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Cooper Shop Volunteer Refreshment Saloon

Excerpts from  “Refreshment Saloons in Civil War Philadelphia,” Journal Divided (July 2010)

William M. Cooper, a merchant, was the first to decide that his storefront on Otsego Street should aid Union troops passing through his city. The Cooper Shop Volunteer Refreshment Saloon opened on May 26, 1861. Cooper became the committee’s president and served in this position until the war’s end. The Cooper Shop soon entered into a friendly rivalry with the larger Union Saloon, which opened the same week, but the dramatic individual efforts of the Cooper Shop leaders gave it a special place in the hearts of Philadelphia’s residents. All of these war time establishments proved important as places of rest where soldiers obtained food, drink, places to wash, and even medical care. The saloons helped forge a collective war effort.

The Cooper Shop Saloon added a second floor hospital in October 1861. Dr. Andrew Nebinger, Jr. received the appointment as the surgeon-in-charge. He agreed to work as a volunteer and did not receive a salary for his service to the wounded soldiers. Admired by many who came into contact with him, Nebinger’s surgical skills received praise from fellow doctors such as C.E. Hill who described the surgeon as one of the finest men he had ever met, saying, “his kindness to the sick, and his untiring zeal for their comfort, proves him to be a philanthropist of the first order…” Others described Nebinger as an expert doctor who possessed great administrative ability and devoted patriotism, which gained him respect among the soldiers and their families.  

Along with Nebinger, Anna M. Ross became a fixture in the lives of Union soldiers at the Cooper Shop Hospital. She played a large role in its management through her appointment as the hospital’s Lady Principal until her death, reportedly from overwork, in 1863. Ross’s patients and coworkers praised her since she showed “energy, perseverance, zeal, and endurance [which] were seen, in combination with tender sensibility, love, and self-sacrifice.” Her dedication to the hospital and its patients made the Cooper Shop Hospital one of the most warmly remembered institutions created in the midst of the Civil War. In one particular instance Ross displayed these fine qualities while tending to a dying lieutenant from New York. According to a history of women’s work during the war, she never left his side and tried to ease his pain by cooling his forehead and offered him support by saying, “call me Anna and tell me all which your heart prompts you to say.”  

When William Cooper died in poverty in February 1880, various newspapers and the Grand Army of the Republic appealed to former soldiers for donations to support the surviving members of his family. Former soldiers immediately offered to “shoulder the entire indebtedness of the late Mr. Cooper, if they be allowed what they term ‘the humble honor.’” Andrew Nebinger and his family remained an integral part of Philadelphia’s society after the war as leaders in city’s public school system. According to one history of the public schools, the family left Philadelphia “memories that will long be cherished and honored.” Anna M. Ross embodied the persona created by Pennsylvania women during the Civil War which, according to William Blair and William Pencak, was “imbued with patriotism and loyalty to the country.” She also received unique posthumous recognition from the Grand Army of the Republic as it named Post 94 in Philadelphia after her. 

Source: Brenna McKelvey,“Refreshment Saloons in Civil War Philadelphia,” Journal Divided (July 2010)

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Record Details

Title: Cooper Shop Volunteer Refreshment Saloon


Chromolithographic poster mounted on fabric; exterior and interior views of the Cooper Shop Volunteer Refreshment Saloon at 1009 Otsego Street, Philadelphia.

Raised, official seal of the Cooper Shop Volunteer Refreshment Saloonvappears on lower left corner of poster. Thirty Committee member names also appear in lower portion of poster.

Chromolithography done by M.H. Traubel - 409 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia

For commercial image use please contact Bridgeman Art,

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