Weighing Out Rations

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Weighing Out Rations
May 7, 1864
Edwin Forbes
Page 100
Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper. No. 449 Vol. 18
Engraving from a field sketch
Chicago Public Library

Today photographs and drawings are printed in magazines and newspapers every day. In the 1860s publishers were not able do so easily. Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper employed artists like Edwin Forbes to draw battle scenes, life in camp, portraits of soldiers, and other scenes, and send them to the publisher. But then, in order to print these images, Leslie’s also employed engravers to re-create these sketches on wood blocks, which could be printed. Very often, the engravers changed the drawings before they went to print.

What you see here is a good example of the way that magazine engravers “improved” the original sketches they received from artists in the field. Take a quick look at The Commissary's Quarters in Winter Camp. Forbes originally drew a sketch that probably looked more like the post-war Commissary’s Quarters, but when it appeared in Leslie’s during the war, it had been changed by the magazine’s engravers. In this case, the point of view is closer, and the detail is simpler, than what Forbes published after the war. Upon close observation of the image, you can see scratch marks used by the printmaker to darken the colors of the soldiers’ clothing and the horse’s blanket. These details would likely not be present in a drawing. (This is one way to identify a print, an image that could be reproduced many times.) This image depicts a scene in the everyday life of Civil War soldiers and shows two men weighing supplies.

1. What other differences can you find between the Leslie’s engraving and Forbes’ etching?

For information about the images, please contact Special Collections at the Chicago Public Library (specoll@chipublib.org)