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.

 

U.K. National Map Reading Week

This year, the U.K. has established a National Map Reading Week, run by the Ordnance Survey, to encourage people to use and understand the importance of maps. Special Collections Research Center here at George Mason University also recognizes this importance and decided that we would feature just some of the wonderful maps we have in our collections.

 

Map of China. Japanese invasion of Manchuria photograph collection # C0200, Box 1, Folder 14. Special Collections Research Center. George Mason University.

Map of China lantern slide, Japanese invasion of Manchuria photograph collection #C0200, Box 1, Folder 14, Special Collections Research Center, George Mason University.

 

Battle of Antietam. Charles Harrison Mann Collection # C0213, Folder 69, Special Collections Research Center, George Mason University Libraries.

Battle of Antietam, Charles Harrison Mann Collection #C0213, Folder 69, Special Collections Research Center, George Mason University Libraries.

 

The New World Reproduction of map from 1600. Charles Harrison Mann Collection # C0213, Folder 89, Special Collections Research Center, George Mason University Libraries.

The New World Reproduction of map from 1600, Charles Harrison Mann Collection #C0213, Folder 89, Special Collections Research Center, George Mason University Libraries.

 

Moll, Herman, Atlas Minor , G1015 .M6 1745, Special Collections Research Center, George Mason University.

Moll, Herman, Atlas Minor, G1015 .M6 1745, Special Collections Research Center, George Mason University.

 

Sanson, Nicolas, Atlas Antiquus, Sacer, Ecclesiasticus et Profanus, G1033 .A85 1705, Special Collections Research Center, George Mason University.

Sanson, Nicolas, Atlas Antiquus, Sacer, Ecclesiasticus et Profanus, G1033 .A85 1705, Special Collections Research Center, George Mason University.

 

Map of Austria Romana with military maneuvers. Christine Drennon European lantern slide collection # C0068, Box 1, Folder 15. Special Collections Research Center. George Mason University.

Map of Austria Romana with military maneuvers lantern slide, Christine Drennon European lantern slide collection #C0068, Box 1, Folder 15, Special Collections Research Center, George Mason University.


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 view collections.

Northern Virginia Civil War Images Collection

We have recently contributed to the Association of Southeastern Research Libraries (ASERL) Civil War in the American South collaborative website.  This website links to primary source materials, focusing on the American South, created between 1850 and 1865, from 24 contributing institutions. We have successfully digitized and added 121 images  and text documents from three collections: The Milton Barnes Papers, 1853-1891, (related post at the National Postal Museum’s blog here), The Alexander Haight Family Collection, 1764-1967, and The Northern Virginia Civil War Images Collection, 1853-1914.

While researching these collections we noticed the finding aid for The Northern Virginia Civil War Images Collection was in dire need of an update to more accurately reflect the location and description of its contents. We have recently completed that task and have included links within the finding aid to a digital copy of the image in the Mason Archival Repository Service (MARS) , further enabling researchers to explore this visual collection online.

The Northern Virginia Civil War Images Collection consists of nearly 200 images depicting Union and Confederate armies, battles, marches, and maps of the Civil War. Images are from publications such as Harper’s Weekly, The Illustrated London News, and Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper and were created by artists including Frank Vizetelly, Frank Leslie, Alfred Waud, Thomas Nast,  and  Charles Magnus. The images are primarily wood engravings, many of which are hand colored. Most of the maps in the collection were produced by lithography for military purposes for both the Union and Confederate armies. The collection is divided and arranged alphabetically by location with exception to maps which are grouped together. Locations include Alexandria, Arlington, Centreville, Fairfax, Falls Church, Fredericksburg, Manassas, Munson’s Hill, Quantico, and Washington D.C., among others.