148th Anniversary of President’s Only Official Appearance in Philadelphia Marked by Celebration of Lincoln and the U.S. Sanitary Commission Great Fair
Pepper Hamilton LLP and Partner M. Kelly Tillery Supported City’s Newest Historical Marker
President Abraham Lincoln, as portrayed by Jim Getty (second from right), the leading Lincoln actor in the U.S., congratulates M. Kelly Tillery, a senior partner in the law firm of Pepper Hamilton LLP, for his leadership in installing a historical marker noting the spot of the U.S. Sanitary Commission Great Central Fair in 1864, which was the location of Lincoln’s only official appearance as president in Philadelphia. Also pictured are honor guards Robert F. Houston (left) and Albert El, re-enactors with the 3rd U.S. Colored Infantry Regiment. The marker was dedicated on June 16, 2012, the 148th anniversary of Lincoln’s appearance in Philadelphia.
President Abraham Lincoln – as portrayed by Jim Getty, America’s foremost Lincoln actor – returned to Philadelphia on June 16, 2012, recreating the 16th President’s only official appearance in the city exactly 148 years earlier, when Lincoln visited the United States Sanitary Commission Great Central Fair in Logan Square, and delivered a speech praising the organization’s relief efforts and urging citizens to continue supporting the Union war effort.
Mr. Getty’s appearance was a highlight of a ceremony for the unveiling of a new roadside historical marker on Logan Circle noting the Great Fair and Lincoln’s appearance. The marker and the ceremony were the result of a personal mission by M. Kelly Tillery, a senior partner at the law firm of Pepper Hamilton LLP, to correct what he saw as a huge gap in the city’s remembrance of its Civil War history and connections to Lincoln.
“The city has so many markers, museums and historical sites devoted to its Colonial and Revolutionary War history, but relatively little about its enormous role in the Civil War,” Mr. Tillery noted. “I am very pleased to have played a part in redressing that, with the support of my partners and our firm.”
Mr. Tillery learned about the work of the Sanitary Commission and Lincoln’s appearance while researching an article published in The Philadelphia Lawyer in 2010 about Lincoln’s connections to the city. He then worked to gain approval from the city and the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission to place the roadside marker. The cost of the marker and the dedication ceremony was paid by Pepper Hamilton LLP.
In addition to Mr. Tillery and the recreation of Lincoln’s 1864 speech by Mr. Getty, the ceremony featured remarks by James Mundy, Director and Curator of Library and Historical Collections at the Union League, who discussed the importance of the Sanitary Commission, and William V. Lewis, Commissioner of the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, and chairman of the Commission’s Historical Marker Committee. Mr. Lewis, who thanked Pepper Hamilton and Mr. Tillery for their leadership on the marker, is a former member of the national board of governors of the American Red Cross, which he noted has long considered itself a descendant of the U.S. Sanitary Commission. Robert F. Houston, a re-enactor with the 3rd U.S. Colored Infantry Regiment, also spoke about the appropriateness of the ceremony occurring during the week of “Juneteenth,” the celebration commemorating the end of slavery in the United States.
The dedication ceremony also featured appearances by re-enactors and living historians portraying leading military and civic leaders of the Civil War era, and honor guards from the 98th Pennsylvania and 3rd U.S. Colored Infantry re-enactor units. Adding to the festive atmosphere was a rousing performance by Philadelphia Brigade Band, a 20-piece brass band playing patriotic period music.
About the Marker
The marker reads: “U.S. Sanitary Commission Great Central Fair. Held at Logan Square from June 7-28, 1864, this event raised more than one million dollars for the Union cause during the Civil War. Formed to coordinate efforts of women volunteering to support the war effort, the Commission gave relief and comfort to soldiers and their families. In his only official public appearance in Philadelphia, President Abraham Lincoln addressed the crowd on June 16, praising the important work of the organization.”