Item #8649 A Trip through the Libby Prison War Museum Chicago. Libby Prison War Museum Association.
A Trip through the Libby Prison War Museum Chicago.
A Trip through the Libby Prison War Museum Chicago.

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Libby Prison War Museum Association.

A Trip through the Libby Prison War Museum Chicago.

Chicago: Libby Prison National War Museum Ass’n, [ca. 1892]. Sm 16mo (6” x 6”), pictorial pink wrappers. 14 pp., one b&w illus. CONDITION: Good, wrappers nearly detached from contents, lightly soiled, old vertical crease at center, 1” tears to lower margins of pages 7–12, no loss to text.

A guidebook describing the attractions of the Libby Prison War Museum, with descriptions of “The Prison Yard,” the “Appomattox Table,” “Dungeons,” “The Yankee Tunnel,” the “Hospital” (“which is, perhaps, one of the most interesting rooms of the museum”), the “Gettysburg Room,” and many other curious interiors. 

Originally located in Richmond, Virginia, the Libby Prison building was erected for use as a ship chandlery in 1845 and was owned by Luther Libby. Pressed into service as a prison during the War, it primarily housed Union Army officers, becoming notorious for its overcrowded and execrable conditions—second only to Andersonville Prison in Georgia. Numbering some 1,000 by 1863, many Union prisoners would perish there from disease and malnutrition. Following the Union occupation of Richmond in 1865, the prison was used to detain Confederate officers. While visiting Richmond in April of 1865, Abraham Lincoln pronounced—to a throng of people gathered near the prison and clamoring to tear it down—that the building should be left standing as a monument.

It was purchased two decades later by a group of Chicago investors with plans to move it and open a Civil War museum. Beginning in December 1888, the building was taken apart piece by piece—all 600,000 bricks—and reassembled in Chicago, with construction ending in September 1889, when the museum was opened to the public. It was well stocked with Civil War relics and art from the collections of Chicago candy manufacturer Charles F. Gunther, one of the investors (an ad for “Gunther’s Confectionery” appears on the inside of the front wrapper). The museum was quite profitable, proving especially popular with visitors to the Columbian Exposition in 1893. Despite the museum’s profitability, the building was again dismantled in 1899—this time for good—and its pieces sold as souvenirs and salvage.

REFERENCES: “Libby Prison Museum” at Chicagology online.

Item #8649

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