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Union League of Philadelphia   140 South Broad Street, Philadelphia, PA 19102

Hours/Access Policy  Limited access

Website  http://www.unionleague.org/index.php

Contact Information Institutional: 215-563-6500. 
Individual: James Mundy at mundyj@unionleague.org or 215-587-5592.

PDF version of this page.

Overview

The Union League of Philadelphia is a shining jewel of history in the heart of the cultural and commercial district of Philadelphia, a city defined by such treasure. Founded in 1862 as a patriotic society to support the Union and the policies of President Abraham Lincoln, it laid the philosophical foundation of other Union Leagues across a nation torn by Civil War. The Union League has hosted U.S. presidents, heads of state, industrialists, entertainers, and visiting dignitaries from around the globe. It has also given loyal support to the American military in each conflict since the Civil War, and continues to be driven by its founding motto, "Love of Country Leads."

The classic French Renaissance-styled League building, with its brick and brownstone façade and dramatic twin circular staircases leading to the main entrance on Broad Street, dates to 1865. Additions to the building in the Beaux Arts style, designed by Philadelphia architects Horace Trumbauer and Julian Abele and completed in 1910 and 1911, expanded the building to occupy an entire city block. The building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1979.

Inside, the traditional décor is accented in rich leather, patinated wood and polished marble. Adorning the walls and hallways is the League’s distinguished collection of art and artifacts. The collection is a rich, historical chronicle of Philadelphia’s unique imprint upon the American landscape from the 19th century to today and is recognized by historians and art experts as valuable components of our shared American history.

Civil War Collection

The Civil War Collections include: a signed copy of the Emancipation Proclamation; the original Tanner Manuscript; a priceless collection of more than 300 paintings, sculptures and prints; hundreds of artifacts, manuscripts, military weapons, flags and papers; and an important Civil War Library with more than 3,000 volumes of first and rare editions. A recent agreement with the Civil War Museum and Library of Philadelphia gives the Union League and the Abraham Lincoln Foundation stewardship responsibilities for the majority of that institution's two dimensional items. This doubles the size of the Civil War Library at the Union League and creates a unique cultural and historic asset that is national in scope and importance.

Collection Highlights, or of interest

The Home Front and Civilians

Documentary

1. 30 linear feet of material that includes recruitment, payroll, clothing, and discharge records of the Union League’s 9 regiments.
2. Copies of the 2 million pamphlets written, printed, and distributed by the UL’s Board of Publications.
3. CW-era sheet music, patriotic covers.
4. Boker-Leland copy of the Emancipation Proclamation; sold at the 1864 Sanitary Fair, signed by Lincoln, Seward and Nicolay.
5. 1864 National Union Party (Republican) presidential campaign poster.
6. First telegram received in Philadelphia announcing Lee’s surrender.

Lincoln in Philadelphia

Documentary

Tanner Manuscript: An original handwritten manuscript eyewitness testimony to AL’s assassination. In 1865 Corporal James Tanner was a disabled Civil War veteran working as a clerk in the Ordnance Bureau of the War Department and living in an apartment next to the Peterson House in Washington, D.C. On April 14th, President Abraham Lincoln was shot during a theatre performance at Ford’s Theatre. The mortally wounded President was taken to the Petersen House.

Because he had stenography skills, Tanner was called into the Peterson House. While Lincoln lay dying in the bedroom, Tanner sat in the parlor and recorded eyewitness testimony as given to Secretary of War Edwin Stanton and David Kellogg Carrter, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the District of Columbia. The interrogation of the witnesses took place between midnight and 1:30 A.M. "In fifteen minutes I had testimony enough to hang Wilkes Booth, the assassin, higher than ever Haman hung" noted Tanner. While still in the parlor, Tanner transcribed his shorthand notes into longhand, finishing his task at 6:45 A.M. Tanner returned to his apartment and, dissatisfied with the quality of the first transcription, began a second copy which he left with an aide of Stanton's at his office in the War Department. Tanner retained the original testimony. The copy deposited at the War Department was lost. In 1905, Tanner’s son took his father’s first transcription and mounted each sheet on linen and bound them. In November 1917, as the Union League prepared to celebrate its 55th anniversary and dedicate the Lincoln Memorial Room, Corporal James Tanner wrote to Union League President John Gribbell to offer his bound volume of testimony to the League’s collection: "believing that they are of considerable interest to the general public owing to the circumstances surrounding their creation and believing they will become more so as the years pass, I write to say that if you care to give the volume a place among the treasures you may now possess or may naturally gather in the future regarding President Lincoln, I shall be glad to present them to you in perpetuity, limited only to the life of the Union League." Tanner himself appeared at the Union League several times, the last in 1918 when he addressed a large audience.

For more information about the Union League of Philadelphia’s Civil War Collections, please visit the following pages:

Abraham Lincoln Foundation   http://www.unionleague.org/abraham-lincoln-foundation.php

 


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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