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A Nation Divided.  The Civil War in contemporary prints
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The Civil War: Cartoons & Allegories


Cartoons & Allegories

Washington as Peacemaker
M. Nevin. "Washington the Mediator." From Harper's Weekly. March 23, 1861, March 23, 1861. 9 1/8 x 13 3/4. Wood engraving.

Both the North and the South claimed George Washington as their 'patron saint,' arguing that it was their opponent who was forsaking the principals of the Founding Fathers. Here Washington is shown breaking up a fight between a Massachusetts and Virginia volunteer at the beginning of the Revolution. The message is clear, that the Father of His Country would not want the North and the South to be fighting. There was still belief in the early days of the war that the division between the states could be patched over, a hope that proved in vain. $25

Other Harper's Weekly allegories linking Washington with the Union:

"A Rebel General Startled in his Camp by the Beautiful and Unexpected Display of Northern Light." From Harper's Weekly. New York, May 25, 1861. 5 3/4 x 9 1/8. Wood engraving.

A cartoon from the beginning of the war when many in the North believed their show of resolve would cause Southerners to sue for peace. $25

"Johnson's New Chart of National Emblems." [Flags of the World]. Stone lithography (hand colored). New York: Johnson & Ward, 1863. 16 7/8 x 23 1/8. Center fold as issued. Slight browning. A few chips around the edges, else fine and bright.

A colorful image of flags and signals from around the world, including a number of American flags such as the "American Jack" and a flag of the Hawaiian Islands. Of particular note is the inclusion in this edition of the chart of the flag for the "Confederate States of America (so called)." $195

Charles Kimmel? [The Outbreak Of The Rebellion In The United States 1861.] New York: Kimmel & Forster, 1865. 16 7/8 x 24 1/2. Lithograph. Trimmed to image, old vertical tear at center; expertly conserved and fully lined. Residual stain along repaired tear. Holzer, Boritt, & Neely, fig. 41; Reilly, 1865-21.

A dramatic allegory on the beginning of the Civil War, issued by the New York firm of Kimmel & Forster in 1865. The print is laudatory towards the heroism and selflessness of the Northerners and highly vitriolic towards the craven Southerners. The two sides of the conflict flank a large figure of Columbia, wearing a Phrygian cap of Liberty, standing near a split in the bedrock--caused by the succession of the South--and holding the flag of the Union. Over her head flies the American eagle and to her side is the figure of an unblindfolded Justice, sword and scales in hand, leading the charge against the sorry forces of succession. This rabble is grouped around a tree upon which is entwined a spitting serpent and under which stands Jefferson Davis, holding the American flag that is being torn asunder by Confederate troops, and his vice-president, Alexander H. Stephens. In the foreground of this group is former President James Buchanan, lying asleep, and his Secretary of War, Southerner John B. Floyd, shown scooping coins into a bag--a reflection of the charges of his misappropriation of funds during his tenure.

In contrast to this mob, the noble Northern citizens, politicians, and soldiers are extending their help to Columbia, led by Lincoln and General Winfield Scott. Capitalists pour out bags of money for the cause, and a determined young man gently consoles his clinging wife as he prepares to join the Union forces. In the background to these patriots is a scene of the sun rising over mountains and a prosperous city--likely modeled on New York--, and an enthusiastic crowd listening to a speaker exhorting them to rise to the cause of their nation. In 1861 the War was fought primarily over the issue of Union not Emancipation, but by 1865 this print shows Columbia standing on a slave whip and broken shackles, further ennobling the cause. A fascinating example of the patriotic printmaking in the North near the end of the Civil War. $850

"The Last Ditch of the Chivalry, or a President in Petticoats." New York: Currier & Ives, 1865. Medium folio; vignette. Lithograph. Overall, good condition. Conningham: 3444; Fowble: 334.

A rare example of a Currier & Ives political cartoon issued just at the end of the Civil War. When Jefferson Davis was captured while trying to escape disguised as a woman, the Northern press had a field day. In fact, Davis was wrapped in a women's cloak but was not in a dress. This print, which was separately issued and published just after the event, shows Davis in a dress and bonnet fleeing from Union soldiers. A southern lady is shown in the background saying "Look out you vile Yankees, if you make him mad he will hurt some of you!" and Davis is quoted saying, "Let me alone you blood thirsty villains:-I thought your government more magnanimous than to hunt down women and children!" An excellent document of the time. $650

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