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IHS Commemorates the 150th Anniversary of the Civil War with Harper's Weekly

Harpers Weekly

Journalism in America experienced dramatic growth and development during the Civil War Era. It was the first time an American war had been covered by the press, and there was an extremely high demand for information throughout the country. In order to accommodate the public’s need for news regarding the war, journalists began to use new practices and technologies and helped to shape the future of journalism.

One of the most influential publications of the time was Harper’s Weekly, A Journal of Civilization. Harper’s Weekly began publication prior to the Civil War in 1857 as a venture of the New York publishing firm Harper and Brothers. At first, it consisted of a mixture of news, gossip and poetry. However, when the war began, its pages became filled with stories, illustrations and editorials regarding many aspects of the war. It played a crucial role in keeping Americans informed of the war’s progress and eventually became the most widely read publication of the time. 

Harper’s Weekly expanded the scope of journalism of the time by providing news-hungry citizens with varied reporting including eyewitness accounts, political cartooning and photojournalism. It was an innovative form of news reporting that played political, economic and social roles. It allowed readers to keep up-to-date with events occurring during the war, positions of foreign countries on various war issues and the effects the war was having on the economy. Along with this information, it also presented poetry, songs and essays, some of which were directly from soldiers themselves. These conveyed to readers the difficulty of war life and had a great social impact.

As the Indiana Historical Society commemorates the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, Harper’s Weekly is featured in glass cases in the William H. Smith Memorial Library at the History Center. The pages displayed reflect the week’s news from Harper’s Weekly in 1863. This is a unique opportunity to see the publication that was one of the main influencers of news during America’s greatest conflict. 

The library is open to the public from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.