On April 25, 1846, war between Mexico and the United States started with an attack by Mexican troops on an American army, under General Zachary Taylor. In less than a year and a half the war ended with an American victory. The Mexican war was very important in the history of the United States, for not only did it provide a training ground for many of the figures who played a major role in the soon-to-follow Civil War, but the war ended with the acquisition of huge new territories for the United States. Though often overshadowed in our histories by the Civil War, in 1846-47 the Mexican War captured the attention of the public, and this naturally led to a large demand for prints and maps showing the events and personages involved in the war. Following is a list of contemporary images of the Mexican-American war.
Go to a short history of the war
Richard Caton Woodville. "Mexican News." New York: American Art Union, 1851. Engraved by Alfred Jones. 20 1/2 x 18 1/2. Old, light mat burn. Else, very good condition. Denver.
Self-titled as a purveyor of truly national art, the American Art Union focused on widely-appealing art that could unify the politically and sentimentally divided nation of the mid-nineteenth century. Through membership subscriptions, the AAU purchased paintings from some of the most luminous names in American painting, including George Caleb Bingham, Thomas Cole, F.O.C. Darley, Asher B. Durand, William Sidney Mount, and Richard Caton Woodville. By selling the resultant prints and opening their gallery to the public, the union did much to advance American art as a democratic tradition.
One of their best-known engravings, "Mexican News" became a defining piece of American genre art that keenly reflects America during the eventful expansion of mid-nineteenth century. While of questionable legality, the war was very popular, alternately entrancing and inflaming Americans with battle news. In this print, all sorts of people gather at the aptly named "American Hotel," which is also marked as the post office. As a dapper-looking businessman reads aloud the newly-arrived newspaper, the small crowd around him reacts from their perches on the hotel's stoop. Buildings like this, located in the newly formed states along the Mississippi River, would have been the major hub for communication and socialization in a frontier town. All the states bordering the Mississippi River sent volunteers to the war, and this rural scene reflects that passionate interest. For Woodville to gather many types of Americans here to receive news of the war, then, is a telling picture of national sentiment and growth. An exquisite print. $3,200
Pedro Gualdi. "Mexican Guerrilleros in 1848." Printed and Published in Mexico City, ca. 1848. 9 5/8 x 13 1/4. Lithograph De Salazar, Calle de la Palma No. 4. Minor stain in left hand margin not affecting image. Otherwise, very good condition. Ref. Mexico on Stone, 1984, p. 21. Denver.
During the Mexican American War guerilla warfare was used quite extensively against the American forces. Most of the guerrillas were expert horseman who fought on horses with rifles, pistols, lances, sabers and lassos. The poorly equipped guerrillas resorted to hit and run tactics on American detachments and supply trains. They knew the local terrain well and disappeared into the countryside after their attacks. Today these men would be known as partisan fighters. These units constantly harassed American Army units throughout the war and the initial stage of occupation. This rare print issued in Mexico shows a guerrilla on horseback in the midst of an attack. On the ground is an enemy soldier. This print was issued most likely not only for Mexicans to purchase but also for American soldiers since the title of the print is in English. This scene was drawn by Pedro Gualdi who arrived in Mexico in 1838 with an Italian opera company as a scenery painter. He later taught art at Academia de San Carlos and drew various lithographic views of Mexico. A very unusual and scarce print. $900
"View of Chapultepec taken from the South East. Showing the attack on the castle made by the Divisions of Genls. Quitman and Shields/Vista del Ataque al Castillo de Chapultepec por las Divisiones de los Generales Quitman y Shields." Printed and Published in Mexico City, ca. 1848. 9 3/4 x 13 1/2. Lithograph by Rocha (R. C. de Tacuba No. 14). Luis Meunier Almacen de la Profesa, 3 a Calle de S.Francisco. No. 5. Minor staining in margins not affecting image. Otherwise, very good condition. Ref: University of Texas, Arlington, The Compass Rose. Spring, 2008. Denver.
A very rare lithograph of the Battle of Chapultepec printed in Mexico not long after the end of the Mexican American War. The Battle Chapultepec took place on September 13, 1847. The Mexicans in their line of defense of Mexico City established themselves in a large castle like complex built on a high plateau overlooking a plain. The day before the battle the United States Army bombarded the complex with artillery fire. At eight o'clock the next morning, the American forces attacked and the complex fell an hour and a half later. The resulting victory broke the defensive line of Mexico City which enabled General Scott to take Mexico City. This scare print along with several other battle prints were printed by Rocha in Mexico City and was issued in order to sell them to the numerous American forces occupying the city. This print is an excellent example of Mexican lithography and is comparable in quality to lithographs of the war issued by Nathaniel Currier and other American lithographic firms. $900
As soon as the war between Mexico and the United States was under way, Philadelphia map publisher, S. Augustus Mitchell, saw that there would be a demand for maps detailing the events in this far-off corner of the continent, so he quickly came out with a folding map of Mexico, with Texas shown with a red outline in its relative position, its panhandle extending to the 42nd parallel. The map was very much a war map, with topographical information kept to a minimum, but roads, towns, political divisions and rivers are clearly shown. Mitchell updated this map as news arrived of events, adding little flags to indicate the site of battles. This map shows the battles of the Alamo, San Jacinto, Palo Alto, Resaca de la Palma, and Monterey. In the upper right Mitchell included a detailed inset map of "The Late Battlefield" at Monterey. Another feature of interest is the depiction of the "Great Spanish Trail to Santa Fe" (from San Francisco) and the "Trader's Route to Independence, Mo." from Santa Fe to the east. A fine example of this important war map. $8,500
"Seat Of War & Battles,." with "Map of the Seat of War." New York: Ensigns and Thayer, 1847. 30 x 22 (full sheet). Wood engraving. Original hand coloring. A few short marginal tears and chips (repaired). Excellent appearance and very good condition. Denver.
A broadside map of the "Seat of the War" in Mexico, issued in 1847, just after the beginning of the Mexican-American war. Ensigns and Thayer (previously Phelps, Ensigns & Thayer) were publishers of separately issued, large format maps like this which were intended for display in public places, schools and homes as broadsides. These maps were issued quickly as events of interest to the general public occurred, and they included not just geographical images, but portraits, scenes and text, combining as decorative and informative prints which are of as much interest today as they must have been when issued. The ephemera nature of these maps makes them very scarce, especially in as good condition as this example. This wonderful broadside includes a map of Mexico, with part of Texas, and this map is surrounded by text and pictures. In the top corners are circular portraits of the American heroes, Generals Scott and Taylor, and two Mexican generals, Santa Anna and Ampudia, are shown below. Scenes of the battles of Monterey, Buena Vesta, and the capture of General La Vega are balanced by two scenes from the Revolution, of Bunker Hill and Lexington. This indicates that in the minds of the publishers the Mexican-American War was a similar fight for "Justice" and "Liberty" (each pictured at the bottom as a goddess) to the Revolution. A view of Vera Cruz and cartouches with text-on various battles, the exploits of Scott and Taylor, and an outline history of the war-, the whole surrounded by a decorative border, finish this map as a decorative and historical gem. $1,800
Frederick Wislizenus. "Map of a tour from Independence to Santa Fé, Chihuahca, Monterey and Matamoros." From A Memoir of a Tour to Northern Mexico, Connected with Col. Doniphan's Expedition, in 1846 and 1847. Washington, 1848. 19 3/4 x 16. Lithograph by E. Weber & Co. Very good condition. Wheat: 572. Denver.
Frederick Wislizenus set off from Independence in 1846 to conduct a private, scientific exploration of the American Southwest, not realizing that war had just been declared between the U.S. and Mexico. He joined the caravan of gun-runner Albert Speyer, but was then imprisoned by the Mexicans. Later, Wislizenus was able to join with Colonel Doniphan's troops and return to the United States. William Goetzmann (Exploration and Empire, pp. 194-96) states that his report "was the most important geographical and economic survey of that almost unknown region then published," and his map, issued with the report, is also one of the best of the region at the time. As Wheat states, the map is "of considerable value. A number of routes to New Mexico and across Texas are shown, and Doniphan's campaign is carefully followed from Independence, through New and old Mexico to the camp of Jne 2nd, 1847, at Reynosa, at the mouth of the Rio Grande." (III, p.53f.) $750
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