Civil War Philadelphia and Its Countryside

University of Pennsylvania Libraries
3401 Market Street, Suite 210, Philadelphia, PA 19104

Hours/Access Policy
Reading Room open to the public: Monday through Friday, 12-4:45 pm. Penn or other photo identification required for entry into building and for registering in the reading room.

Contact Information: Rare Book and Manuscript Library: 215 898-7088,
John Pollack, Library Specialist: 215 746-5825,
Lynne Farrington, Curator of Printed Books: 215 746-5828, 

PDF version of this page.

The Rare Book and Manuscript Library (RBML) at the University of Pennsylvania is a repository for many of Penn’s rare book and manuscript collections, which emphasize European and American materials. RBML collections are non-circulating and include rare books, manuscripts, broadsides, ephemera, prints and photographs, recordings, scores, and some works of art. Our mission is to support the academic mission of the University, which includes providing access to our research materials to Penn faculty, students, and staff as well as to the wider scholarly community. We offer comprehensive reader services, online catalogs and finding aids, and regular exhibitions and public programs.

Civil War Collection

RBML’s Civil War-related holdings are found throughout the collections, including some of our larger manuscript and print collections, such as the Henry Charles Lea Papers and the Keffer Collection of Sheet Music, and in the general print collections, as well as in smaller manuscript and print collections.

Henry Charles Lea Papers: correspondence, writings, clippings, juvenilia, and memorabilia, ca. 1830-1935, concerning Lea's interests both in Medieval history (specifically the history of witchcraft and the Inquisition) and in civic affairs (mostly in and around Philadelphia) from the American Civil War to Republican Party politics to philanthropy.

Abraham Lincoln Collection compiled by Gordon A. Block: collection of Lincolniana, ca. 1840-1865. Books from Block’s collection are cataloged separately in the Library’s online catalog and include two books owned by Lincoln as well as over eighty books about Lincoln, published before, during, and after the Civil War.

Joshua Blackwood Howell Papers: letters, photographs, and other mateials, 1820-1888, relating to Howell (1806-1864), Brigadier General, USA, killed at Petersburg, Virginia, in the final campaigns of the Civil War.

Harriet Buss Papers: letters, 1850-1871, to her parents from various schools where Buss taught, including one in Beaufort and Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, during the Civil War.

Keffer Collection of Sheet Music: a collection of primarily nineteenth-century American sheet music, which contains numerous works relating to the Civil War, including songs about such prominent Civil War figures as Jefferson Davis, Ulysses S. Grant, Stonewall Jackson, Robert E. Lee, and William T. Sherman as well as about battles such Bull Run, Gettysburg, and Shiloh. In addition, there are a number of Confederate imprints.

In addition to extensive collections of anti-slavery and abolitionist books and pamphlets, Civil War pamphlets, and a cache of seventy-one 1864 presidential campaign pamphlets published by the Loyal Publication Society, the H.C. Carey collection of pamphlets and writings by Carey and others includes works on slavery and the Civil War.

Collection Highlights

Anti-slavery/Abolitionist newspapers and periodicals
-Among the many anti-slavery holdings, there is the Robert Purvis copy of the first two volumes of William Lloyd Garrison’s influential abolitionist newspaper, The Liberator, along with runs of the following periodicals: Anglo-American Magazine, Anti-Slavery Monthly Reporter, The Liberator, The Plantation, and Quarterly Anti-Slavery Magazine

Emancipation Proclamation
-RBML holds some important printings of Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, including a copy of the Leland-Boker autographed edition, known as such after the two individuals, Charles Godfrey Leland and George H. Boker, who arranged for its printing and subsequent sale at the Great Central Sanitary Fair in Philadelphia, June 7-29, 1864. It contains the signatures of Abraham Lincoln, William H. Seward, and John G. Nicolay. In addition, we have two of three proofs (the second and third) of the Leland-Boker edition, which are significantly distinct from the final edition which Lincoln signed.
-Another is a fine copy of the first edition of the miniature seven-page pamphlet edition, only three inches high and published by John Murray Forbes, a confidant of Lincoln, for distribution to Union troops and Southern slaves, making it arguably the most influential miniature book in American history. It was printed and dispersed in late 1862, prior to January 1, 1863, when the proclamation took effect, and was the gift of Gordon Block.

Great Central Sanitary Fair
-A volume, gift of Charles Godfrey Leland, containing Sanitary Fair committee reports, fair ephemera, and runs of Sanitary Fair newspapers, among which are The Knapsack, Spirit of the Fair, Our Daily Fare, and Broken Fetter.

Civil War Photography
-Alexander Gardner’s two-volume Photographic Sketch Book of the War (1865-66), the first published collection of photographs documenting the Civil War. The one hundred mounted sepia photographs of architectural sites located near battlefields, war damage, soldiers in camp, and the grim aftermath of combat, helped define how viewers, then and now, would come to know the war.
-Photograph album of Civil War soldiers and officers, 1863-1873.

-Collection of anti-Democrat election broadsides printed by King & Baird, 607 Sansom St., Philadelphia, in both English and German, for the 1864 election. The broadsides focus on the split between the War Democrats and the Peace Democrats and warn of disaster if the Democrats win.
-George H. Boker Civil War broadside poems as well as responses to his poems, both pro and con.

Research Tools

Franklin, Penn’s online catalog

Henry Charles Lea Papers

Keffer Collection of Sheet Music

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.


Bookmark and Share
Like us on Facebook
Site contents copyright © 2004-2009 Civil War History Consortium except as indicated herein.
About the Guide Civil War in Philadelphia Philadelphia Collections Notes for Researchers