Thomas May Peirce founded Union Business College in one of the most notable years in United States history, 1865. On April 9th of that year, Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrendered to General Ulysses S Grant, ending the Civil War. Just six days later, President Lincoln was assassinated at Ford’s Theater in Washington. Philadelphia mourners came out to see the late President’s funeral procession as it passed through the city while an influx of soldiers returned from Southern battlefields. The Historical Society of Pennsylvania is documenting this historic year in a new exhibit, 1865: Eyewitness to History. Prior to the exhibit, staff from the Peirce College Library discussed Peirce’s founding with HSP's Public Programs Manager Christopher Damiani, and we’ve loaned a few items to the exhibit which document Peirce’s role in helping Union soldiers transition from the battlefield.
The exhibit contains four displays, each representing a significant topic or event from 1865. One display houses items related to General Lee’s surrender at Appomattox, another focuses on President Lincoln’s assassination, and a third describes the beginning of Reconstruction, with letters and diaries from soldiers and citizens from the Philadelphia region. Peirce is featured in a display of organizations that helped soldiers and their families transition from the battlefield, as Thomas May Peirce founded Union Business College in order to provide returning soldiers with training for post-war business occupations. The display includes items from the Union League, various charitable and relief organizations, and related materials. Peirce is represented by an original course catalog from 1865 and a sketch of our first location at 9th and Spring Garden.
1865: Eyewitness to History runs through May and is free to the general public. The Historical Society of Pennsylvania is located at 1300 Locust Street.