The Artifact Gallery was made possible by a generous gift from the William T. Kemper Foundation – Commerce Bank, Trustee.
Based in St. Louis, Missouri, the Western Sanitary Commission (WSC) was a charitable agency created during the Civil War to provide supplies and services for sick and wounded soldiers, orphans, refugees, and freedmen in the Trans-Mississippi region of the United States. In order to operate, the WSC relied heavily on soliciting cash donations and supplies from donors. Its biggest fund-raising event was the Mississippi Valley Sanitary Fair, which opened its doors in a new structure on 12th and Olive streets in St. Louis on May 17, 1864. The two-week, carnival-like event served the dual purpose of providing a distraction to keep civilian morale high during a time of war and netting more than $550,000 to benefit the WSC’s efforts. It raised this money by raffling items, such as this French shelf clock, that were donated from across the country and locally, the most valuable prize being the 500-acre Smizer Farm given by the St. Louis County Court. Other sales came from articles and goods, such as flower arrangements, clothing, and food, which were offered in the fair’s various departments. By the end of the war the WSC had received more than $770,000 in cash donations and $3.5 million worth of sanitary supplies.