Civil War Philadelphia and Its Countryside

Pennsylvania Hospital Historic Collections   800 Spruce Street, 3 Pine East, Philadelphia, PA 19107

Contact Information: 215-829-5434 or email

Hours/Access Policy:  By appointment; please contact the Archivist to make an appointment or email

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The Pennsylvania Hospital, founded by Dr. Thomas Bond and Benjamin Franklin, was chartered in 1751 by the colonial government as the first institution in America organized exclusively for the treatment and care of the “sick poor and lunatics.” The “hospital movement” began in England with the dual purpose of caring for the sick and removing the ailing from charity rolls (thereby reducing or removing the financial burden of their care from the community). In turn, the hospital patients served as clinical subjects for scientifically oriented physicians. For the same humanitarian, financial, and scientific reasons, the hospital movement spread to the American colonies, beginning in Philadelphia.

The Archives of the Pennsylvania Hospital, now amassing more than 2,400 linear feet of records, have been gathered for over 250 years, an almost unbroken series since 1751. Our extensive collection is approximately two-thirds processed, providing invaluable information for a multitude of scholars. Half of the Archives collection consists of administration and financial records, patient files, photographs and other visual materials, personal papers of hospital practitioners (including Thomas Bond, John Redman, Benjamin Rush, Philip Syng Physick, Thomas Chalkley James, and Arthur V. Meigs) as well as the affiliates absorbed by Pennsylvania Hospital such as the Philadelphia Dispensary, the Preston Retreat, the Southern Dispensary, the Philadelphia Lying-In Charity, the Maternity Hospital, the Nurse Charity, and the Humane Society. The remaining half consists of the artifacts and the records of the Institute of Pennsylvania Hospital. The most extensively used material is the Board of Managers material: ledger books of minutes, rough hand-written minutes, and Attending Managers’ notes. From this use, these items are in need of organization and conservation, along with the records of the Medical Staff Collection, which has been underused because of the lack of intellectual control over the material. The material provides a unique resource for scholars interested in social, political, economic, and cultural history; emphasizing the history of hospital development, mental health care, medicine (regional, national, and international), and architecture. It also provides a wealth of genealogical material.

Civil War Collection
The Pennsylvania Hospital Historic Collections holds records related to the Civil War period, including Board of Manager Minute Records, Steward Records, Financial Records, Institute of Pennsylvania Hospital Records (mental-health patient records are RESTRICTED), and Meteorological Records. The Meteorological Records are a particular interesting source in that they record the views of the men who recorded the weather for Pennsylvania Hospital during the Civil War and make many notes of events regarding the Civil War including events at Gettysburg, Appomattox, and Lincoln’s funeral procession through Philadelphia. Board Minute Records record the business of the hospital during the Civil War years, including the agreement with the federal government to receive soldiers and a lengthy discussion of the “southern debt” amassed at the Institute of Pennsylvania Hospital.
Collection Highlights:

The Medical Contribution

1. Meteorological Records kept detailed account of hourly changes in weather and what was blooming, no author cited. Occasional comments on situation in city during CW. June 1862 notes soldiers arrived from the war, 657 men. June 1863 on eve of Battle of Gettysburg the city in great alarm from the approach of the rebels, on the last days of the month. The citizens determined to make a vigorous stand July 1-3, of the month great battle of Gettysburg in which Lee’s rebel army was defeated by the Army of the Potomac under General Meade. April 3.1865 “great rejoicing today over the fall of rebel capitol and stronghold Richmond.” April 10, 1865 “Surrender of Lee’s Confederate Army to General Grant. Great joy and excitement.”

1. Small portrait of Major R.E. Stewart C123 PA Volunteers no further identification 2606.10.
2. 2 photographs of women nurses, PA Institute for Insane 1860’s, doing calisthenics in one and with a young drummer boy and flag bearer in other (unclear relationship to CW). Nurses are in “sporty” outfits for the period.
3. Image of Pine Street side of old hospital building taken April 22, 1861.

Lincoln in Philadelphia:

1. Meteorological records April 15 1865. “President Lincoln assassinated last night,” April 19, “President Lincoln’s funeral in city in morning business suspended.”
2. April 22, Lincoln’s funeral in Phila. Sunday 23rd long lines of people on Chestnut St. moving to Independence Hall “to take a last look at beloved President.”

Research Tools
For more information about Pennsylvania Hospital Archives’ Civil War collections, please visit the following pages:

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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