Workshop of the World

stories of industry in & around Philadelphia

UNION GOODS—illustrated stories of manufacturing by Union League members in Philadelphia during the Civil War (1861-1865). Friday Jan 25, 2008 at the Union League.

"From early in the 19th century a large percentage of the manufactured goods made in Philadelphia had been shipped, by sea, to every southern port. The completion, in 1838, of the 'Philadelphia, Wilmington and Baltimore Railroad,' having its headquarters at Eleventh & Market Streets, provided another strong bond to the south. The South, long the most wealthy and luxury-loving section of the country, was Philadelphia's best customer. The extensive jobbing houses arrayed along Market, Chestnut and the river front carried, as a rule, profitable lines of slave-state accounts.

"Every Southern belle considered Philadelphia-made boots as a necessity, while Philadelphia household furnishings were to be found in every southern store. Southern sideboards were inevitably provided with Philadelphia ales. Philadelphia, in turn, was a great consumer of the products of the South. Lumber and turpentine were especially required by our industries, and our mills were large users of southern cotton. We required a market for goods to value of $145,000,000 annually."

—"The Shadow of Armed Conflict, Ante Bellum Conditions in Philadelphia" by Frank Taylor in "Philadelphia in the Civil War, 1861-1865", p. 9.

The Civil War brought change and opportunity to Philadelphia's manufacturers. The well-known "inventive men of the day" included Baldwin (locomotives), Cramp (ships), Fitler (rope), Harrison ("the millionaire mechanic") and Sellers (machine tools). Hundreds of others, oft-forgotten, produced an astonishing array of goods, like:

Murphy & Allison had one of the largest private works in this country making rail cars, at 1908 Market Street. "The excellence of their work had attracted universal attention, and the first palace car, built for the President's use, was truly palatial, ..."

Wm. H. Horstmann introduced silk weaving and the Jacquard machine to America. By the Civil War Horstmann employed hundreds of women whose skill at "dress trimmings" was adapted to making ribbons, flags and "Regalia Goods." The men made buttons, sabers and swords, all at 5th & Cherry Streets, where the US Mint now stands.

Alfred. M. Collins & Son, Co., Card & Card Board Manufacturers, were described as: "...yearly ... at least 150,000,000 of small cards are cut up, one-half of this immense number being used by the railroads... the average monthly sales of 'cartes des visites' being 1,250,000. Every soldier would leave his portrait with his family and friends, receiving similar tokens in return, while a large business was also done in camp by perambulating photographers."

Located at Sixth & Oxford Streets, but not surviving, was a building owned by Powers & Weightman and leased by John Wyeth & Brother, two pharmaceutical firms which thrive today as Merck and Wyeth. In 1863, under the direction of Surgeon Gen. Hammond, a U.S Army Laboratory was established where "The staff of chemists and other experts prepared medical and surgical supplies for the army and navy at an estimated saving, as compared with previous costs, of $750,000."

Scores of other Union League members were involved in manufacturing. Jacob Naylor ran the People's Iron Works and established the Eighth National Bank. Barton Jenks earned $1.9 million in government contracts for rifle muskets. Thomas Sparks made shot. John and Richard Smith produced type for printing.

4:30-5:30 pm: Tour of The Union League Building and Collections (optional) with Jim Mundy, Director of the Library and Historical Collections of The Union League. The Union League of Philadelphia was conceived in 1862 as a patriotic social society whose purpose was to uphold the Constitution of the United States and support Abraham Lincoln as the President in his efforts to suppress the rebellion and reunite the country. 700 other Union Leagues were established around the country but only three survive: Chicago, New York and Philadelphia. After the Civil War, members of The Union League of Philadelphia helped finance the Centennial Exposition (1876), subscribed to Liberty bonds (1917-8), supported returning veterans (1945-6), established scholarships for young students, produced plays and continues to commission Presidential portraits. The Abraham Lincoln Foundation preserves and develops the collections of The Union League and uses them to inspire and educate the community.

5:30-6:00 pm: Welcome Reception in the Library (cash bar)

6:00-6:45 pm: Presentation in the Library Lounge

7:00-8:30 pm: Dinner in Lincoln Memorial Room featuring salad, Chicken Wellington or a vegetarian option plus sides, dessert, and coffee or tea.

James Mundy, Director of the Library and Historical Collections of The Union League and member of the Oliver Evans Chapter, and
Torben Jenk, member of the Oliver Evans Chapter

Location: The main entrance to The Union League is up the Grand Steps on Broad Street. There are sidewalk level entrances on Broad and Sansom streets. Elevators make all the rooms accessible, even to those in wheelchairs. We will gather at the second-floor rear in The Library.

Dress Code: Philadelphia's finest 19th century mechanics dressed in suit and tie when visiting The Union League. Traditions abound at The Union League and the dress code requires "business casual" (no jeans or sneakers), collared shirts and jackets preferred. Please enjoy this night on the town and "dress up"; you will feel more comfortable amongst the members, and within the gracious corridors, Library Lounge, and Lincoln Room of the beautifully restored Union League.

Parking is available at various locations, including the Midtown Garage, directly across Sansom Street, between Broad & 15th streets ($16 flat rate after 5pm).

Accessibility: The Library, Library Lounge, and Lincoln Memorial Room are on the second floor rear (along 15th Street). Sidewalk level entrances and elevators make all the rooms accessible, even to those in wheelchairs (anyone with special needs can enter the building from Broad Street or Sansom Street).

OESIA: Fred Quivik, (215) 849-1478 or
Union League: Jim Mundy, (215) 587-5592 or

More info:
Oliver Evans Chapter—Society for Industrial Archeology
Union League

Cost: $35/person inclusive of tax & gratuity. Send registration and payment to: OE/SIA, Tom Brady, 2024 Glendale Ave. Phila. PA 19152