CIVIL WAR ILLUSTRATED NEWSPAPERS & ARTISTS
The Illustrated London News was the world’s first illustrated weekly newspaper. It was founded by Herbert Ingram (1811-1860), who is considered the father of pictorial journalism. The idea of publishing a weekly newspaper that would contain pictures in every issue came about when he noticed how existing papers always sold more copies when they featured an illustration. The first issue appeared on Saturday, May 14 1842. It sold 26,000 copies. By 1855, mainly due to the Crimean War, its circulation had climbed to 200,000 copies. That same year, the paper started featuring color illustrations. Its success inspired numerous similar papers in America and Europe. Most copied its format, size, and number of pages. The Illustrated London News was published weekly until 1971 when it appeared less frequently until publication ceased in 2003.
The Illustrated Times Weekly Newspaper was one of the most serious rivals of the Illustrated London News. It started publication in June 1855. Later, it was bought by the Illustrated London News and removed from publication in December 1869.
The Civil War and the Newspapers
By 1863, the Illustrated London News was selling more than 300,000 copies every week. By comparison, newspa- pers such as the Daily News sold 6,000 copies per week at this time, and even the largest selling newspaper, The Times sold only sold 70,000 copies. It reported on the progress of the war in almost every issue. Both the Illustrated London News and the Illustrated Times Weekly provided extensive coverage the American Civil War.
Rural New Yorker was a weekly periodical founded in 1841 that was published by the Rural Publishing Co., New York. The magazine survived through the middle of the twentieth century. It episodically showed war illustrations, mostly portraits.
Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper was a news magazine founded in 1852 that continued to be published well into the twentieth century. Born in England, Frank Leslie became head-engraver for the Illustrated London News at age twenty-two. He came to New York in 1848. Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper (1855-1922) was the first successful American venture to bring pictures and news together in a weekly. Leslie’s breakthrough was in dividing the engraving into many sections for individual engravers and then fitting the woodblocks together. He could accom- plish in a day what a single engraver had taken weeks to produce enabling him to publish pictures of events only a week or two old. By the start of the Civil War, the paper’s circulation had reached 164,000. A German edition of the paper was also printed. During the Civil War, an oversized bimonthly paper (23 inches by 16 inches) devoted entirely to the conflict was published.
Harper’s Weekly: A Journal of Civilization began publication in 1857. By 1861 circulation had exceeded 200,000. Such a large circulation gave the paper enormous influence. Its position had a Northern point-of-view, but its pictorial coverage of the war was balanced in its depiction of battles, personages and events. It has been said that it was t the integrity of its illustrations that allowed President Lincoln to come to understand the ineffectiveness of his early generals.
The original New York Illustrated News was published by P.T. Barnum, originator of the famous quip: “There’s a sucker born every minute.” He tried to emulate the success of the Illustrated London News. Even though the New York publication attained a circulation of 70,000, it closed within the year, resurfacing later under the proprietor- ship of John King. During the Civil War, it was bought in January 1864 by W. Jennings Demorest, an American publisher and continued to be issued under the title Demorest’s Illustrated News.
Southern Illustrated News was the Confederacy’s rough version of the northern illustrated newspapers. It was published by Ayres & Wade in Richmond beginning in September 1862 to fill the void left by the unavailability of newspapers from the North. At its peak, it had no more than 20,000 subscribers. Printed on poor quality paper, with only eight pages, it is extremely hard to find.
In a different category, but worth the mention is Vanity Fair. It is considered one of the American best weekly humor magazines. Louis H. Stephens was the publisher, and Frank Wood, the first editor. It featured the political cartoons of H. L. Stephens, brother of Louis H., better known today as an illustrator of children’s books. Stephens caricatured famous people, including Lincoln, William Cullen Bryant, Edwin P. Stanton, Benjamin Butler, William Lloyd Garrison, Henry Ward Beecher, and Gideon Welles. Introduced in late December 1859, the weekly maga- zine ceased publication in early July 1863.
The French Le Monde Illustré and its brother L’Illustration, were clones of the Illustrated London News.
The Civil War and the Artists
At the beginning of the war, all the illustrated newspapers of the United States were published in New York City. Although they had always circulated in the South, deliveries stopped at the start of the war, when mail to the South was cancelled. The South created the Southern Illustrated News in 1862. Without means to support an artist in the field, it contained only occasional portraits and cartoons. Fortunately for posterity there was one newspaper artist active in the South. In 1861, Frank Vizetelly having just returned from illustrating Garibaldi’s campaign in Sicily and Italy was sent by the Illustrated London News to cover the Civil War in America. Vizetelly was at the battle of Bull Run and sent his paper a sketch of the Union Army running away. The U.S. Secretary of War Edwin Stanton was not amused and did not grant Vizetelly permission to accompany McClellan’s army. The artist went south, andspent the remainder of the war sketching the fortunes and misfortunes of the Confederate army. His drawings, in excess of 130, were published in the Illustrated London News, comprising the main record in pictures of the Confederate war years.
A paucity of means did not affect the three illustrated weekly papers of the North. They were filled with pictures. At any given moment, there were about twelve artists working exclusively for the papers. Some of the most important staff artists were Winslow Homer, Thomas Nast, Alfred R. Waud and William Waud, Arthur Lumley, Theodore R. Davis, William T. Crane, Francis H, Schell, Edwin Forbes, and Henri Lovie.
Arthur Lumley was the first artist to be sent to the Army of the Potomac by Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper. English born William Waud joined his brother Alfred Waud in America and began to cover numerous events in the South, including the inauguration of Jefferson Davis. He also recorded the bombardment of Fort Sumter, making it a scoop for Leslie’s. Theodore Davis was wounded twice and had his horse shot out from under him. He worked for Harper’s but traveled with a neutral British journalist, and told people he was an artist for the Illustrated London News. Also working for Leslie’s, Edwin Forbes was one of the few artists who covered the entire war. Noted for his accuracy, Alfred R. Waud was acclaimed by Harper’s in 1865 as “the most important artist-correspondent of the Civil War.”
Other artists who worked for Harper’s were Jasper Green, Winslow Homer, Henry Mosler, Thomas Nast, Allen C. Redwood, William H. Shelton, David H. Strother and William Waud when he left Frank Leslie.
Thomas Nast’s talent places him on a different level. He is rightfully considered to be the originator of the Ameri- can cartoon. He worked for the New York Illustrated News before going to Harper’s Weekly. Among his notable creations are the modern version of Santa Claus (traditionally depicted as a tall, thin man, Nast drew him in an 1863 issue of Harper’s Weekly as the bearded, plump man known today), the well-known image of Uncle Sam, and the political symbols of both major United States political parties; the Republican elephant and the Democratic donkey.