This is a stunning 1862 birds-eye view or map of Washington D. C. and vicinity, published nine months after the outbreak of the American Civil War, in the January 4, 1862 issue of Harper's Weekly
. The view overlooks Washington from the north, placing the U.S. capital firmly in the foreground. Occupied Virginia (and several Union forts protecting Washington, D.C.) lies just across the Potomac. Fredericksburg, Virginia, the site of the Battle of Fredericksburg on December 13, 1862, appears in the background, labeled with the number twenty-six.
A Detailed Look at the View
Streets, railroads, parks, rivers, forts, camps, bridges, and other important buildings are numerically identified throughout and correspond with an index situated below the bottom border. Bluff Point, Mount Vernon, Fort Washington, Alexandria, Hunting Creek, Aqueduct Bridge, Little Falls, Prospect Hill, Navy Yard, Washington Monument, City Hall, Capitol, and the President's House (former name for the White House) rank among the identified locations. The U.S. Capitol is visible in the foreground, along with Washington's distinctive street layout.
Why Produce This View?
After the First Battle of Bull Run on July 21, 1861, which took place just thirty miles southwest of Washington, D.C., Congress appropriated funds to construct a thirty-seven-mile ring of forts around the capital. By the end of the war, this defensive ring consisted of sixty-eight forts connected by twenty miles of trenches, and ninety-three artillery positions with some 800 cannons. Washington was threatened with capture shortly before this view was published. It is likely that Harper's
hoped the view would underscore the security of Washington without offering valuable reconnaissance to the Confederates.
American Bird's-Eye City Views
The industry of Bird's-Eye view emerged in the United States in the middle part of the 19th century and coincided with the commercial development of lithographic printing. While before the rise of lithography, the ability to own and display artwork in the home was largely limited to the extremely wealthy, lithographic printing made it possible for everyone to own visually striking artwork. A robust trade developed in portraits of political leaders, allegorical and religious images, and city views.
City views were being produced in the United States as early as the 1830s, but the genre exploded after the American Civil War (1861 - 1865). Bridging the gap between maps and pictures, most 19th century American Bird's-eye views presented cities to the public from highpoints. Some were imagined, but others were drawn from hot-air balloons or nearby hills. The presentation, combining high elevation, commercial interest, and new printing technology created a uniquely American artform, as described by historian Donald Karshan,
Some print connoisseurs believe that it was only with the advent of the full-blown city-view lithograph that American printmaking reached its first plateau of originality, making a historical contribution to the graphic arts. They cite the differences between the European city-view prints and the expansive American version that reflects a new land and a new attitude toward the land.
The vogue for bird's-eye city views lasted from about 1845 to 1920, during which period some 2,400 city were thus portrayed, some multiple times. Although views were produced in many urban centers, the nexus of view production in the United States was Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The major American viewmakers were Stoner, Wellge, Bailey, Fowler, Hill Ruger, Koch, Burleigh, Norris, and Morse, among others.
Publication History and Census
This view has been attributed to Thomas Nast and was issued as part of the January 4, 1862, edition of Harper's Weekly, with part of Charles Dickens' new Christmas Stories
appearing on verso. We note three examples cataloged in OCLC, in the collections at George Washington University, the National Defense University Library, and George Mason University. We also note an example in the collection at Princeton University.
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. Learn More...
Thomas Nast (September 27, 1840 - December 7, 1902) was a German American editorial cartoonist and caricaturist. Born in Landau, Germany, to a political dissenter, Nast's father enlisted on a French man-of-war and then an American ship, allowing his family to immigrate to the United States, where he joined them in 1850. Nast's talent for drawing was evident early in his life, but he was not much of a student for anything other than art. Nast's first cartoon appeared in Harper's Weekly in 1859, when he was eighteen years old. Nast then went to Europe as a correspondent for the New York Illustrated News in 1860 to cover a prize fight and then worked for The London Illustrated News in Italy where he accompanied Garibaldi on his military campaigns to unite Italy. Nast returned to the United States in 1862, and quickly found a job with Harper's Weekly, where he worked until 1886. His cartoons dealt with American politics with ire for Tammany Hall and Boss Tweed. Generally, Nast's work opposed racism, advocated for the abolition of slavery, and championed minorities. Even if Nast's work generally supported these issues, it was not completely free of racism or stereotyping. After Nast left Harper's Weekly in December 1886, he struggled to find work and lost his audience. He also had been dealing with problems with his hands since the 1870s, which affected his ability to work as an artist. He applied for a job with the State Department in 1902, in the hope of receiving a posting somewhere in western Europe. No posts were available in that part of the world, but President Theodore Roosevelt admired Nast's work and offered him the position of United States Consul General in Guayaquil, Ecuador. Nast accepted and left for Ecuador on July 1, 1902. Not long after he arrived, an outbreak of yellow fever swept through Guayaquil. Nast remained at his post and helped numerous diplomatic missions and businesses escape the disease. He, however, was not as lucky. He contracted yellow fever and died on December 7, 1902. Today, Nast is remembered as the creator of the modern depiction of Santa Claus, the Republican Party elephant, and the Tammany Hall tiger. His work also popularized Uncle Sam and the Democratic Party donkey, although he did not create either of these symbols. Learn More...
Very good. Closed margin tear professionally repaired on verso. Text on verso.
Princeton University Library, Graphic Arts Collection, GA 2008.01672. OCLC 23295843.