Battle of Gettysburg - Artifacts from Fields and Forests : Washington Irving Heald's collection given to the Gleason Public Library.

The Town of Carlisle, Massachusetts is fortunate to have a noteworthy collection of Civil War artifacts from the three-day 1863 Battle of Gettysburg. Carlisle native son Washington Irving Heald (1858-1935) purchased the collection from Joel Albertus Danner, a museum/shop keeper in Gettysburg, and brought the artifacts to Massachusetts in 1890.

The numbers and words painted in white on the artifacts were written by Mr. Danner. The white labels with black numbers were added by Mr. Heald.

Using Danner's notes, Heald identified and numbered the larger artifacts, and recorded what he knew of them into a written record. The collection has been in Carlisle's hands for over one hundred years.

Joel Albertus Danner was 16 when the Battle of Gettysburg occurred. He, along with other townspeople realized that there was money to be made by selling battle remains from the fields and woods. Danner initially made souvenirs out of the objects found, and sold them to tourists from outside his father's hardware store. It became a lucrative tourist industry, and Danner eventually opened up a shop/museum where tourists could buy what was on display. His business operated from 1865 to 1890.

Washington Irving Heald, born in Carlisle to farmers Benjamin and Susan P. Heald, moved to Somerville, MA as a young adult and worked as a hardware dealer. Eventually he moved to Mason, New Hampshire to farm for several years. He is buried in Carlisle.

The letter that Heald sent to the Carlisle library's trustees in 1916 describes his gift.

"I, a son of Carlisle, wish to offer to the town as a free gift a collection of relics from the Battlefield of Gettysburg, to be placed on exhibition in the Public Library. I have some printed lists of the articles, which are now at the home of my sister in Somerville. The relics and cabinet will weigh about one thousand pounds and could best be moved by team. Kindly advise if you will accept. Very truly yours, W. Irving Heald"

Later, he sent a letter to his sister about the collection.

"...At the time I thought of selling it to the Grand Army Post of Boston, by the advice of Capt. E. A. Sanborn, who is competent to judge in matters of this kind,... Capt A. E. Long, government guide at Gettysburg, says in relation to it: 'There is but one collection in existence that will equal yours, and that is owned by the State of Pennsylvania, and that or your own can never be duplicated'..."

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Battle of Gettysburg - Artifacts from Fields and Forests