About This Project

This community transcription project seeks to engage the public with the People's Contest Digital Archive through transcription of the diaries and personal accounts collected by the Archive from the Eberly Family Special Collections Library at Penn State and from archives and museums across Pennsylvania.

By transcribing these diaries, volunteers will assist scholars who study the lived experience of Pennsylvanians during the mid-19th century, or who wish to conduct text analysis of these personal accounts. They will also assist the University Libraries in establishing workflows for building and maintaining libraries of text from our digital collections as objects of research and study. Finally, they will themselves learn more about the history of the people and places of Pennsylvania during the Civil War era.

Why "The People's Contest"?

During Abraham Lincoln’s speech on July 4, 1861, in which he addresses Congress, Lincoln calls the American Civil War a people’s contest. Specifically, it is a contest between the popular government-supporting Union and the southern States who wish to legally secede from the Union.

“This is essentially a People’s contest. On the side of the Union, it is a struggle for maintaining in the world, that form, and substance of government, whose leading object is, to elevate the condition of men…Yielding to partial and temporary departures, from necessity, this is the leading object of the Government for whose existence we contend.” - Abraham Lincoln

About The People's Contest

This Zooniverse transcription project is a part of the larger People's Contest Digital Archive. The People's Contest is a collaborative initiative of the Penn State Libraries and the George and Ann Richards Civil War Center. Its mission is to promote research into the lived experience of Pennsylvanians between 1851 and 1874. The project website features a unique statewide bibliographic database of hidden collections, digitized manuscripts, and contextual essays.

More information about the People's Contest Digital Archive may be found at the project Web site.

About The Collections

Alonzo J. Thompson Diary

Pennsylvania State University. Special Collections Library

This diary contains accounts of Alonzo J. Thompson's life as a soldier in Battery H, 1st Ohio Light Artillery, Army of the Potomac between 1861 and 1863. Thompson recounts daily activities, weather, and his personal health in this diary, and he also sketches rivers, surveys, and artillery trajectories with corresponding calculations.

Daniel Elias Frantz Diary

Pennsylvania State University. Special Collections Library

Daniel Frantz of Luzerne County, PA was 18 years old when he wrote this diary in 1865. He worked primarily as a farmer and salesman, and several diary entries follow Frantz's business activities as well as his expenses and profits of his book-selling trips to New York and New Jersey. Some other entries within this diary include descriptions of the weather and Frantz's daily activities.

Emilie Davis Diaries, 1863-1865, v. 1

Historical Society of Pennsylvania

These three diaries contain recordings of Emilie Davis's (1838-1899) daily life in Philadelphia, PA. Many of her entries include wartime events such as the fall of Vicksburg and the New York City draft riots of 1863. Other entries include descriptions of colored troops, the draft, parades, units marching, an 1865 lecture given by Frederick Douglass, and the funeral procession of Abraham Lincoln.

Historical Reports of State Acting Assistant Provost Marshals General and District Provost Marshals, 1865

Pennsylvania State University Libraries

Reported largely by James B. Fry (1827-1894), these operations reports include reports of enrollment of draftees, recruiting and examinations of enlistees, the arresting, detaining and forwarding of deserters, and difficulties of administering the law. Most reports for Pennsylvania districts were written between May and October 1865 and sometimes include copes of state and district procedural directives, expense accounts, and letters of transmittal. These reports also include a National Archives and Records Administration collection description, as well as a five-page key to image numbers for each Pennsylvania district.

James A. Beaver Papers, 1855-1914

Pennsylvania State University Libraries

James T. Stuart Family Papers

Pennsylvania State University. Special Collections Library

This collection contains documents from multiple generations of the Stuart family of central and western Pennsylvania. Some of these documents include correspondence, photographs, family records, and diaries of Civil war veteran James T. Stuart.

John Covode Papers, 1838-1892

Senator John Heinz Pittsburgh Regional History Center (Pittsburgh, Pa.)

The John Covode Papers include correspondence and documentation of John Covode's (1808-1871) career in the U.S. House of Representatives, as well as his concerns regarding the Westmoreland Coal Company which he co-founded with William Larimer. The correspondence includes patronage requests, contemporary politics, and discussions of the Civil War. Included in this collection are letters from Covode's son, Colonel George Covode, during his service in the Civil War concerning daily life of a Colonel and personal information rather than battlefield experiences.

John H. Morrison Civil War Diary

Pennsylvania State University. Special Collections Library

This diary includes descriptions of band activities, military actions, and daily weather during John H. Morrison's service in the 49th Pennsylvania Volunteers Regimental Band in 1862. Morrison served as a musician in the Civil War from January to August 1862.

Minute book of the Wrightstown Soldiers' Aid Society

Bucks County Historical Society

This collection contains meeting minutes, by-laws, and member lists of the Wrightstown Soldiers' Aid Society between September 23, 1862 and July 4, 1863. There are also some lists of foods and aid supplies of the society.

Morris W. Hackman Civil War Diary

Pennsylvania State University. Special Collections Library

Born on November 10, 1845, Morris W. Hackman enlisted in Company G, 9th Pennsylvania Regiment at the age of sixteen. This diary follows Hackman's experiences during the Civil War such as enlistment, marches through Harpers Ferry, battles, his capture by Confederate troops on May 23, 1863, and his imprisonment in Richmond, Virginia.

Philip C. Shaffner and Robert H. Ward 1862 Civil War Diary

Pennsylvania State University. Special Collections Library

This diary was first created by Philip Shaffner, a private in Company C of the 34th Regiment, 5th Pennsylvania Reserve Volunteers in June 1862. After Shaffner's death during the Battle of Glendale on June 30, the diary was continued by Confederate Brevet Second Lieutenant Robert H. Ward who wrote about his daily activities. Within this diary, there are entries regarding sociability between Confederate and Union pickets, the building of military defenses, and the destruction of railroad tracks.

Samuel Davis Collection

Senator John Heinz Pittsburgh Regional History Center (Pittsburgh, Pa.)

This massive collection contains diaries, correspondence, sermons, and other items of Samuel Davis and his wife Mary Catherine Stone Davis from 1839 to 1914. Many of the sources include entries exploring the larger issues of life in the nineteenth century, as well as the personal struggles of the couple.

Soldier's Aid Society of Hartsville and Vicinity Records, 1861-1886

Pennsylvania State University Libraries

These records include committee meeting minutes of the Soldier's Aid Society of Hartsville and Vicinity from 1861 to 1865 and correspondence from 1861-1886. This organization was created to assist soldiers serving in the Civil War.

The Students' Miscellany

Pennsylvania State University. Special Collections Library

The Students' Miscellany was a student publication within the Cresson Literary Society, which existed from 1859 to 1895. These drafts contain editorials and humorous gossip of the time.

Union League of Philadelphia Archives

Abraham Lincoln Foundation of The Union League of Philadelphia

These archives contain documents regarding the political climate of the Civil War Era. Amongst opinionated speeches, reports, and pamphlets, this collection also contains documents, publications, and meeting minutes of the Union League of Philadelphia from 1863 to 1876.

Walter R. Collins Civil War Diaries

Pennsylvania State University. Special Collections Library

Walter R. Collins served as a sergeant in Company M, 100th Pennsylvania Volunteers during the Civil War. His diaries describe battles, troop movements, exchanges with Confederate soldiers, and note the death of his fellow soldiers.

Washington Literary Society Records

These records, dating from 1859-1895, contain student-run editorials of the Washington Agricultural Literary Society such as The Anonymous and The Photosphere. Within these records are also the governing documents, minutes, membership lists, correspondence, and financial records of the societies. Prior to 1869, the Washington Literary Society was named the Washington Agricultural Literary Society, and it was part of the Farmers' High School of Pennsylvania (now known as the Pennsylvania State University).

William H. H. Fisher Civil War Diary

Pennsylvania State University. Special Collections Library

This diary contains entries from William H. H. Fisher (1841-1897), who served in the Vermont Infantry, 7th Regiment, Company D during the Civil War and was promoted to corporal on March 4, 1865. Fisher writes about camp activities in the South, the siege of Spanish Fort, and the occupation of Mobile. His diary also includes a list of personal finances.