Small Repositories Subject Guide: Wars and Military Service

Small repositories contain a wealth of archival material about the military service of Philadelphia-area residents. Particularly rich in documentation of World War II and Civil War veterans, small repositories also hold collections relating World War I, the Spanish American War, and other battles, as well as military service generally.

The Hidden Collections Initiative for Pennsylvania Small Archival Repositories (HCI-PSAR), a project of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania with funding from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, is uncovering the hundreds of hidden collections held by the many small archival repositories in the five-county Philadelphia area. Some of the collections cataloged in the HCI-PSAR project are summarized in this subject guide, which is designed to facilitate and encourage research at small repositories. The guide is not comprehensive but will serve to highlight underutilized collections and reveal the depth and breadth of resources available at small repositories.

Finding aids to all small repository archival collections surveyed in the HCI-PSAR project are available at our finding aid website, hosted by the Philadelphia Area Consortium of Special Collections Libraries. Finding aids are being added on an ongoing basis, so check back frequently.

Civil War
World War I
World War II
Military service (general/other)


Civil War

American Swedish Historical Museum John Ericsson collection, 1838-1938 [bulk 1859-1890] (ASHM.04)
American Swedish Historical Museum
16 linear feet
John Ericsson (1803-1889) was an inventor and engineer best known for designing the USS Monitor and innovating propeller-driven boats. The USS Monitor, an ironclad warship, contributed to the Union victory in the Civil War; one of Ericsson's other ships was the first propeller-driven steamer to cross the Atlantic. The American Swedish Historical Museum John Ericsson collection, 1838-1938, encompasses correspondence, financial records, plans and drawings, patents and contracts, scrapbooks, and photographs. It is an invaluable resource for the study of the Civil War, mechanical engineering, famous Swedes in America, and numerous other topics.

Calvin Pardee family letters, 1860-1862 (GAR.01)
Grand Army of the Republic Civil War Museum and Library
0.3 linear feet
Calvin Pardee (1841-1923) was born in Hazelton, Pennsylvania to the owner of a successful coal-mining company, which Calvin continued with his brother after the Civil War. He volunteered for the Union Army when the war broke out, and was present for the Battle of Antietam although he was declared unfit for duty and resigned very soon after. Calvin's brother Ario (1839-1901) was a famous Union officer known for defending of a portion of Culp's Hill during the Battle of Gettysburg. Most of the Calvin Pardee family letters, 1860-1862 were written to or written by Calvin Pardee while he served in the 28th Regiment, Pennsylvania Volunteers. There are also many letters by or to Calvin's brother, Ario (Jr.).

Grand Army of the Republic Civil War Museum and Library holds the records of various posts of the Grand Army of the Republic
The Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) was a fraternal organization founded after the Civil War to provide all veterans of the Union Armed Forces with a forum for social and political activities and as a venue for debate and reminiscence of their service in the Civil War.

Records of Post No. 2, Grand Army of the Republic, 1870-1950s, (GAR.RG-002), 23.75 cubic feet
Records of J.K. Taylor Post No. 182, Grand Army of the Republic (Bethlehem, Pennsylvania), (GAR.RG-182), 5 cubic feet
Records of Ellis Post No. 6, Grand Army of the Republic (Germantown, Philadelphia, Pa.), (GAR.RG-003), 4 cubic feet
Records of Williams Post No. 78, Grand Army of the Republic (Muncie, Indiana), (GAR.RG-078), 3.5 cubic feet
Grand Army of the Republic Museum & Library fragmentary records group, (GAR.RG-005), 10 linear feet
Records of the Home for Veterans of the Grand Army of the Republic and Wives, 1892-1951, (GAR.RG-003), 3.5 linear feet

World War I

Fornance family papers, 1794-1989 (HSMC.46)
Historical Society of Montgomery County
26 linear feet
Joseph Fornance (1804-1852) was a Democratic member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Norristown, Pennsylvania. Like the elder Joseph, his son Joseph Fornance (1841-1923) and grandson Joseph Knox Fornance (1882-1965) were lawyers involved with politics. The Fornance family papers, 1794-1989, is an extensive collection of correspondence, ledgers, diaries, photograph albums, scrapbooks, and documents covering several generations of one family. Family members were involved in numerous matters over more than one-and-a-half centuries, so among other subjects, there is rich documentation of military service during the Civil War and World War I, the election of Woodrow Wilson, and early efforts at historic preservation (the Fornance family home is considered the oldest in Norristown).

Perkasie Historical Society World Wars collection, 1917-2001 [bulk 1917-1946] (PERK.04)
Perkasie Historical Society
2.5 linear feet
Many men and women from Perkasie, Bucks County, Pennsylvania and the surrounding area served in the military during World War I and World War II. The Perkasie Historical Society World Wars collection, 1917-2001 (bulk 1917-1946), primarily consists of photograph albums and clippings scrapbooks that document their involvement. It also includes pamphlets, ephemera, ration books and cards, training manuals, and printed histories of various military divisions. Of special interest is a scrapbook with photographs of all of the WWI servicemen from Perkasie and short typed biographies about each soldier's service.

World War II

James T. Caulfield and Rafael A. Suarez papers, 1918-1985 [bulk 1944-1985] (JJW.SC.0013)
John J. Wilcox Jr. LGBT Archives of Philadelphia
5 linear feet
Dr. Rafael A. Suarez and James T. Caulfield, known as "The Philamigos," traveled throughout South America in the 1950s-1980s, operated a learning center in Philadelphia, and were prominent members of the Philadelphia LGBT community. The James T. Caulfield and Rafael A. Suarez papers, 1918-1985, extensively document their works, including the Philamigos Institute of Learning, their travels abroad, and Caulfield's experience as a gay soldier during World War II. The collection contains correspondence, photographs, newspaper clippings, ephemera, over a dozen 16-mm films, and stamps/correspondence regarding philately.

Norman C. Brauer, Jr. papers, circa 1941 (MS.02)
Millbrook Society
0.2 linear feet
Norman C. Brauer, (1924-1982) was a resident of Warminster, Pennsylvania and served in the United States Navy during World War II. He was involved in salvage operations after the attack on Pearl Harbor. The Norman C. Brauer, Jr. papers, circa 1941, contain photographs, newspaper clippings, a blueprint, and ephemera. The highlights of this collection are a scrapbook of photos and clippings of Pearl Harbor, and a blueprint of the deck of the USS Oklahoma.

Russell Byerley Memorial World War II collection, 1941-1945 (LMHS.05)
Lower Merion Historical Society
7.4 linear feet
The Russell Byerley Memorial World War II Letters Collection, 1941-1945, consists of original letters and photographs of service men and women whose homes were in Lower Merion Township or the Borough of Narberth. These letters and photographs were sent during the war to Mr. Russell Byerley, a woodshop teacher at Lower Merion Senior High School in Ardmore, Pennsylvania.

Synthane Corporation World War II scrapbooks, 1943-1947 (HSMC.44)
Historical Society of Montgomery County
1.75 linear feet
Synthane Corporation in Oaks, Montgomery County, Pennsylvania manufactured Bakelite laminated products before World War II. They shifted to war production after hostilities broke out, and offered special benefits to employees who left to serve in the military. The Synthane Corporation World War II scrapbooks, 1943-1947, contain correspondence between Ronald E. Heaton, assistant treasurer for Synthane Corporation, and employees who served in the military during World War II. Letters make up the bulk of the collection but there are also a few photographs of servicemen, and some ephemera, pamphlets, newsletters, and circulars produced by Synthane about the war effort.

Military service (general/other)

1st Regiment Infantry, Pennsylvania records, 1812-1970 (1R.02)
1st Regiment Infantry Museum
16 linear feet
The First Regiment Infantry, Pennsylvania, or "The Dandy First," is considered by some to be the oldest continuously existing troop in the United States National Guard, and the only existing Pennsylvania unit that served in the Continental Army. The unit, which today is known as the 103rd Engineer Battalion, Pennsylvania Army National Guard, has fought in nearly every major American battle beginning with the Revolutionary War. The 1st Regiment Infantry, Pennsylvania records, 1812-1970, consist of about 100 record books of the regiment and its predecessor and successor units, as well as several photograph albums and scrapbooks.

Frank Zissa letters, 1901-1987 [bulk 1901-1919] (HSMC.35)
Historical Society of Montgomery County
1.5 linear feet
Frank Zissa (1878-1957) was born in Germany, but emigrated in 1889 and settled in Stowe, Pennsylvania. Zissa fought in the Spanish-American War, then joined the Marine Corps and served on campaigns in Nicaragua, Haiti, Mexico, Panama, China, Japan, and many other countries. The Frank Zissa letters, 1901-1987, consist primarily of letters from Frank to his wife, with additional correspondence with other family members, 1901-1919.