The Library Has More Than One Kind of Canon

The blade on this Civil War Cavalry Officers' Sword was made by the German firm, W. Clauberg for the New York company, Schuyler, Hartley and Graham (both names are engraved on either side of the ricasso). Schuyler, Hartley and Graham took on a variety of roles as a supplier of swords: assembler, wholesaler and retailer. The accompanying scabbard to this presentation sword is engraved: "Presented to JB Finley, 1st Lieut. 14 Mich. Battery by his R.R. friends of Chicago, Aug. 1st, 1864." In addition, the scabbard features an image of a steam engine pulling a train car.
Source: Special Collections. Grand Army of the Republic Collection, SPE GAR 72.54
In 1862 many men of Taylors Battery visited a photographers studio in Memphis to have photographs made, such as this carte-de-visite. Seated, left to right: H.T. Chappel, William J. McCoy and William D. Crego. Standing: Nathan J. Young and Sydney Peckham.
Source: Special Collections. Civil War Collection, SPE CW 80.13

Ever wondered why there are cannons on the 6th floor of the Harold Washington Library Center? Or what's with those marble busts in the 9th floor Special Collections Reading Room? Illinois was undoubtedly important to the Union cause during the Civil War, but just how did CPL get cannons and statues, not to mention swords, uniforms, books, portraits and more?

In 1893, the Library Board chose the corner of Michigan Avenue and Randolph Street as the location for its future building. Many people believed this land was reserved for the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR), a veterans' group for Union soldiers who fought in the Civil War. Ultimately, legal action determined the library could have the land, but it must 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 collection of art, artifacts, papers, weapons and more. In 1991, when CPL moved to its current location, the GAR collection came, too.

There's much more than what is displayed throughout the library. You can view images of our collection in the Wayne Whalen Digital CollectionBrowse our catalog for Civil War documents, both official and personal. And visit our Reading Room to see more from the Civil War.