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The Philadelphia Print Shop, Ltd.

A Nation Divided.  The Civil War in contemporary prints
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Civil War:
Prints from illustrated newspapers

[ January to June 1861 | July to December 1861 | January to June 1862 | July to December 1862 | 1863 | 1864 | 1865 ]


Illustrated newspapers, filled with wood engraved images, made their appearance in the United States in the 1850s. Gleason's Pictorial Drawing-Room Companion, Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper, and Harper's Weekly covered every topic that their readers might be interested in. Their ability to provide articles and images in a very timely manner made them the perfect media from which Americans could get their news of the war.

Leading up to bombardment at Fort Sumter and extending well into the aftermath of the war, each weekly issue of these publications included stories and pictures about the war. So many different images were printed in such large numbers that the majority of the Civil War images viewed by the public--both in the North and in the South, as well as in the rest of the world--were those published in illustrated newspapers.

The images in these newspapers were often based on photographs or first-hand drawings, so they were not only timely, but accurate as well. As the publishers of one paper explained, "The proprietors of Harper's Weekly beg to state that they have made the most extensive arrangements for the illustration of future movements at the South, and that the public may rely upon finding in Harper's Weekly an accurate and reliable picture of every scene of interest to which occurrences may direct attention."

During the Civil War, almost without exception, the earliest and most accurate images of battles or other events were those from the illustrated newspapers. Photographs of the time could not take action shots and other forms of prints would take months, if not years, to produce from the original drawings. The illustrated newspapers sent out artists into the field to document the events of the war and they make sketches in the camps and on the battlefields.

Within a matter of just days after making the sketches, using a process developed by Frank Leslie, the on-the-spot drawings were turned into wood engravings and published for the American public to view as they read the reports of the battles, generals, troop movements, etc.. These prints, therefore, are the most immediate and accurate images of the war, especially for the battles. As they provided an important source of information to the public during the war, so too they provide us today with some of the best contemporary documentation of the war.

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Note on condition: The paper used for the illustrated papers was not of top quality and in general these prints were not treated with great care. Thus most of these prints have some discoloration, minor edge tears and occasional light stains or spots. The prints listed below are in "good" condition, with any significant flaws noted. We would be happy to provide a more detailed description of any particular prints upon request.

Battle of Belmont June to December 1861

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©The Philadelphia Print Shop, Ltd. Last updated May 29, 2018