John Page Nicholson
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Joel Rose:

Nicholson was a second-generation bookbinder. His father started the business, and wrote "A Manual of the Art of Bookbinding," the first book published in this country about the craft. John Page Nicholson...born in Philadelphia in 1842...shared his father's passion for the trade, and for giving meaning to pictures and pamphlets.

Amanda Holmes is a graduate student at the University of Pennsylvania. She's writing a dissertation about Nicholson:

"Until you bound them, you in a sense did not preserve them."
"So a pamphlet unbound is just a piece of paper, a pamphlet bound becomes a book. And this whole idea reflects everything that Nicholson does."

Nicholson's homegrown impulse to collect and preserve stayed with him during his service in the Union Army. He joined as a private and within a year was promoted to quartermaster of the 28th Pennsylvania Volunteers. Nicholson organized wagons, horses and food...and moved constantly around the battlefield. That's when he started to collect souvenirs like photographs, weapons and badges.

Amanda Holmes:

"It was during the war...that Nicholson started sending things home... interesting relics and mementos of the conflict. I don't know if they realized at the time...that it would be starting what would be John Page's life-long quest."

After the war, Nicholson helped established an association for his allow the men to come together and remember what happened during the war. In 1879, Nicholson joined another veterans group, the Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States or MOLLUS.

MOLLUS had fallen into bureaucratic disarray. But when Nicholson became its recorder, he drew on his administrative prowess - corresponding with members, gathering dues - and revived the organization. Nicholson also recast MOLLUS into a more patriotic group, organizing educational programs and laying wreaths at grave sites.

He believed people had the tendency to forget, says Amanda Holmes:

"Nicholson never had a setting aside time. He wanted to remember it from the time it began until he died. And so he made it his purpose to help this happen. So he was way ahead of others. And he encouraged people to write down, no matter who they had been, what they had done...write down what they remembered. He wanted that preserved."

These materials provided the seeds for the collection of the Civil War Library and Museum, established by MOLLUS members in 1888. The museum would later settle into a townhouse at 18th and Pine Streets in Philadelphia.

Herb Kaufmann, Museum Guide:

"Hi, welcome to the Civil War Museum and Library...would you come inside please. My name is Herb Kaufmann, I'm one of the volunteers at the museum..."

A tour guide steers you through the museum's collection of military artifacts: the casts of the face and hands of Lincoln, Civil War weapons, and the stuffed head of General George Meade's horse, Old Baldy.

Herb Kaufmann in background:

[ " that case is old Baldy, now during the Civil War he was just Baldy, he didn't get old till afterwards..."]

For Nicholson, the museum was more than just a trove of curiosities, says St. Joseph's University history professor Randall Miller:

"So this became a repository for the physical remembrance of the war, as well as the materials to read and learn about the war at the Civil War Library and Museum. And Nicholson was absolutely essential to that process."

Nicholson was involved in monument commissions at Gettysburg National Park and Valley Forge...massive projects to commemorate the battles, events and men of the Civil War. Randall Miller says this began a process of reconciliation between Northern and Southern veterans, creating a new dialog about the way the war was fought, rather than the causes.

Randall Miller:

"And the way many Americans, whole generations of Americans, came to understand the war and the meaning of the war in many ways was filtered through this kind of memorialization, these kind of institutions. It became a celebration of patriotism, the Civil War became a celebration of patriotism."

In 1913, right before the 50th anniversary of the Battle at Gettysburg, Nicholson spoke at a meeting of the Loyal Legion. Struggling for words, he talked about the memory of the officers whose lives he sought to commemorate and the nostalgic touch of the past.

Randall Miller, reading Nicholson's words:

"There is something in the Loyal Legion. It has been something; it has been more than something... If you will only call over the names of the Commanders-in-Chief...just recall their names...and the touch of the vanished hand comes back to you."

Trained as a bookbinder, Nicholson never stopped looking at the Civil War through a craftsman's eye. He collected everything from fact to photo, binding them to a greater create a legacy for the future.
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