Charles Magnus, Patriotic Civil War Propaganda Printmaker

This post was written by Leanne Fortney, who began working with us in March as a Graduate Student Assistant within Research Services. Her main responsibilities are safeguarding our materials and assisting patrons with their research needs. She is a mother of two working on her MA in Art History with an interest in U.S. modern art between World War I and World War II. 

Northern Virginia Civil War images, #C0150 folder 2, Special Collections Research Center, George Mason University Libraries.

In the United States, the Civil War created such a great demand for patriotic propaganda. Printmakers, such as Charles Magnus, produced over a thousand illustrations within the course of the war. This entire Northern Virginia Civil War images collection consists of nearly 200 images on various historical subjects in a variety of formats, including wood engravings, steel engravings, lithographs, chromolithographs, maps, and manuscripts from three periodicals: The Illustrated London News, Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper, and Harper’s Weekly. Most of the images depict battles and maps of the Civil War. The maps include the cities of Arlington and Alexandria and the counties of Fairfax, Loudoun and Prince William. Columbia Pike, Chain Bridge, Long Bridge, the Little River Turnpike, Centreville and Manassas all existed at the time of the Civil War and all of them are represented or referenced in these images.

Northern Virginia Civil War images, #C0150 folder 2, Special Collections Research Center, George Mason University Libraries.

Magnus’s Civil War illustrations depicted scenes of civil war camps, battles, and portraits of military officials, but he specialized primarily in decorative patriotic stationary such as cards and envelopes. Although pictorial images comprise the majority of the collection, there are also numerous maps, most of which were produced by lithography. A number were produced for military purposes and employed by both the North and South alike. Maps made during the Civil War were often exceedingly accurate; their usefulness carried on into the twentieth century. Magnus’s lithograph series entitled, “Bird’s Eye View of Alexandria, Va”, are illustrated on well-preserved envelopes that are no larger than 3 inches by 5 inches and include a few that are hand colored! In 1798, German inventor, Alois Senefelder, created an innovated and revolutionary printmaking process that is now known as lithography. Lithography allows for artists to produce an unlimited set of images. This enabled Magnus to keep up with the high demands for his patriotic illustrations.

Illustrations like these have been created and used by the public to highlight news events, political satire, coverage of wars, marriages, and even celebrity (like Kings, Queens, Popes, etc.) outings. The practice of creating woodblock prints has been around since at least 220 C.E. with the Han Dynasty. Eventually, through the use of removable type and the invention of the printing press, artists were able to distribute their images over an even larger population.

Northern Virginia Civil War images, #C0150 folder 2, Special Collections Research Center, George Mason University Libraries.

Northern Virginia Civil War images, #C0150 folder 2, Special Collections Research Center, George Mason University Libraries.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To search the collections held at Special Collections Research Center, go to our website and browse the finding aids by subject or title. You may also e-mail us at speccoll@gmu.edu or call 703-993-2220 if you would like to schedule an appointment, request materials, or if you have questions. Appointments are not necessary to request and view collections.

 

Women’s History Month

March is Women’s History Month!

Here in the Special Collections Research Center, we are honoring Women’s History Month by highlighting the collections and ephemera that document women’s contributions to American history.

Below, we have a pamphlet from the Equal Suffrage League of Virginia, dated from 1910. Here the authors connect a women’s work in the home with the broader work of cleaning up society.

Ephemera from the Rare Book Collection,”Women in the Home,” by Susan W. Fitzgerald, JK1896 .F58 1910

From the Massachusetts Woman’s Suffrage Association is the follow pamphlet, documenting the states where women had the right to vote, or a partial right to vote.

Map of United States Showing Progress of Equal Suffrage, 1915, JK1896 .M36 1915

As of 1915, women were legally allowed to vote in only a few states. The 19th Amendment would not ratified until 192o, which gave women the right to vote nationally.

Equal rights for women would remain an issue in politics even after the passage of the 19th Amendment.

Founded in 1920, the League of Women Voters is a non-partisan advocacy organization dedicated to informed and active participation in government and works to increase understanding of public policy issues.

In the Special Collections Research Center, we have the records of the League of Women Voters Fairfax, C0031. This collection contains multiple documents that outline the 1970s battle over the Equal Rights Amendment, never ratified.

Poster outlining “ERA Month,” and the importance of the Equal Rights Amendment, League of Women Voters Fairfax Collection C0031, Box 11, Folder 4, Special Collections Research Center, George Mason University Libraries

In the above outline, for “ERA Month”, the authors assure its reader that “The ERA will not take women out of the home, require them to take jobs or to contribute half the financial support of their family. Rather, it would recognize for the first time the role and the contribution to the support of the family that the homemaker makes.”

To search the collections held at Special Collections Research Center, go to our website and browse the finding aids by subject or title. For rare books, search the library catalog, limiting your search to Fenwick Special Collections.

You may also e-mail us at speccoll@gmu.edu or call 703-993-2220 if you would like to schedule an appointment, request materials, or if you have questions. Appointments are not necessary to request and view collections.

George Mason University Mentioned in the Film Hidden Figures

When was the last time you heard George Mason University mentioned in a major motion picture? For this author, never. But in the 2016 film Hidden Figures, which was nominated for three Academy Awards including Best Picture, George Mason University found its way into the script during a memorable part of the film.  The reference to Mason was made by Janelle Monae in her portrayal of Mary Jackson, a NASA engineer and one of three African-American women who played key roles in the early development of the United States’ space program.

Janelle Monae as Mary Jackson in “Hidden Figures” Twentieth Century Fox Studios. Screenshot from video clip accessed at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7aiWlZJ6Pfg on 8 Mar 2016.

During the scene Mary Jackson is standing before a judge in a Hampton, Virginia courtroom to ask permission to attend night school classes in graduate-level math and physics sponsored by the University of Virginia and held in the then-whites-only Hampton High School.  When the judge informs her that segregation is the law in Virginia, and that an African American woman attending a white school is unheard of, Jackson pleads with him:

“Your Honor, you of all people should understand the importance of being first…You were the first in your family to serve in the  armed forces. U.S. Navy. The first to attend university.  George Mason… Your Honor, of all the cases you will hear today, which one will matter in a hundred years? Which one will you make the first?”

While the scene in the movie takes place sometime in 1961, as a later reference in the scene to Alan B. Shepard implies, we know that Mary Jackson actually attended the classes several years earlier and completed the program in 1958. A 1961 reference to George Mason University would have been a bit premature.  Mason was known as George Mason College (it became George Mason University in April of 1972), was a two-year community college, and had only been in operation for four years by 1961. So, it is highly unlikely that this jurist would have just finished his work at George Mason and became a high-ranking judge.

Nevertheless, it was gratifying to see that the writers of the film chose George Mason as the institution for the judge to have attended. This might spur some interesting reference inquiries in the future!

New Collection-Prince William County Historic Newspapers

Special Collections Research Center received a new collection of historic local newspapers from the Prince William County Library in November 2016. We have been working to reorganize and address preservation needs of these papers for future use by our patrons. The papers in this collection date roughly from 1861 to 1992. They are currently organized by date and paper title which has been split up into six series. The series are:

  • The Manassas Journal
  • The Prince William News
  • The Manassas Messenger
  • The Journal Messenger
  • Potomac News
  • Miscellaneous
    • This contains article clippings and issues from other papers like the Alexandria Gazette, The Fauquier Democrat, The Richmond News Leader, and The Richmond Times-Dispatch

We began processing this collection in January and have just finished boxing the documents and created the Finding Aid in early February.

Processing Coordinator and Manuscript and Archives Librarian looking through new collections in the processing area of Special Collections Research Center.

Along the way, we found many interesting articles. One article that stood out to us came from The State:

“A Woman in Pants” from The State. Undated but between 1870’s to 1890’s.

And of course the advertisements are always entertaining, like these from The Manassas Messenger dated November 15, 1951:

“Magic skin bodies…”

 

So if you are doing research on local history, love newspapers, or just have some free time, stop by and check out the new Prince William County Historic Newspaper collection, #C0301! The finding aid is now up on our website and you can find it here by searching our collections alphabetically or by subject under Northern Virginia and Regional History. You may also e-mail us at speccoll@gmu.edu or call 703-993-2220 if you would like to schedule an appointment, request materials, or if you have questions. Appointments are not necessary to request and view collections.