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Grolier Club Exhibitions

Civil War and the Dawn of Industrial Age: 1851-1892

At no time in American history has the issue of states’ rights versus federalism been so consequential than at the beginning of this era, eventually resulting in four years of brutal Civil War, followed by a fleeting period of “Reconstruction” of industrial, social, and political progress. As a result of the notorious 1877 Hayes/Tilden political compromise, much of the hard-won gains in human and political rights in the South were reversed.

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All About Petroleum: A Weekly Journal Devoted to the Development of the Petroleum Interest.

Volume 1, number 1, 1864. New York: C. Pfirshing & Co.

America’s first commercial oil well was started in Titusville, Pennsylvania, in August 1859. The industry’s first magazine was the weekly All About Petroleum, founded in 1864.

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The Nation.

Volume 1, number 1, September 1855. New York: Burr & Long.

The first (and probably only) issue of Reverend C. Chauncey Burr’s nativist quarto monthly The Nation - a scathing indictment of temperance, the Catholic Church, Democrats, and the recently disbanded Whigs in favor of the nativist American Party, otherwise known as the Know-Nothings.

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The Riverside Magazine for Young People.

Volume 1, number 1, January 1867. New York: Hurd and Houghton.

Riverside Magazine was founded in New York in January 1867 by editor Horace Elisha Scudder and the publishing house of Hurd and Houghton. While it was not a financial success, Riverside has come to be considered “the most important children’s magazine to emphasize literary merit to be founded in America before St. Nicholas.” Scudder’s most significant contributor was Hans Christian Andersen, whose iconic fairy tales were translated from the original Danish.

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St. Nicholas: Scribner’s Illustrated Magazine for Girls and Boys.

Volume 1, number 1, November 1873. New York: Scribner & Co.

The writer Mary Mapes Dodge was an associate editor for Hearth and Home, a weekly coedited by Harriet Beecher Stowe, when she was approached to start a juvenile companion to Scribner’s Monthly. St. Nicholas, founded in January 1873, became the most significant juvenile magazine of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. It employed the same concepts and structure, as well as the highest-quality authors and illustrators, as its sister publication.

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The Wheelman.

Volume 1, number 1, October 1882. Boston: The Wheelman Co.

Wheelman had been founded as a “high-class organ of bicycle and tricyclical operation and sentiment” by manufacturer Albert Pope in order to promote his business. It merged with Outing, and expanded its coverage to include exploration, forestry, lawn tennis, rowing, canoeing, lacrosse, cricket, and amateur photography.

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The Republic: A Monthly Magazine of American Literature, Politics, & Art.

Volume 1, number 1, January 1851. New York: Thomas R. Whitney. 

A nativist monthly miscellany edited by Thomas Whitney, published by the Order of United Americans, a group opposed to immigration and foreign influences. It was supportive of the Know Nothing movement that put an end to the Whig party and opened the door for the birth of the anti-slavery Republican party of Abraham Lincoln.

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The American Magazine, by Brother Jonathan.

Volume 1, number 1, October 1851. London: W. S. Johnson.

A monthly miscellany containing articles by American writers and a glorious cover illustration of the American flag. At a time when the lack of international copyright laws made it easy for American magazines (and entire publishing houses such as Harper Brothers) to thrive on pirated British literature, this magazine uniquely celebrated American literature in London. “Brother Jonathan” was the fictional predecessor of Uncle Sam as the personification of America, equivalent to the English John Bull. 

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Sartain’s Union Magazine of Literature and Art.

Volume 11, number 1, July 1852. Philadelphia: John Sartain & Co. 

A well-produced but short-lived monthly published by the noted engraver, John Sartain. This issue contains a three-page contribution entitled “The Iron Horse,” an early magazine printing of Henry David Thoreau’s Transcendentalist masterpiece, Walden, which was published in book format in 1854.

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Putnam’s Monthly: A Magazine of American Literature, Science and Art.

Volume 2, number 11, November 1853. New York: G. P. Putnam & Company. 

An important magazine designed to combine a serious review with a literary magazine. By emphasizing American writers, it was received as a rebuke of Harper’s Monthly, which freely reprinted British authors. This issue contains the first of a two-part serialization of Herman Melville’s “Bartleby the Scrivener.”

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Bird’s-Eye View of the City of New York.

After Charles Parsons. Supplement to The Illustrated News, November 26, 1853. New York: H.D. & A.E. Beach.

A rare bird’s eye view supplement to P.T. Barnum’s Illustrated News. The engraving is by Frank Leslie, who would soon establish his own magazine publishing empire. The steeple of Trinity Church at the intersection of Broadway and Wall Street was the tallest structure in America until 1869, the tallest in New York City until 1890 and doubled as a beacon for ships sailing towards New York Harbor. 

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Hon. Abraham Lincoln, Born in Kentucky, February 12, 1809.

After Mathew Brady. From Harper’s Weekly: A Journal of Civilization, November 10, 1860. New York: Harper & Brothers. 

An engraving on wood, taken after Lincoln’s “Cooper Union” photographic portrait by Mathew Brady. This flattering image of a beardless Lincoln is purported to have helped him win the 1860 presidential election. 

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The Atlantic Monthly, Devoted to Literature, Art and Politics.

Volume 7, number 1, whole number 39, January 1861. Boston: Ticknor and Fields. 

Atlantic Monthly arose in Boston in November 1857. The “art” was not visual (the magazine eschewed illustration), but rather reflective of the Congregationalist New England literary and political sensibility. Its first four years were guided by abolitionist, writer, and poet James Russell Lowell. This January 1861 issue features Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s iconic poem “Paul Revere’s Ride,” which elevated a little-remembered colonial-era silversmith and engraver to the lofty heights he enjoys today.

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The Rebellion Record: A Diary of American Events, 1860–’61.

Volume 1, number 1, 1861. New York: G. P. Putnam. 

The Rebellion Record grew to a twelve-volume set that was published during the Civil War and in the three years following. It was one of the main sources for access to the content of primary source documents for historians, students, the military, and individuals seeking more in-depth information about the war. 

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The Old Guard, a Monthly Journal; Devoted to the Principles of 1776 and 1787.

Volume 1, number 1, July 1862. New York: C. Chauncey Burr. 

Burr’s Old Guard was the only consistently anti-Lincoln (Copperheads) magazine regularly published in the North during the Civil War, defending slavery and the right of secession. It was suppressed after three issues, but returned with even greater intensity in January 1863, illustrated with portraits of prominent anti-war politicians and full of vitriol directed at Lincoln and his followers.*

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The Record of News, History and Literature.

Volume 1, number 17, October 8, 1863. Richmond, Va.: West & Johnson. 

The Record was as close as the South got to a weekly news-magazine. Its masthead features the Confederate seal. This is the most collectible individual issue, containing General Lee’s official report of the “Pennsylvania Campaign” and much additional material on the Battle of Gettysburg. It merged into the short-lived The Age, also published in Richmond, in January 1864.

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Southern Illustrated News.

Volume 2, number 15, October 17, 1863. Richmond, Va.: Ayers & Wade.

The Confederate analog of Harper’s Weekly. While it was a reliable news source, despite its name, it was hardly illustrated at all. Throughout its run, it struggled to obtain engraving talent and production materials until fading away along with the Confederacy in early 1865. This cover features the Commander of the Army, Robert E. Lee.

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Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper.

Volume 20, whole number 501, May 20, 1865. New York: Frank Leslie. 

It is no exaggeration to crown Frank Leslie the “pioneer and founder of illustrated journalism in America.”  Born Henry Carter, Leslie assumed his nom de guerre while working for the London Illustrated News in 1844, where he rose to chief of engraving within two years. He emigrated to America in 1849 to publicize P.T. Barnum’s “Swedish Nightingale,” Jenny Lind.

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Frank Leslie’s Ladies’ Gazette of Fashion.

Volume 2, number 1, July 1854. New York: Frank Leslie.

After a brief stint in Boston, Frank Leslie returned to New York to illustrate for Barnum’s Illustrated News in 1853. He began his first independent publishing venture, Frank Leslie’s Ladies’ Gazette of Fashion, in January 1854, the first of a publishing empire of dozens of magazines that crossed many genres over the next quarter of a century. 

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Scribner’s Monthly, an Illustrated Magazine for the People.

Volume 1, number 1, November 1870. New York: Scribner & Co.

This popular, morally conservative magazine immediately snapped up the mailing list of the failing Putnam’s and Riverside. Alongside its rivals, Harper’s and Atlantic Monthly, Scribner’s “became a bellwether of the entire Gilded Age and a benchmark for the growth of American culture into the twentieth century.” Because of a dispute over management, in November 1881 the staff bought out the Scribner family’s interests and changed the title to The Century.

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Scribner’s Magazine.

Volume 1, number 1, January 1887. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons. 

As part of the 1881 agreement with The Century, Scribner’s Publishing Company agreed to not produce another magazine for five years. In January 1887, they launched Scribner’s Magazine, investing more than half a million dollars in the project. Designed to compete with Atlantic, Harper’s and, of course, Century, the magazine undercut the price of its competitors in an effort to appeal to an expanding middle-class clientele.

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The Popular Science Monthly.

Volume 1 number 1, May 1872. New York: D. Appleton and Company.

Edward Youmans started an illustrated miscellany, Appleton’s Journal in April 1869 with the hope of popularizing science for the American public. That goal would not be realized until 1872, when he founded The Popular Science Monthly, America’s most long-standing and influential monthly general scientific publication. 

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Woman’s Words: An Original Review of What the Sex Is Doing.

Volume 1, number 1, April 1877. Philadelphia: publisher not identified.

A very rare progressive woman’s journal published by Mrs. Juan Lewis. The opening article profiles Lucretia Mott (1793–1880), an abolitionist and the matriarch of the women’s rights movement. With Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Mott organized the first Women’s Rights Convention at Seneca Falls, New York, in July 1848.

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The National Geographic Magazine.

Volume 1, number 1, March 1888. Washington, D.C.: National Geographic Society. 

The most influential geographic magazine ever published, it has entertained and educated its readers for generations. This issue had a circulation of about 700, mostly distributed among the 208 original Society members. It evolved into a highly circulated national publication in the first decade of the twentieth century. 

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New England Magazine: An Illustrated Monthly.

New series, volume 5, number 5, January 1892. Boston: New England Magazine Corporation. 

The first printing of The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Stetson (later Gilman), a scathing indictment of her treatment rendered by Dr. S. Weir Mitchell for postpartum depression. The story launched Gilman’s highly consequential career as a magazine publisher (The Forerunner) and radical feminist.