what we own came to us from the collection of John McAllister, Jr. and his son, John A. McAllister, nineteenth-century Philadelphia antiquarians. Items in the McAllister collection alone number some 50,000 pieces and include, in addition to printed material, graphics and manuscripts. With grant funding, the McAllister Collection has recently been conserved and cataloged to improve preservation and access.

The recruiting posters are the gems of the McAllister Collection. Often oversized (up to 8 feet tall) and printed on multiple sheets, they were printed using eye-catching colors, large ornamental type, and dynamic wood engravings. They document changing recruiting strategies for Union troops during the War (for example, increasing the monetary incentive for volunteering when patriotic resolve began to wane) and demonstrate cutting-edge printing techniques.
Other pieces of ephemera include those related to Union money-making activities, such as the Sanitary Fairs organized by women who wanted to help the cause. Circulars asking for donations of goods and services, tickets to fund-raising balls and fairs, advertising posters, and even souvenir fans from the events are included in the collection. An extensive group of Civil War stationery–envelopes embellished with political cartoons and allegorical figures and pieces of letterhead illustrating camp scenes–evince the massive output by printers for whom soldiers were their steady consumers.
More durable pamphlets and books related to the War include innumerable political tracts, treatises on surgery in the field, fictional tales of intrigue, and camp songsters. They give voice to both soldiers in the field and politicians, such as Lincoln, making the crucial decisions of the day.

Additionally relevant to Civil War studies is the Library Company’s important Afro-Americana Collection ( With over 13,000 titles, almost 1,000 graphics--and growing--it includes books, pamphlets, newspapers, periodicals, broadsides, and graphics. The collection ranges in date from the mid-16th century into the early 20th century. Among its many subjects are slavery and movements against it; racial thought and racism; descriptions of African American life, slave and free; slavery and race in fiction and drama, and the printed works of African American individuals and organizations.

Collection Highlights

The Home Front/Civilians


Broadsides, prints, leaflets
The McAllister Collection ( includes many envelopes and stationery with patriotic slogans and iconography, and many prints documenting the city during the Civil War period, as well as thousands of pieces of printed ephemera (broadsides, tickets, posters, form letters, announcements, appeals, invitations, receipts, etc) related to sick and wounded soldiers; widows and orphans; lectures, concerts, and displays at many local theatres and halls including the Academy of Music; founding documents of the Union League; committees for the 1864 Sanitary Fair; the Cooper Union Volunteer Refreshment Saloon, and more. Also includes Union labels for various products like tobacco, clothing, wall paper, musical instruments, and jewelry.

Prints and Photographs
Extensive collection documenting city during Civil War, good runs of period newspapers, also relevant books for the period.

The African-American Community

Broadsides and Prints
1. Several “Men of Color!” posters for black recruitment; one is 7 ft long and lists names of prominent local and national men of color.
2. “Reading the Emancipation Proclamation” engraving by James Watt after painting by Henry Herrick; very portentous, one black Union soldier.
3. “Destroyed by Fire Pennsylvania Hall May 17, 1838” color lithograph.
4. Thomas Nast’s “Emancipation, the Past and the Future” 1864 colored engraving; allegory of Emancipation Proclamation Jan 23, 1863, sold at the Great Sanitary Fair.

1. Black military recruiting-related literature.
2. Extensive collection of anti-slavery and abolitionist literature published in Philadelphia over long time period.
3. Publications of the supervisory Committee for Recruiting Colored Regiments.
4. Small Broadside from the Sanitary Fair sponsored by Ladies of the St. Thomas Church. Sanitary Commission, held at Concert Hall (Chestnut St above 12th) December 19, 1864; served the African American community
5. “An Appeal to those members of the Society of Friends who, knowing the Principles of the Abolitionists, Stand Aloof from the Anti-Slavery Enterprise” 1848 by Graceanne Lewis-well known abolitionist from Chester County, home used on Underground RR, she began her activism at age 16.

Manuscripts and Books
1. Minutes of the 5th Annual Convention for the Improvement of the Free People of Color in the U.S. (1835).
2. An Appeal to the Females of AME Church Philadelphia 1857 by Mary Still,
urges women to support publications such as the Christian Record.
3. The Colored Regulars in the U.S. Army with a Sketch of the History of the Colored American by Theophilus G. Steward, published in Philadelphia, AME Book 1904.

The Medical Contribution

Prints, photographs, and printed works
1. Many advertisements for medicines and war-related products and services (coffins, prosthetics) etc.
2. Medical literature of the period.

Research Tools

For more information about Library Company’s Civil War Collections, please visit the following pages:

John A. McAllister Collection   (

Civil War Collections for Books/Printed Materials   (

Civil War Envelope Collection   (

WolfPAC Catalog   (

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