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1872 Harper's Weekly View of Boston After Great Fire

Bird's-Eye View of Boston, Showing the Burned District. - Main View

1872 Harper's Weekly View of Boston After Great Fire


Cartographically delivering the news of the Great Fire of Boston.


Bird's-Eye View of Boston, Showing the Burned District.
  1872 (dated)     14.5 x 20.5 in (36.83 x 52.07 cm)


A dramatic 1872 view of Boston illustrating the extent of the devastation caused by the Great Boston Fire of November 7-8, 1872. Issued just three weeks later, this is one of the first depictions of the fire. In order to satisfy the immediate demand for information about the disaster, Harper's Weekly turned to Currier and Ives, who had already contracted illustrator Charles R. Parsons to collect material to produce a grand view of the city. Parsons - already employed as head of Harper's art department - was in a unique position and consolidated the resources of both firms to swiftly produce this timely view. It therefore predates the famous grand format Currier and Ives The City Of Boston by a year.
The View
The city is viewed from the northeast, displaying the bustling waterfront, with its ships, wharves, warehouses, and shipyards. The city's bridges link Boston with Charlestown, Cambridge, Dorchester, and the rest of the mainland fading into the background. Many, if not all, of the landmarks to be highlighted in the 1873 view are shown here. Twenty seven of which are named at the top and bottom of the view including Faneuil Hall, Old South Church, and Revere House. Marked on the bottom, and shaded on the map itself, is 'Burned District,' the area destroyed by the fire. It is interesting to note that the 1873 map - based on the same draughts as this one - is derived from pre-fire surveys, presenting the city as if it had never happened.
Publication History and Census
The map was a two-page spread in the November 30, 1872 issue of Harper's Weekly. It is scarce on the market. OCLC shows a single copy, at the Leventhal Map Center.


Harper and Brothers (1817 – Present) is New York based American printing publishing firm founded in 1817 by James Harper and his brother John Harper as J. and J. Harper (1817-1833). Their younger brothers Joseph Wesley Harper and Fletcher Harper joined the company around 1926 prompting the 1833 imprint change to Harper and Brothers (1833 – 1962). The firm published countless books, magazines, prints, maps, and more. They began publishing a monthly magazine, Harper's Monthly in 1850. The success of Harper's Monthly led to the introduction of a popular weekly illustrated journal, Harper's Weekly published from 1857 - 1916. They later introduced Harper's Bazar (1867) and Harper's Young People (1879). From about 1899 the business went through a series of permutations selling off some assets and developing others. The company merged with Row, Peters and Company inn 1962, rebranding itself as Harper and Row (1962 – 1990), which was acquired by Marshall Pickering in 1988. It was acquired by Rupert Mordoch (News Corp) and merged with William Collins and Sons in 1990 to form HaprerCollins (1990 – Present), the imprint under which it still publishes. Their original offices were at 331 Franklin Street, roughly below today's Manhattan Bridge. Today they have many offices and are one of the world's largest publishing companies and one of the 'Big Five' English-language publishers. More by this mapmaker...

Charles Parsons (1821 - November 9, 1910) was an American artist and lithographer active in New York. Parsons was born in Hampshire, England in 1821. He emigrated to the united States at 9, apprenticing as a lithographer under George Endicott from 1833. Parsons produced numerous views and lithographs for Endicott and Company, but also engraved or Nathaniel Currier, later Currier and Ives. In 1863 he became the art director for Harper’s Publishing, a position he held until 1889, when he retired. Parson's was influential in the development of American illustration and lithography. His son, Charles R. Parsons, was also an artist based first in Manhattan, then Brooklyn. Learn More...


Harper's Weekly, November 30, 1872, p 396-97.    


Very Good. Few spots. Fine thread holes, as expected. Fine hand coloring. Text on verso.


Boston Public Library, Leventhal Collection, G3764.B6A3 1872 .P3. OCLC 317759762.