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Exhibition Join In: Voluntary Assocations in America

“Diagram of a Scheme for the Administration of the U.S. Sanitary Commission in the Form of an Orrery,” September 26, 1863. Frederick Law Olmsted Papers, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress (018.00.00)
Isaac N. Arnold (1815–1884) to Abraham Lincoln (1809–1865), Tuesday, October 13, 1863 (requests original draft of Emancipation Proclamation for benefit of North-Western Sanitary Fair). Abraham Lincoln Papers, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress (019.00.00)
E. (Edward) Mack (1826–1882), composer. “The Sanitary Fair Grand March.” Philadelphia, 1864. Civil War Sheet Music Collection, Music Division, Library of Congress (020.00.00)

U.S. Sanitary Commission

Established in 1861, the United States Sanitary Commission (USSC), a civilian relief organization authorized by the U.S. government, helped to centralize the collection and efficient distribution of cash and in-kind donations from the Northern public during the Civil War. USSC activities ultimately included advising U.S. military medical authorities on proper sanitation practices in hospitals and camps, providing nurses and medical supplies, distributing food and other necessities to servicemen, and publishing useful information for the public. Many USSC branches held regional “sanitary fairs” that raised funds and increased support for the Union war effort. The most notable item auctioned at a fair was Abraham Lincoln’s donated manuscript copy of the final Emancipation Proclamation.