About This Collection
Started in 1857, Harper's Weekly: A Journal of Civilization, was the creation of Fletcher Harper, one of the four original Harper brothers who founded the famous printing and publishing house that bore their name. It was his intention to publish a high quality weekly newspaper, featuring literature and a few pictures that were suitable for family reading. By the end of its first year, however, the Weekly had become an illustrated publication. With the outbreak of the American Civil War, circulation increased, thereby establishing the Weekly's influence as a national power and its reputation as one of the leading illustrated newspapers in the country. Though the editorial stance tended to have a Northern point-of-view, its pictorial coverage of the war was balanced in its depiction of battles, personages and events. It may be said, in fact, that it was this honesty (along with the photographic images of Matthew Brady) that permitted President Lincoln to come to understand the ineffectiveness of his early generals.
Throughout the war, Harper's Weekly sent numerous artists to the front to cover the action. The Weekly's circulation continued to grow steadily until 1900, when financial problems at the firm brought production to a halt and the business passed out of the Harper family's hands.
The Virginia Civil War Archive includes information on 400 illustrations produced for the Harper's Weekly during 1861-1865 and which relate specifically to the Commonwealth of Virginia's involvment in the Civil War. From this group 100 images have been scanned for research and study by students and scholars on the World Wide Web. The images reflect the unfolding events and drama of the war as well as the superb artistry of the Weekly's many artists. These images can be accessed for research via the World Wide Web.