Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper

Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper was a news magazine founded in 1852 with continued publication well into the 20th century. Born in England, Frank Leslie was at age twenty-two head engraver for the English Illustrated London News. 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.

The magazine illustrations were done by hand. Leslie’s breakthrough was in dividing the engraving into many sections for individual engravers and then fitting the woodblocks together. He could therefore accomplish in a day what a single engraver had taken weeks to produce and publish pictures of events only a week or two old, a speed new to popular journalism. At the start of the Civil War, its circulation had reached 164,000. It was also published in German.

During the Civil War, an oversized bi-monthly paper (23 inches by 16 inches) was published which was devoted entirely to the conflict.

Illustrated Newspaper Cover

The illustrated papers include:

  1. In the North:
    1. Frank Leslie weekly
    2. Demorest’s Illustrated News
    3. Frank Leslie, bi-weekly
    4. Harper’s weekly
    5. New York Illustrated News
    6. Rural New Yorker
  2. In the South:
    1. Southern Illustrated News
  3. In England:
    1. Illustrated London News
    2. Illustrated Times
  4. In France:
    1. Le Monde Illustre
    2. L’illustration

The Gallery

Below are some of the engravings from that historic period. See if you can find the close-ups in these pictures. The level of detail in these engravings is incredible.

The Surrender of Fort Donelson on the Cumberland River to U. S. Grant on February 16, 1862.

the Surrender of Fort Donelson on the Cumberland River to U. S. Grant on February 16, 1862
detail
Taken from the Pictorial History of the Civil War, the bi-monthly Frank Leslie’s Newspaper, are two large engravings. Measuring each 50 inches by 22½ inches, they must be folded four times to fit in the paper. The first depicts the Surrender of Fort Donelson on the Cumberland River to U. S. Grant on February 16, 1862. It appeared in issue #19.

The Battle of Newberne - March 14, 1862

the Battle of Newberne in North Carolina on March 14, 1862
detail
The second engraving the Battle of Newberne in North Carolina on March 14, 1862. It appeared in issue #19. On the blow-up section, the seams of the multiple engraved woodblocks used to print the picture can be seen. It appeared in issue #21. Leslie’s artists include E. Forbes, C. Bonwill, J. Taylor.

The Battle of Newberne - October 8, 1864

the Battle of Newberne in North Carolina on March 14, 1862
detail
Le Monde Illustré, like its brother L’Illustration, was another clone of the Illustrated London News. It was founded in France in 1856 and published on a weekly basis. The engraving depicts a truce during the siege of Petersburg, from the issue dated October 8, 1864.

The Southern Illustrated News

The illustrated newspaper Southern Illustrated News was published by Ayres & Wade in Richmond as of 1862.
detail
The illustrated newspaper Southern Illustrated News was the Confederacy’s rather rough version of Harper’s Weekly, The New-York Illustrated News and Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper. It was published by Ayres & Wade in Richmond as of 1862 to fill the void left by the unavailability of illustrated newspapers from the North. At its peak, this paper had no more than 20,000 subscribers. Printed on poor quality paper, it has become extremely hard to find.

Enter P.T. Barnum

New-York Illustrated Newspaper
detail
The original New-York Illustrated Newspaper was published by P.T. Barnum, the 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 it had a circulation of 70,000, it closed within the year. It resurfaced somewhat later under the proprietorship of John King. It was bought by J. Demorest in January 1864 and continued publication as Demorest’s Illustrated News. Thomas Nast worked for this paper before going to the Harper’s Weekly.

Illustrated News - Bound Collections

detail
This picture shows six bindings of Frank Leslie’s (1/2 year each, 1862 thru 1864) and the five albums of the Harper’s Weekly covering the entire war (1861 thru 1865). Following the successful examples of the Illustrated London News and Frank Leslie’s, the Harper’s Weekly began publication in 1857. By 1861 the circulation had exceeded 200,000. It employed some of the most renowned illustrators, such as Winslow Homer, Livingston Hopkins, Thomas Nast, the Waud brothers. Nast was also a plucky caricaturist. He was the originator of the use of animals to represent the political parties: the Democrat’s donkey and the Republican’s elephant.

The History of the War (1861)

The first volume of the History of the War for the Union was published in 1861. Subsequently, two more volumes were issued. Written by E. A. Duyckinck, it is illustrated with steel engravings by A. Chappel and T. Nast. Beginning in 1862, Robert Tomes published his own three volumes The War with the South illustrated with beautiful steel engravings, particularly bird’s-eye-views of the main cities involved in the war. In 1866, B. J. Lossing published his Pictorial History of the Civil War, also in 3 volumes.
detail
detail

The Attack on Fort Wagner

These steel engravings are from the History of the War for the Union. One of them is hand-colored. They depict the attack on Fort Wagner, located on Morris Island, South Carolina. The fort covered the approach to Charleston’s harbor. The first assault occurred on July 11, 1863. Only 12 Confederate soldiers were killed, as opposed to the Union’s 330 losses.

The Second Battle took place a week later, July 18, 1863. It was led by the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, one of the first major military units made up of black soldiers. Their colonel, Robert Gould Shaw, was killed in the assault and the fort was not taken. Although a tactical defeat, the battle proved a political victory since the valor of the 54th against hopeless odds proved the worth of black soldiers. This is the subject of the movie Glory.

engraving depicting the attack on Fort Wagner, July 11, 1863
engraving detail

The Attack on Rocky Face Ridge, Georgia (1864)

These steel engravings are from the History of the War for the Union. One of them is hand-colored. They depict the attack at Rocky Face Ridge, Georgia. The Battle of Rocky Face Ridge began on May 7, 1864, in Whitfield County, during the Atlanta Campaign of the American Civil War. The Union army was led by Maj. Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman, the Confederate army of Tennessee by Gen. Joseph E. Johnston. Steep cliffs give way to a high gap called Mill Creek which locals refer to as "Buzzards Roost" and Sherman as "The doors of death." This was the site chosen by the Confederates to stop the Union army. The battle lasted 7 days. The Union victory resulted in the Confederates being forced off of the ridge.

engraving depicting the attack on Rocky Face Ridge, Georgia May 7, 1864
engraving detail

Lee and His Lieutenants (1867)

This famous book is Lee and His Lieutenants, by E. A. Pollard. Published in 1867, it contains steel engravings. This copy has two hand-colored engravings, including a portrait of General R. E. Lee.

E. A. Pollard was the editor of the Daily Richmond Examiner during the war and wrote several brilliant books on the South&srquo;s cause. They include: The Lost Cause in 1866, The Southern Spy, The Southern History of the Civil War, Confederate General Ewell.

engraving of General R. E. Lee.
engraving detail
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