American Civil War Era Newspapers
Scope and Contents
These newspapers come from around the United States, with one item from Cuba. The papers were primarily printed in larger cities like New York, Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, Boston, and Chicago, but papers from smaller cities also appear. The vast majority of the collection is comprised of issues of the Chicago Tribune. The time period covered extends before and after the Civil War. Events of note covered in the papers include the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln and the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. Also noteworthy are 1863 issues of The Daily Citizen from Vicksburg, Mississippi, that were printed on wallpaper scraps because during the war, the publication ran out of newsprint paper.
- 1854 - 1907
- Majority of material found within 1860 - 1872
Language of Materials
Materials primarily in English, with some materials in French.
Conditions Governing Access
Materials are open without restrictions.
Conditions Governing Use
Please consult staff to determine ability to reuse materials from collection.
Biographical / Historical
Near the end of 1860, South Carolina became the first state to secede from the Union. Within a few months, ten more states had seceded. The American Civil War officially began April 12, 1861, at Fort Sumter in Charleston, South Carolina. Illinois participated on the Union side by sending hundreds of thousands of troops into battle. Many military and political leaders trace their roots to Illinois. The war lasted nearly four years, ending on April 9, 1865, when the Confederacy surrendered. A few days later, on April 14, 1865, President Abraham Lincoln was assassinated.
Not long after the war ended, veterans began forming organizations. One of the longest-lasting was the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) for Union veterans, begun in April 1866 in Decatur, Illinois. Posts were established in different places, grouped under state-level departments, in turn grouped under a national commandery-in-chief. The GAR disbanded in 1956 when the last veteran died.
In Chicago, the GAR Memorial Hall Association shared space with Chicago Public Library (CPL). In 1883, the Library Board chose the corner of Michigan Avenue and Randolph Street as the location for its future building. At the time, the site was vacant and known as Dearborn Park, named for its proximity to the site of Fort Dearborn. Because of this, many people believed the land was reserved for the GAR. Ultimately, legal action determined the library could have the land, but it had to make room for the GAR, which wanted a memorial hall for its members. CPL gave the GAR extensive rooms and signed a fifty year lease that expired in 1947. At that time, the Library took over caring for the GAR's significant collection of art, artifacts, papers, weapons and more. With the GAR’s material as a base, the library has continued to build its Civil War collection over the years, with a focus on the Illinois experience.
29.75 Linear Feet (in 53 oversize folders)
These newspapers come from around the United States, with one item from Cuba. The vast majority of the collection is comprised of issues of the Chicago Tribune, but papers from other cities also appear. The time period covered extends before and after the Civil War. Events of note covered in the papers include the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln and the Great Chicago Fire of 1871.
Papers are arranged alphabetically by state, then alphabetically by city, then alphabetically by title, then chronologically.
Those items with accession numbers beginning with “72” were originally part of the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) Collection. The items with accession numbers beginning with a number other than “72” were either donated to or purchased by Chicago Public Library. Those papers marked “Catton” were donated in 1979 by William Catton, son of Civil War historian Bruce Catton. Those items with no accession number were found in the collection.
Immediate Source of Acquisition
These newspapers were acquired through a variety of means over many years.
- Great Fire, Chicago, Ill., 1871 Subject Source: Library of Congress Subject Headings
- Lincoln, Abraham, 1809-1865
- United States -- History -- Civil War, 1861-1865 Subject Source: Library of Congress Subject Headings
- Guide to the American Civil War Era Newspapers
- Inventory assistance from Nancy Zalewski. Processed by Johanna Russ, March 2018. Updated and ingested into ArchivesSpace by Johanna Russ and Audrey Reed, 2021.
- 2018 March
- Description rules
- Describing Archives: A Content Standard
- Language of description
- Script of description
- Language of description note
- Finding aid written in English
Part of the Special Collections Unit at Harold Washington Library Center Repository
Harold Washington Library Center, 9th Floor
Chicago Public Library
400 S. State Street
Chicago IL 60605 United States