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United States Civil War: Underground Railroad

U.S. Civil War research guide

The Work's Background

William Still's Underground Railroad was first published in Philadelphia in 1872, and is considered by many historians to be the most important primary-source document available on the subject. As a consequence of its historical significance, Still's book today is widely available in print and microfiche, and online (see, for example, the original 1872 illustrated edition from Quinnipiac University Library, or the 1878 revised edition at Project Gutenberg). Portions of the Underground Railroad are also available in two Temple-only Alexander Street Press databases: The American Civil War: Letters & Diaries and North American Women's Letters & Diaries.

For each letter writer in Still's book, Alexander Street Press indexes the following: name; places of birth and death, if known; gender; nationality; race; ethnicity; religion; occupation; education level; school attended; political allegiance (Union or Confederate); state of residence; military status and rank, if applicable; marital and parental status; and cause of death. Using either database, researchers can easily limit searches to one or any combination of the above fields, e.g. married male letter writers from Pennsylvania.

McGowan Index - Temple Exclusive

Temple University Libraries is pleased to host the McGowan Index -- copyright 2003 by Temple alumnus, James A. McGowan -- an Excel spreadsheet that indexes William Still's important work in a whole new way. The focus of Mr. McGowan's work is on the runaways, not the letter writers. McGowan indexed the name and the alias of each runaway; the day, month, and year of escape; city, county, and state of origin; gender; age; color; number of escapees in the party, including number captured if applicable; children in the party; ability of runaway to read/write; conductor name; party armed or unarmed; violence or no violence involved in escape; mode of escape; owner name; and estimated monetary value of runaway in and out of home state.

The McGowan Index opens up new opportunities for research and complements the indexing done by Alexander Street Press. Note that page numbers in the McGowan Index refer to the 1970 Johnson Publications reprint of the Underground Railroad, not the original 1872 edition. All researchers, Temple and non-Temple alike, are welcome to download the Index (350 K), which is in Excel spreadsheet format. Using Excel filters, researchers can limit results to a particular field or combination of fields. The McGowan Index may not be used for commercial purposes.

William Still: An African-American Abolitionist

William Still: An African-American Abolitionist is a collection of digitized archival resources from the Special Collections Research Center of TULibraries. It details the life and times of Still and his family, primarily his daughter, Caroline Still Anderson. Covering much of his social and political activities, the collection provides a glimpse into Still’s life, highlighting his accomplishments, fatherhood, family matters, and concerns for the state of affairs of African Americans in the nineteenth century. The site includes family letters, family photographs and abolitionist pamphlets from the Charles L. Blockson Afro-American Collection, Temple University Libraries.

Guide Author

Caitlin Shanley