Birmingham Public Library
2100 Park Place
Birmingham, Alabama 35203
http://www.bplonline.org
Traveling Exhibitions

Alabama Illustrated: Engravings from 19th Century Newspapers

In the nineteenth century many Americans received news and learned about the world beyond their home towns by readings illustrated newspapers. Prior to the 1890s, the technology did not exist to economically publish photographs in newspapers, so some publishers employed artists to draw and engrave images.

Newspaper engravings provide a valuable but imperfect view of the past. An artist in the field made a preliminary sketch and often added notes. Sometimes that artist would finish the drawing later from notes or memory, or it was completed by a different artist at the newspaper’s offices. Other engravings were copied faithfully from photographs while some were drawn from the artist’s imagination based on eyewitness accounts or news reports. Once the paper sketch was completed, another artist copied the paper drawing in reverse onto an engraving plate, usually made of wood or copper. For wood engraving, artisans cut away the blank spaces with a knife or other tool, leaving a raised image. Wood plates worked well in the printing presses of the time and one plate could be used to print thousands of images. For copper plates, an artist incised the image into the surface of the copper using a steel tool called a burin. For large or complex engravings, several engravers divided the printing block into sections with each working on a different part.

From the 1850s to the 1890s, more than 250 engraved images of Alabama were published in national and international illustrated newspapers. This digital exhibition includes a sampling of illustrations and articles from four 19th century newspapers: Harper’s Weekly and Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper, both published in New York; Ballou’s Pictorial, published in Boston; and The Illustrated London News, a British publication. The images included here are typical of those published for many places. They include portraits, landscapes, cityscapes and events such as storms, parades, sports and work.

“Loading Cotton on the Alabama River” Ballou’s Pictorial, November 28, 1857

“Loading Cotton on the Alabama River” Ballou’s Pictorial, November 28, 1857
The spirited scene on this page was sketched expressly for us upon the spot by Mr. Killburn, and is a correct representation of the manner of loading cotton on board the steamboats... (read the rest of this article)

“The Alabama State Fair” Harper’s Weekly, November 27, 1858

“The Alabama State Fair” Harper’s Weekly, November 27, 1858
The Fourth Annual Fair of the Alabama State Agricultural Society was held in Montgomery, the capital of the State, between the 1st and 6th days of November, 1858. ... (read the rest of this article)

“President J. Davis’s Inauguration at Montgomery” Harper’s Weekly, March 9, 1861
“President J. Davis’s Inauguration at Montgomery” Harper’s Weekly, March 9, 1861
On page 157 we publish a picture of the Inauguration of President Davis, of the Southern Confederacy, at Montgomery, Alabama, on February 18, from a photograph... (read the rest of this article)

 “Loading Cotton on the Alabama River” Illustrated London News, May 4, 1861
“Loading Cotton on the Alabama River” Illustrated London News, May 4, 1861
Our Number of April 13 contained some Illustrations of the methods of conveying cotton in India to the ports of shipment; and we follow up the subject-of special interest at the present... (read the rest of this article)

“The Union Expedition up the Tennessee River” Harper’s Weekly, March 1, 1862
“The Union Expedition up the Tennessee River” Harper’s Weekly, March 1, 1862
On this page we illustrate the Welcome of the Union men in Tennessee and Alabama to the gunboats which ascended the Tennessee River, after the fight at Fort Henry. ... (read the rest of this article)

War in North Alabama, Harper's Weekly
“War in North Alabama” Harper’s Weekly, August 16, 1862
We illustrate on pages 513 and 518 some interesting scenes of General Mitchell’s campaign in North Alabama. ... (read the rest of the article)

“The Murder of General Robert L. M’Cook” Harper’s Weekly, August 23, 1862, p. 530
“The Murder of General Robert L. M’Cook” Harper’s Weekly, August 23, 1862, p. 530
We illustrate on page 541 the brutal and coldblooded murder of General Robert L. M’Cook, who was assassinated by miscreants calling themselves guerillas... (read the rest of the article)

 “Huntsville, Alabama” Harper’s Weekly, March 19, 1864
“Huntsville, Alabama” Harper’s Weekly, March 19, 1864
This town, which is now the head-quarters of General Logan, and a sketch of which we give on page 188, is the only one in the South that I have visited, says our correspondent... (read the rest of the article)

“Mobile and its Defenses” Harper’s Weekly, March 26, 1864
“Mobile and its Defenses” Harper’s Weekly, March 26, 1864
We give on page 204 an illustration showing the position of the Federal fleet off the harbor of Mobile, together with the defenses of the harbor. ...(read the rest of the article)

 “Mobile” Harper’s Weekly, September 8, 1866, p. 566
“Mobile” Harper’s Weekly, September 8, 1866, p. 566
This city is so thoroughly uninteresting that your artist made but one sketch there. That was the picture of the Magnolia Avenue on the Shell Road-or rather what is left of it... (read the rest of the article)

“Mobile” Harper’s Weekly, September 8, 1866, p. 566
“Illegal Still in Alabama” Harper’s Weekly, March 2, 1867  
It being generally imagined that whisky is one of the necessaries of life, it could hardly be expected that the chivalric native of the South should deprive himself of the inebriating fluid. Now to buy whisky that has paid a profit to half a dozen dealers is more expensive than brewing it. Then the aforesaid native has a constitutional objective to government taxes, and a large one is gathered from the sale of spirits. Hence the still carries on contraband distillation in many a quiet nook of the Southern States. The sketch is from one of these.


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