Civil War Treasures | Archival Collections
Archival Collections: Prints and Posters
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Civil War Envelopes List items
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The New-York Historical Society's Department of Prints, Photographs, and Architectural Collections owns approximately 3,000 unused envelopes dating from the Civil War years. Of these, 490 were scanned for this project. Measuring approximately 3 x 5 1/2 inches, they are printed or embossed with caricatures, allegories, slogans, portraits, etc. relating to Civil War events and personalities. The vast majority is Union-oriented; most were produced by New York printers ca. 1861-65. Some are quite crude; others are beautifully designed and executed, many in color, some gilt.
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Some envelopes show portraits or caricatures of politicians, for example, of George Washington, Jefferson Davis, Benjamin Franklin, or Abraham Lincoln. State seals figure prominently, as do flags. Other significant topics in the collection are animals (especially the eagle), liberty, soldiers, sailors, and Uncle Sam. A significant New York printer, Charles Magnus, is represented by thirty-six envelopes, many showing Civil War camp scenes derived from photographs.

Similar used envelopes can be found in the society's Manuscript Collection.

Confederate War Etchings List items

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Writing the Emancipation Proclamation

The twenty-nine caricatures presented here were etched during the Civil War. They show sympathy for the Confederate cause, and distaste for warfare in general. They were made by Adalbert John Volck (1828-1912), a Baltimore dentist, and were originally published under the name "V. Blada." Lincoln's ideals and actions are caricatured, as are such topics as Union army conscription methods, Northern treatment of African Americans, and the behavior of the Union and Confederate armies. Northerners of conflicted views are shown in several scenes smuggling medicine to the South, or joining the Confederate army. Several scenes of events in Baltimore highlight the city residents' early ambivalence toward the war cause and effort.
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Offer of bells to be cast into cannon

This portfolio of etchings is from the New-York Historical Society's Caricature and Cartoon File in the Department of Prints, Photographs and Architectural Collections. The original publication contained thirty prints, but one plate, "Meeting of the Southern Emissaries and Lincoln," has been lost. The portfolio was produced in an edition of 200 copies for subscribers of Dr. Adalbert John Volck during the early part of the Civil War. It sardonically illustrates events that allegedly took place in the North and South from Philadelphia and Baltimore to Charleston and Vicksburg between 1861 and 1863. Volck was German-born and immigrated to the United States in 1848. He qualified as a dentist, and practiced for many years in Baltimore, where he settled permanently in 1851. In an effort to combat the success of the Northern caricaturist, Thomas Nast (ironically also German-born), Volck issued many caricatures favorable to the South. The Confederate War Etchings are the most important and best known of these.

Civil War Posters List items
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Manhattan Rifles!

The Civil War Posters presented here form part of the Poster File in the Department of Prints, Photographs and Architectural Collections. The entire series consists of 466 recruiting posters, deserter lists, muster rolls, auction announcements, meeting advertisements and other related materials. The 304 posters chosen for imaging are primarily recruiting posters, but they also include auction and meeting advertisements. They date from the earliest days of the war through March 1865.

The posters were published in Maine, Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island. Most come from New York, with New Jersey and Pennsylvania also well represented. One military unit with a large number of posters was the 104th Pennsylvania Infantry Regiment, (Ringgold Regiment), whose commanding officer, W.H.H. Davis, was also the printer of the posters. New York units that are well represented include the 132nd and 139th New York Infantry Regiments.
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Sigel Sharp-Shooters!

The recruiting posters enticed men with patriotic appeals, enlistment bonuses, and promises of well supplied units with experienced officers. Patriotic imagery contributed to the appeal, and included eagles with wings spread, a cavalry officer with raised sword, a horrific battle scene contrasted with a peaceful scene in a northern village, and images of George Washington and other patriotic figures. Some posters were designed to appeal to certain segments of the population, and include posters in German, or with harps and shamrocks to appeal to an Irish constituency.
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Rally 'round the green flag.

The thirty-one items that are not strictly recruiting posters include announcements of meetings, an auction, and drives for blankets, or for other charitable purposes. Many of the meetings were rallies at the beginning of the war, where weighty issues such as "Treason and rebellion or the constitution the union and the laws! Which will you choose?" were "discussed." One poster announces an excursion to the Sanitary Fair in Philadelphia, another a concert to raise money for the Soldier's Aid Society.

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Treason and rebellion. . .
The posters range in size from 6 x 12 inches to 56 x 42 inches. They were printed in letterpress, many with wood-engraved illustrations. Most were presented in black and white, but some were printed in color, or were hand-colored after printing. The posters came from a variety of sources. The New-York Historical Society collected some of the posters as they were published during the Civil War. Others were accessioned around the turn of the twentieth century or later.

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