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Union Volunteer Refreshment Saloon ephemera


Held at: Historical Medical Library of The College of Physicians of Philadelphia [Contact Us]19 S. 22nd Street, Philadelphia, PA 19103

This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the Historical Medical Library of The College of Physicians of Philadelphia. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in their reading room, and not digitally available through the web.

Overview and metadata sections

In South Philadelphia, at the corner of Washington Avenue and Swanson Street, a neighborhood grocer named Barzilai Brown began distributing food to soldiers traveling to and from the nearby Navy Yard and railroads. This operation, originally referred to as "Brown's," became the Union Volunteer Refreshment Saloon on May 27, 1861. Samuel B. Fales was the Corresponding Secretary of the saloon.

The establishment grew and became a place of rest, relaxation, and, of course, refreshment for travel-weary soldiers, whom the saloon provided with food, drink, paper, and stamps. Troops stopping at the saloon were also given travel directions, names of army officials and contacts, and places of local interest. In September 1861 a hospital was added to better accommodate sick and wounded soldiers.

The saloon received donations of food, clothing, and money. In 1863 a captured Confederate naval vessel, "Ram," was lent to the saloon. The admission fees gathered from those viewing the boat were applied to the saloon and helped with the upkeep and growth of the hospital and other facilities.

The Union Volunteer Refreshment Saloon closed in late 1865. In the course of its operation it aided thousands of Union troops and provided them with food, clothing, and medical attention. The establishment was able to unite the neighborhood and the city behind a common cause and provided relief to many during a time of great need.

Information taken directly from:

Samuel B. Fales collection of Union Volunteer Refreshment Saloon papers (Collection 1580), 1861-1886.Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. January 2001.

This small collection contains two Union Volunteer Refreshment Saloon pieces of ephemera:

1) Hand colored receipt, dated September 27, 1862. "Received of Martin Joseph Ellis 5 boxes Lint In aid of the Union Volunteers Refreshment Saloon...." Signed by J.B. Wade, Secretary of the Committee. The print measures 6" x 7 1/4", and is heavily chipped to the left and right edges.

2) Union Volunteer Refreshment Saloon - foot of Washington St. - Philadelphia trade card. The card has been cropped and measures 2 1/4" x 3 7/8".

Historical Medical Library of The College of Physicians of Philadelphia
Finding Aid Author
Chrissie Perella
Finding Aid Date
March 2019

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