Held at: Historical Society of Pennsylvania [Contact Us]1300 Locust Street, Philadelphia, PA, 19107
This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania. 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
The United States Sanitary Commission was created in 1861 to help provide food, medical supplies, clothing and other support to wounded Union soldiers and their families. The Philadelphia branch was a major eastern hub for the Sanitary Commission. Together with the Relief Committee of the Women's Pennsylvania Branch, the Philadelphia branch of the Sanitary Commission raised more than $1.5 million in cash and supplies for the relief effort. By the end of the war, the Philadelphia branch managed a volunteer hospital, a supply department, a pension agency and an employment bureau.
As part of its fundraising efforts, the Philadelphia branch hosted the Great Central Fair in June 1864. One of the largest such fundraising fairs held during the war, the Great Central Fair was held from June 7 to June 25, 1864, in temporary buildings at Logan Circle.
The treasurer of the Philadelphia branch, Caleb Cope, also served as treasurer for the Pennsylvania Relief Association for East Tennessee, led by former Pennsylvania Governer James Pollock (1810-1890). The association aimed to "relieve the suffering of the people of East Tennessee, the only portion of the South which has preserved unshaken its fidelity to the Flag of the United States." It is unclear whether the East Tennessee association had a formal connection to the Sanitary Commission.
Cope also served as treasurer for the Testimonial Fund for Major General David B. Birney. Birney (1825-1864) had worked as a lawyer in Philadelphia from 1856 until the start of the Civil War. In 1864, Birney died in Philadelphia after an illness, and he was interred in Woodlands Cemetery in Philadelphia.
This collection includes materials on several Philadelphia relief efforts during the Civil War, including the Philadelphia branch of the United States Sanitary Commission, the Pennsylvania Relief Association for East Tennessee, and the Testimonial Fund for Major General David B. Birney. Caleb Cope served as treasurer for each; it is unclear if the East Tennessee and Birney associations were projects of the Philadelphia branch of the Sanitary Commission.
This collection was processed according to the "more product, less processing" model, and is not arranged into series.
The bulk of the materials in the collection are bills, receipts and miscellaneous financial documents from the Philadelphia branch of the United States Sanitary Commission (boxes 7-16). The receipts and bills are arranged roughly in chronological order, and relate to payroll, donations, advertisements in newspapers, the purchasing of supplies, and the Great Central Fair held in Philadelphia in 1864. Other financial materials include checkbooks (boxes 3-4, Volume 2), account ledgers (volumes 5-14), donation notebooks (volumes 15-18), and loose newspaper clippings of acknowledgements (Box 16). The collection also includes the Great Central Fair's cashier book (Volume 3), for which Charles Pickering served as bookkeeper, and ledger pages for the Sanitary Commission Lodge (Flat File 2).
The minutes of the Executive Committee of the Philadelphia branch of the U.S. Sanitary Commission from 1861 to 1873 can be found in Volume 1, including a list of Executive Committee members and addresses.
The collection includes a small amount of Sanitary Commission papers of William Platt, Jr. (Box 4, Folder 5; Box 6, Folder 8), who died while serving as superintendent of the Philadelphia branch; correspondence relating to "Herschell, a dead soldier" (Box 4; Folder 5); and correspondence from 1861 relating to Camp Curtin (Box 4; Folder 4).
In addition, the collection includes correspondence and ephemera (boxes 1-2) of Mrs. Thomas P. James, who served as chair of the Ladies' Committee on Relics, Curiosities, and Autographs for the Great Central Fair. The correspondence consists primarily of letters relating to donations sent for the fair, and a smaller amount of follow-up correspondence after the fair. Ephemera includes fair committee circulars and ephemera; a Post Office Committee ribbon (Box 2, Folder 5); the donation notebook of Mrs. Israel Maude; fair tickets and badges (Box 2, Folder 11); certificates; reports; and fair signs and other ephemera (Flat File 1). The collection also includes two folders of fair committee circulars and ephemera (Box 2, folders 1-2) stamped in ink "From Mr. Frank S. Stone, December 15, 1942." These materials appear to have been separated from the Frank S. Stone collection (Collection 1565), but it is unclear when or why these materials were moved.
Boxes 17-19 hold ribbons from the Great Central Fair, circa 1864. Box 17 holds the badge worn at the Retail Grocery Department, Box 18 holds the ribbons and badges worn by the aids at Mrs. Ephrams Clark's department at the Central Fair, and Box 19 holds ribbons from the Committee on Relics, Curiosities and Autographs.
The collection includes a small amount of materials from other Philadelphia war relief efforts. Materials from the Pennsylvania Relief Association for East Tennessee include checkbooks, account ledgers, donation notebooks, correspondence, receipts and newspaper clippings of acknowledgements (boxes 5-6; Box 9, folders 5-6; Volume 4). Materials from the Testimonial Fund for Major General David B. Birney includes a notebook of minutes and pledges, a checkbook, receipts and correspondence (all in Box 5), as well as newspaper clippings of acknowledgements (Box 16). The collection also includes the payroll of the Relief Commission of the 9th Ward (Box 6; volumes 19-20) and several items related to the Pennsylvania Company for Insurances on Lives: checkbooks and an account ledger (Box 6, folders 10-11), and bank checks (Box 16, Folder 10).
The United States Sanitary Commission Philadelphia Branch collection consists of some materials purchased by the Bowman Fund and some donated materials. Volume 3 was donated by D. McCaummon circa 1871. Sarah E. G. Tatum donated the Central Fair tickets and badges in Box 2, Folder 14 on June 10, 1932.
- Historical Society of Pennsylvania
- Finding Aid Author
- Finding aid prepared by Dana Dorman
- Finding Aid Date
- The Digital Center for Americana pilot project was funded by the Barra Foundation and several individual donors.
- Access Restrictions
This collection is open for research.