The Civil War… 150 years ago today… April 27, 1861

April 27, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

We continue our weekly feature of reflecting upon the appropriate 150 year old issue of “Harper’s Weekly” from the perspective of a subscriber in 1861:

Although there is some frustration in waiting two weeks to see the events of the conflict, the prints definitely help in understanding all that is going on.  The front page of today’s issue (April 27, 1861) shows “General Thomas Swearing In the Volunteers Called into the Service of the United States at Washington, D.C.” There is also a front page article on “The Bombardment of Fort Sumter” which provides some detail  I did  not read in the daily papers of two weeks ago. But the real drama of the skirmish comes to life with the full page print: “The Interior of Fort Sumter During the Bombardment” showing bombs exploding and being hurled through the air by the massive cannons. What a horrendous experience that must have been! The full page “Map of Charleston Harbor” shows how surprisingly small Fort Sumter seems to be, on a small island right in the middle of the harbor. I can not understand what it is a strategic installation for the protection of the city.

Then, golly, I turn to the center fold to see a terrific print showing the “Bombardment of Fort Sumter by the Batteries of the Confederate States”. It’s full of action, showing the soldiers at their positions next to the cannons and the destruction being done to Fort Sumter in the distance. This print certainly brings the event to life!

Further on is a print of Abraham Lincoln taken from a photograph by the famed photographer Matthew Brady. He looks just like the earlier images I recall from his inauguration. And a special treat is a full-figure print of  “General P. G. T Beauregard”, the Confederate commander of the forces in Charleston.

The text in this issue is interesting as well, but the prints are what keep me looking forward to next week’s edition.

The Civil War… 150 years ago today… April 6, 1861

April 6, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

With the 150th anniversary of the outbreak of the Civil War just days away, we begin today a weekly feature of reflecting upon the appropriate 150 year old issue of “Harper’s Weekly” from the perspective of a subscriber in 1861.

The success of “Harper’s Weekly” was in presenting illustrations of the war, as visual presentations–today commonplace in almost all forms of media–were almost unknown in the mid-19th century. The subscriber in 1861 could now “see” rather than just read about the battles and the famous names who lead the war effort. We hope to share with our blog readers that novel experience and how those in 1861  would have reacted as they opened their issue of “Harper’s Weekly” .

I always look forward to my “Harper’s Weekly‘ issue in the mail as this new type of newspaper provides the graphics of everyday life which my daily newspapers don’t provide. What a treat it is to see what is happening rather than just read about events of the day!

Today I received the April 6, 1861 issue, and as per usual, the prints were outstanding.  The front page is a nice illustration of the “Hon. William H. Seward, Secretary of State” about whom I’ve heard much as a key member of the new Lincoln Administration. He looks much younger than his 60 years the article mentions. Other prints inside provide military scenes concerning the inevitable crisis between the North and South, with a print of Fort Pickens in Florida, another of Pensacola Harbor, a nice doublepage spread of various “Virginia Sketches” one showing the huge Richmond Armory & another the frigate Merrimac–a mammoth ship which would be a formidable foe in any naval conflict. A full page is taken up with the “Coats of Arms of the Several States of the Union” which make a fascinating display with their various themes and mottoes. How many will still be part of our Union if war breaks out?

With rumblings of war noted in the daily newspapers I suspect more war-themed prints will find their way into my future editions of “Harper’s Weekly“.  I look forward to the illustrations which will put a “face” on the news reports.

To enjoy the images (and some of the text) from this issue, please go to:  Harper’s Weekly, April 6, 1861

What could happen to a rumor…

December 9, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

The Daily Journal” newspaper of August 20, 1861 from Wilmington, North Carolina, a Confederate publication, printed an interesting series of dispatches of a fictitious assassination attempt upon President Lincoln (see below). They provide an interesting perspective on how a dramatic event could be much less so once more trustworthy news reports found their way to the press.

The reliability of news reports was a big problem in the 18th & 19th centuries during the pre-telegraph, pre-wire service days when word of mouth was often the source of what made it into the newspaper. This somewhat comical piece illustrates a quandary likely dealt with by most newspaper publishers of the  day.

April 15, 1865 New York Herald reprints… revisited…

November 1, 2010 by · 10 Comments 

A previous post by guest contributor Rick Brown  detailed how one can identify whether or not their April 15, 1865 New York Herald is authentic.  One of the most notable differences between an authentic issue (which is quite rare) and one of the reprints (which are rather common) is that the common reprint has an image of President Lincoln on the front page, whereas, the original does not.  We recently came across a photo of the Lincoln image (as shown to the right).  If your issue has it… unfortunately, your’s is not an original.

Value of the internet…

May 13, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

I never fail to be amazed at the incredible wealth of information which is available on the internet, and I never fail to be thankful for such an incredible resource, particularly remembering what it took thirty years ago to research  a newspaper.

Back in the 1970’s and ’80’s, when I wrote up an issue for the catalog I had to pull out the encyclopedia if I was unsure of a specific date or consequences of a certain battle. And I also kept close at hand other resources which would document events I was finding in our inventory of newspapers.

But today, more information than I could possibly need flashes on my screen in a matter of seconds. What was the date James Buchanan died? Wikipedia tells me more quickly then it takes me to type  “james buchanan”. Many times I’ll read an interesting article about a person which sounds intriguing but is lost to my memory. The web quickly provides a wealth of detail.

What brings this to mind is an entry I worked on this morning. The Army & Navy Journal” of Dec. 3, 1864 has a touching item about a Mrs. Bixby who received a letter of condolence from Abraham Lincoln for her loss of five sons in the Civil War, the sixth was lying wounded in a hospital. The article includes the letter by Lincoln. Not having heard of this letter, as a whim I decided to Google “mrs. Bixby letter” to see if this was an “event”. To my surprise there is more to the story than the article could give, thanks to the “Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln”.

The touching letter by President Lincoln can be read in the photo. Below is the “rest of the story”:

Credit: “Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln”: In the fall of 1864, Massachusetts Governor John A. Andrew wrote to President Lincoln asking him to express condolences to Mrs. Lydia Bixby, a widow who was believed to have lost five sons during the Civil War. Lincoln’s letter to her was printed by the Boston Evening Transcript. Later it was revealed that only two of Mrs. Bixby’s five sons died in battle (Charles and Oliver). One deserted the army, one was honorably discharged, and another deserted or died a prisoner of war.

The authorship of the letter has been debated by scholars, some of whom believe it was written instead by John Hay, one of Lincoln’s White House secretaries. The original letter was destroyed by Mrs. Bixby, who was a Confederate sympathizer and disliked President Lincoln. Copies of an early forgery have been circulating for many years, causing some people to believe they have the original letter.

The point of this piece is to cite just one example how the internet opens a whole new world to the tidbits of history we find within early newspapers. A 150 year old article might pique the curiosity, but it is the internet which can satisfy. It’s a fascinating combination of very old & very new technology which fit so well in this hobby we love. Give the internet a try with some articles in your collection. You may be pleasantly surprised at what you will find.

A modest resume…

November 23, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

The Crisis” newspaper from Columbus, Ohio, dated May 24, 1863 ran the piece on Lincoln shown in the photo. Keep in mind that this was a “copperhead” newspaper (northern paper opposed to the war, even advocating the continuance of slavery) so there was much criticism to Lincoln and his administration throughout it’s print run, so it is likely the piece was printed to emphasize the “modestness” of his resume.

From what we know of Abraham Lincoln this short piece he submitted, despite likely edits by the newspaper publisher, is largely correct and emphasizes the humble background of the man whom history arguably ranks as among the best of American Presidents.  Certainly the trappings of wealth, family pedigree and the best of education which are traits common to leaders in other parts of the world are not prerequisites to success in America. This simple piece in a 146 year old newspaper is evidence that “the American dream” has been alive and well on this side of the Atlantic for many years.

Lincoln_Dictionary

Lincoln’s assassination in a Washington, D.C., newspaper…

October 26, 2009 by · 7 Comments 

Daily-Morning-Chronicle-LinOne of the (positive) frustrations we have always dealt with as a rare newspaper dealer is not being able to share some of the best material which comes our way. Not surprisingly very rare and very historic items have a waiting list of customers waiting for it to come into inventory and such newspapers are typically sold before they have the opportunity to be listed in a catalog. But here is where our blog is of value, allowing us an opportunity to share some nice material even though no longer available for purchase.

Holding true to the belief that newspapers from cities where historic events took place are the best to have, our recent sale of the “Daily Morning Chronicle” of April 15, 1865 from Washington, D.C. fits this description very well.  Although purchased by a member with a *“want list” for such material, the issue is too fascinating not to share with others, hence this link to the listing and photos.

Enjoy one of the best newspapers to have on Lincoln’s assassination.

* Note:  Although we manage a want list for key material, with thousands of such wants, the system is not perfect (i.e., we occasionally miss an item on someone’s want list and it ends up being purchased through a member or public offering).  We simply promise to do the best we can.  If you have key content of interest, feel free to be in touch.

Terrific “association” item in American history…

October 22, 2009 by · 2 Comments 

One of the joys in collecting early newspapers is discovering the little gem found buried in an issue which was innocuous at the time but which has since transcended to much greater importance in American history. The small advertisement shown, which appears on page 3 of the April 13 issue of the “Daily Morning Chronicle” of Washington, D.C., is one.

Ford_Theater_AdCertainly Abraham Lincoln, and any other Washington, D.C. resident who read this ad, would not have given it a second thought, being a simple notice of the latest show on the stage of a local theater. But as history would tell us Abraham Lincoln attended this very performance of  “The American Cousin” at Ford’s Theatre, starring Laura Keene, and would be assassinated there the evening of the 14th.

It’s fascinating to think the original owner of this newspaper may well have read that advertisement, and may actually have attended that performance only to become witness to one of the more dramatic & notable events of American history. This newspaper is truly a piece of Americana which could only be found in a Washington, D.C. newspaper. Certainly this ad would not have appeared in the other–more common–major city publications.

Feel free to respond and share with other readers any similar gems which you have discovered, & which would figure more prominently in history after their publication date. We hope you enjoyed this one!

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