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

April 6, 2011 by  
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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

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