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Union League of Philadelphia
U.S. National Register of Historic Places
The Union League Logo
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Location: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Coordinates: 39°56′59″N 75°9′53.37″W / 39.94972°N 75.164825°W / 39.94972; -75.164825Coordinates: 39°56′59″N 75°9′53.37″W / 39.94972°N 75.164825°W / 39.94972; -75.164825
Built/Founded: 1864
Architect: John Fraser

Horace Trumbauer

Architectural style(s): Renaissance, Other
Governing body: Private
Added to NRHP: June 22, 1979
NRHP Reference#: 79002331[1]

The Union League building on S. Broad St. in Center City Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

A Union League is one of a number of organizations established starting in 1862, during the American Civil War to promote loyalty to the Union side and the policies of Abraham Lincoln. They were also known as Loyal Leagues. They comprised upper middle class men who supported efforts such as the United States Sanitary Commission, which helped treat wounded soldiers after battle. The Clubs supported the Republican Party, with funding, organizational support, and political activism.

Many of these organizations survive. Membership in the League is selective, and is comparable in social status to membership in a country club. Union League buildings often serve as venues for lavish social events. During Reconstruction, Union Leagues were formed across the South after 1867 as working auxiliaries of the Republican Party. They mobilized freedmen to register to vote and to vote Republican. They discussed political issues, promoted civic projects, and mobilized workers opposed to certain employers. Most branches were segregated but there were a few that were racially integrated. The leaders of the all-black units were mostly urban blacks from the North, who had never been slaves. Foner (p 283) says "virtually every Black voter in the South had enrolled."

After the Civil War, the Union League Club of New York founded the Metropolitan Museum of Art, [2] built the Statue of Liberty's pedestal[3] and built Grant's Tomb. The Union League of Philadelphia -- the first Union League -- still exists, as do the Union League Clubs of New York and Chicago. The building of the former Union League Club of Brooklyn now serves as a senior citizens' home,[4] while the home of the former Union League Club of New Haven is used as a restaurant.[citation needed]

The Union League Civic and Arts Foundation was established in 1949 as a public, not-for-profit charitable and educational organization. The Foundation's mission is one of community enrichment; it is funded largely by contributions from members of the Union League Club of Chicago. Famous members include Cyrus McCormick, Robert Todd Lincoln, Daniel Burnham, and William D. Boyce.[5]

The Union League of Philadelphia[]

Today, the most prominent of the remaining union leagues is the oldest and first: The Union League of Philadelphia. Founded in 1862 as a patriotic society to support the Union and the policies of President Abraham Lincoln, it laid the philosophical foundation of other Union Leagues across a nation torn by Civil War. The Union League of Philadelphia has hosted U.S. presidents, heads of state, industrialists, entertainers and visiting dignitaries from around the globe. It has also given loyal support to the American military in each conflict since the Civil War, and continues to be driven by its founding motto, "Love of Country Leads." Although no longer exclusively Republican or male in membership, The Union League of Philadelphia has maintained its identity as distinctly traditional and politically conservative.

The classic French Renaissance-styled Union League of Philadelphia building, with its brick and brownstone façade and dramatic twin circular staircases leading to the main entrance on Broad Street, was designed by John Fraser and completed in May 1865 [the opening was originally scheduled for March 1865, with President Lincoln in attendance, but was delayed due to Civil War-related construction supply shortages]. Additions to the building in the Beaux Arts style, by Philadelphia architect Horace Trumbauer and his chief designer Julian Abele and completed in 1910 and 1911, expanded the building to occupy an entire city block. The building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1979. Adorning the walls and hallways is The Union League of Philadelphia’s distinguished collection of art and artifacts. The collection is a rich, historical chronicle of Philadelphia’s unique imprint upon the American landscape from the 19th century to today and is recognized by historians and art experts as valuable components of our shared American history. A major Heritage Center is currently being added on-site to provide a permanent venue where The Union League of Philadelphia's extensive Civil War-related archives and collections can be stored and viewed by members and visiting scholars.

In the 21st century, the Union League of Philadelphia is home to members who keep alive the League’s traditions. As they did in 1862, today’s members represent the Philadelphia region’s Republican leaders in business, education, religion, the arts and culture. The Union League of Philadelphia’s civic participation and philanthropic outreach takes the form of three charitable foundations: The Youth Work Foundation, The Scholarship Foundation and The Abraham Lincoln Foundation, which educate the public about our nation’s history, recognize student role models in our region’s schools, and provide awards and scholarships to deserving students.


  1. "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 2007-01-23. 
  2. John K. Howat, "Founding friends - of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, New York," The Magazine Antiques January 2000 issue.
  3. National Park Service Statue of Liberty website.
  4. "Landmark Architecture of Crown Heights North," Gothamist, July 20, 2006.
  5. Petterchak 2003, p. 11
  • Michael W. Fitzgerald, The Union League Movement in the Deep South: Politics and Agricultural Change During Reconstruction (1989).
  • Walter L. Fleming, Civil War and Reconstruction in Alabama" (1905), pp 553–59.
  • Eric Foner. Reconstruction: America's Unfinished Revolution, 1863-1877 (1988) pp 283–86
  • Melinda Lawson; "The Civil War Union Leagues and the Construction of a New National Patriotism" Civil War History Volume: 48. Issue: 4. 2002. pp 338+.
  • Melinda Lawson; Patriot Fires: Forging a New American Nationalism in the Civil War North (2002).
  • Clement M. Silvestro. Rally Round the Flag: The Union Leagues in the Civil War (1966).
  • Petterchak, Janice A. (2003). Lone Scout: W. D. Boyce and American Boy Scouting. Rochester, Illinois: Legacy Press. ISBN 0965319873. 

Primary sources[]

  • Fleming, Walter L. ed. Documentary History of Reconstruction: Political, Military, Social, Religious, Educational, and Industrial (1906). vol 2 pp 1–29.
  • Loyal National League of the State of New York, Opinions of Prominent Men Concerning the Great Questions of the Times Expressed in Their... (1863). The complete book is online at [1]

External links[]

es:Liga de la Unión