Harper's Weekly

Harper's Weekly, A Journal of Civilization was an American political magazine based in New York City. Published by Harper & Brothers from 1857 until 1916, it featured foreign and domestic news, fiction, essays on many subjects, and humor, alongside illustrations. It carried extensive coverage of the American Civil War, including many illustrations of events from the war. During its most influential period, it was the forum of the political cartoonist Thomas Nast.

Harper's Weekly
Hon. Abraham Lincoln, born in Kentucky, February 12, 1809 (Boston Public Library)
Harper's Weekly cover featuring President-Elect Abraham Lincoln; illustration by Winslow Homer from a photograph by Mathew Brady (November 10, 1860)
CategoriesNews, politics
FounderFletcher Harper
Year founded1857
First issueJanuary 3, 1857
Final issueMay 13, 1916
CompanyHarper & Brothers
CountryUnited States
Based inNew York City, New York



Fletcher, James, John, and Joseph Harper (ca. 1860)
Harper & Brothers founders Fletcher, James, John and Joseph Wesley Harper (1860)

Along with his brothers James, John, and Wesley, Fletcher Harper began the publishing company Harper & Brothers in 1825. Following the successful example of The Illustrated London News, Harper started publishing Harper's Magazine in 1850. The monthly publication featured established authors such as Charles Dickens and William Makepeace Thackeray, and within several years, its circulation and interest grew enough to sustain a weekly edition.[1]

In 1857, his company began publishing Harper's Weekly in New York City.[1] By 1860 the circulation of the Weekly had reached 200,000. Illustrations were an important part of the Weekly's content, and it developed a reputation for using some of the most renowned illustrators of the time, notably Winslow Homer, Granville Perkins and Livingston Hopkins.

Among the recurring features were the political cartoons of Thomas Nast, who was recruited in 1862 and worked with the Weekly for more than 20 years. Nast was a feared caricaturist, and is often called the father of American political cartooning.[2] He was the first to use an elephant as the symbol of the Republican Party.[3] He also drew the legendary character of Santa Claus; his version became strongly associated with the figure, who was popularized as part of Christmas customs in the late nineteenth century.

Civil War coverage

The Photographic History of The Civil War Volume 08 Page 037
Harper's Weekly artist Alfred Waud sketching the Gettysburg battlefield
Gordon, scourged back, Harper's weekly, 1863 July 4, p429, bottom
Portraits of escaped slave Gordon (July 4, 1863)
William Waud - Burning of McPhersonville 1865 - final Harper's Weekly version
Sherman's burning of McPhersonville, South Carolina, illustrated by William Waud (March 4, 1865)

Harper's Weekly was the most widely read journal in the United States throughout the period of the Civil War.[4][5] So as not to upset its wide readership in the South, Harper's took a moderate editorial position on the issue of slavery prior to the outbreak of the war. Publications that supported abolition referred to it as "Harper's Weakly". The Weekly had supported the Stephen A. Douglas presidential campaign against Abraham Lincoln, but as the American Civil War broke out, it fully supported Lincoln and the Union. A July 1863 article on the escaped slave Gordon included a photograph of his back, severely scarred from whippings; this provided many readers in the North their first visual evidence of the brutality of slavery. The photograph inspired many free blacks in the North to enlist.[6]

Some of the most important articles and illustrations of the time were Harper's reporting on the war. Besides renderings by Homer and Nast, the magazine also published illustrations by Theodore R. Davis, Henry Mosler, and the brothers Alfred and William Waud.

In 1863, George William Curtis, one of the founders of the Republican Party, became the political editor of the magazine, and remained in that capacity until his death in 1892. His editorials advocated civil service reform, low tariffs, and adherence to the gold standard.[7]

"President maker"

Caricature of William "Boss" Tweed by Thomas Nast (October 21, 1871)
"No rest for the wicked—sentenced to more hard labor": Self-caricature by Thomas Nast on the cover of Harper's Weekly (December 2, 1876)
Harper's Weekly Cover Featuring Teddy Roosevelt
Harper's Weekly cover featuring Theodore Roosevelt (September 29, 1900)

After the war, Harper's Weekly more openly supported the Republican Party in its editorial positions, and contributed to the election of Ulysses S. Grant in 1868 and 1872. It supported the Radical Republican position on Reconstruction. In the 1870s, the cartoonist Thomas Nast began an aggressive campaign in the journal against the corrupt New York political leader William "Boss" Tweed. Nast turned down a $500,000 bribe to end his attack.[8] Tweed was arrested in 1873 and convicted of fraud.

Nast and Harper's also played an important part in securing Rutherford B. Hayes' 1876 presidential election. Later on Hayes remarked that Nast was "the most powerful, single-handed aid [he] had".[9] After the election, Nast's role in the magazine diminished considerably. Since the late 1860s, Nast and George W. Curtis had frequently differed on political matters and particularly on the role of cartoons in political discourse.[10] Curtis believed that mockery by caricature should be reserved for Democrats, and did not approve of Nast's cartoons assailing Republicans such as Carl Schurz and Charles Sumner, who opposed policies of the Grant administration. Harper's publisher Fletcher Harper strongly supported Nast in his disputes with Curtis. In 1877, Harper died, and his nephews, Joseph W. Harper Jr. and John Henry Harper, assumed control of the magazine. They were more sympathetic to Curtis' arguments for rejecting cartoons that contradicted his editorial positions.[11]

In 1884, however, Curtis and Nast agreed that they could not support the Republican candidate James G. Blaine, whose association with corruption was anathema to them.[12] Instead they supported the Democratic candidate, Grover Cleveland. Nast's cartoons helped Cleveland become the first Democrat to be elected president since 1856. In the words of the artist's grandson, Thomas Nast St Hill, "it was generally conceded that Nast's support won Cleveland the small margin by which he was elected. In his last national political campaign, Nast had, in fact, 'made a president.'"[13]

Nast's final contribution to Harper's Weekly was his Christmas illustration in December 1886. Journalist Henry Watterson said that "in quitting Harper's Weekly, Nast lost his forum: in losing him, Harper's Weekly lost its political importance."[14] Nast's biographer Fiona Deans Halloran says "the former is true to a certain extent, the latter unlikely. Readers may have missed Nast's cartoons, but Harper's Weekly remained influential."[15]

George Brinton McClellan Harvey
George Harvey, Harper's Weekly editor 1901–13

Early 1900s

After 1900, Harper's Weekly devoted more print to political and social issues, and featured articles by some of the more prominent political figures of the time, such as Theodore Roosevelt. Harper's editor George Harvey was an early supporter of Woodrow Wilson's candidacy, proposing him for the Presidency at a Lotos Club dinner in 1906.[16] After that dinner, Harvey would make sure that he "emblazoned each issue of Harper's Weekly with the words 'For President—Woodrow Wilson'".[17]

Harper's Weekly published its final issue on May 13, 1916.[18] It was absorbed by The Independent, which in turn merged with The Outlook in 1928.


In the mid-1970s Harper's Magazine used the Harper's Weekly title for a spinoff publication, again published in New York. Published biweekly for most of its run, the revived Harper's Weekly depended on contributions from readers for much of its content.


On January 14, 1893, Harper's Weekly became the first American magazine to publish a Sherlock Holmes story—"The Adventure of the Cardboard Box".[19]

See also


  1. ^ a b Palmquist & Kailborn 2002, p. 279.
  2. ^ Halloran 2012, p. 289.
  3. ^ Halloran 2012, p. 214.
  4. ^ "Harper's Weekly archives". onlinebooks.library.upenn.edu. Retrieved March 23, 2018.
  5. ^ Heidler et al 2002, p. 931.
  6. ^ Goodyear, "Photography changes ..."
  7. ^ Halloran 2012, p. 254.
  8. ^ Paine 1904, pp. 181–182.
  9. ^ Paine 1904, p. 349.
  10. ^ Halloran 2012, p. 228.
  11. ^ Halloran 2012, p. 230.
  12. ^ Halloran 2012, p. 255.
  13. ^ Nast & St. Hill 1974, p. 33.
  14. ^ Paine 1904, p. 528.
  15. ^ Halloran 2012, p. 270.
  16. ^ Link 1970, p. 4.
  17. ^ Throntveit 2008, p. 30.
  18. ^ Mott 1938, p. 469.
  19. ^ Panek 1990, p. 53.


  • DeBrava, Valerie (2001). "The Offending Hand of War in Harper's Weekly," American Periodicals, vol. 11, pp. 49-64. In JSTOR
  • Goodyear III, Frank H. "Photography changes the way we record and respond to social issues". Smithsonian Institution. Archived from the original on May 1, 2013. Retrieved 26 August 2013.
  • Halloran, Fiona Deans (2012). Thomas Nast: The Father of Modern Political Cartoons. Chapel Hill, NC: The University of North Carolina Press. ISBN 978-0-80783-587-6.
  • Heidler, David Stephen; Heidler, Jeanne T.; Coles, David J. (2002). Encyclopedia of the American Civil War: A Political, Social, and Military History. W. W. Norton & Company. ISBN 0-39304-758-X.
  • Link, Arthur S. (February 1970). "Woodrow Wilson: The American as Southerner". The Journal of Southern History. 36 (1): 3–17. doi:10.2307/2206599.
  • Mott, Frank Luther (1938). A History of American Magazines, 1850–1865. Harvard University Press. ISBN 978-0-674-39551-0.
  • Nast, Thomas; St. Hill, Thomas N. (1974). Thomas Nast: Cartoons and Illustrations. New York: Dover Publications. ISBN 0-486-23067-8.
  • Paine, Albert Bigelow (1904). Th. Nast, His Period and His Pictures. MacMillan – via Internet Archive.
  • Palmquist, Peter; Kailborn, Thomas (2002). Pioneer Photographers of the Far West: A Biographical Dictionary, 1840–1865. Stanford University Press.
  • Panek, LeRoy L. (1990). Probable Cause: Crime Fiction in America. Popular Press. ISBN 978-0-87972-486-3.
  • Prettyman, Gib (2001). "Harper's Weekly and the Spectacle of Industrialization," American Periodicals, vol. 11, pp. 24-28. In JSTOR
  • Throntveit, Trygve (2008). "'Common Counsel': Woodrow Wilson's Pragmatic Progressivism, 1885–1913". In John Milton Cooper Jr. Reconsidering Woodrow Wilson. Woodrow Wilson Center Press. ISBN 978-0-8018-9074-1.

External links

1891 College Football All-America Team

The 1891 College Football All-America team is composed of college football players who were selected by Caspar Whitney as the best players at their positions for the 1891 college football season. Whitney began publishing his All-America Team in 1889, and 1891 was the first year Whitney's list was published in Harper's Weekly.

1892 College Football All-America Team

The 1892 College Football All-America team was composed of college football players who were selected as the best players at their respective positions for the 1892 college football season, as selected by Caspar Whitney for Harper's Weekly and the Walter Camp Football Foundation. Whitney began publishing his All-America Team in 1889, and his list, which was considered the official All-America Team, was published in Harper's Weekly from 1891 to 1896. Harvard Law School student and football center William H. Lewis became the first African-American to be selected as an All-American in 1892, an honor he would receive again in 1893.

1893 College Football All-America Team

The 1893 College Football All-America team is composed of college football players who were selected as All-Americans for the 1893 college football season, as selected by Caspar Whitney for Harper's Weekly and the Walter Camp Football Foundation. Whitney began publishing his All-America Team in 1889, and his list, which was considered the official All-America Team, was published in Harper's Weekly from 1891 to 1896. Harvard Law School student and football center William H. Lewis became the first African-American to be selected as an All-American in 1892, an honor he received again in 1893.

1894 College Football All-America Team

The 1894 College Football All-America team is composed of college football players who were selected as All-Americans for the 1894 college football season, as selected by Caspar Whitney for Harper's Weekly and the Walter Camp Football Foundation. Whitney began publishing his All-America Team in 1889, and his list, which was considered the official All-America Team, was published in Harper's Weekly from 1891 to 1896.

1895 College Football All-America Team

The 1895 College Football All-America team is composed of college football players who were selected as All-Americans for the 1895 college football season, as selected by Caspar Whitney for Harper's Weekly and the Walter Camp Football Foundation. Whitney began publishing his All-America Team in 1889, and his list, which was considered the official All-America Team, was published in Harper's Weekly from 1891 to 1896.

1896 College Football All-America Team

The 1896 College Football All-America team is composed of college football players who were selected as All-Americans for the 1896 college football season, as selected by Caspar Whitney for Harper's Weekly and the Walter Camp Football Foundation.

1897 College Football All-America Team

The 1897 College Football All-America team is composed of college football players who were selected as All-Americans for the 1897 college football season, as selected by Walter Camp for Harper's Weekly. Caspar Whitney had selected the Harper's Weekly All-American Team from 1891 to 1896, but Whitney was on a world's sports tour during the 1897 season, and Camp therefore substituted for Whitney.

1912 Major League Baseball season

1912 Major League Baseball season. Harper's Weekly conducted a detailed accounting of the expenses of Major League clubs, and came up with a figure of around $175,000 to $200,000.

Carl Schurz

Carl Christian Schurz (German: [ʃʊɐ̯ts]; March 2, 1829 – May 14, 1906) was a German revolutionary and an American statesman, journalist, and reformer. He emigrated to the United States after the German revolutions of 1848–49 and became a prominent member of the new Republican Party. After serving as a Union general in the American Civil War, he helped found the short lived Liberal Republican Party and became a prominent advocate of civil service reform. Schurz represented Missouri in the United States Senate and was the 13th United States Secretary of the Interior.

Born in the Kingdom of Prussia's Rhine Province, Schurz fought for democratic reforms in the German revolutions of 1848–49 as a member of the academic fraternity association Deutsche Burschenschaft. After Prussia suppressed the revolution Schurz fled to France. When police forced him to leave France he migrated to London. Like many other "Forty-Eighters," he then emigrated to the United States, settling in Watertown, Wisconsin, in 1852. After being admitted to the Wisconsin bar, he established a legal practice in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He also became a strong advocate for the anti-slavery movement and joined the newly organized Republican Party, unsuccessfully running for Lieutenant Governor of Wisconsin. After briefly representing the United States as Minister (ambassador) to Spain, Schurz served as a general in the American Civil War, fighting in the Battle of Gettysburg and other major battles.

After the war, Schurz established a newspaper in St. Louis, Missouri, and won election to the U.S. Senate, becoming the first German-born American elected to that body. Breaking with Republican President Ulysses S. Grant, Schurz helped establish the Liberal Republican Party. The party advocated civil service reform and opposed Grant's efforts to protect African-American civil rights in the Southern United States during Reconstruction. Schurz chaired the 1872 Liberal Republican convention, which nominated a ticket that unsuccessfully challenged President Grant in the 1872 presidential election. Schurz lost his own 1874 re-election bid and resumed his career as a newspaper editor.

After Republican Rutherford B. Hayes won the 1876 presidential election, he appointed Schurz as his Secretary of the Interior. Schurz sought to make civil service based on merit rather than political and party connections and helped prevent the transfer of the Bureau of Indian Affairs to the War Department. Schurz moved to New York City after Hayes left office in 1881 and briefly served as the editor of the New York Evening Post and The Nation and later became the editorial writer for Harper's Weekly. He remained active in politics and led the "Mugwump" movement, which opposed nominating James G. Blaine in the 1884 presidential election. Schurz opposed William Jennings Bryan's bimetallism in the 1896 presidential election but supported Bryan's anti-imperalist campaign in the 1900 presidential election. Schurz died in New York City in 1906.

Fletcher Harper

Fletcher Harper (January 31, 1806 – May 29, 1877) was an American publisher in the early-to-mid 19th century.

Fletcher Harper was born January 31, 1806, in Newtown, New York. He was the youngest of four sons born to Joseph Henry Harper, (1750–1838), a farmer, carpenter, and storekeeper, and Elizabeth Kollyer, a Dutch burgher's daughter. With his brothers, James, John, and Joseph Wesley, he founded the Harper & Brothers publishing house. He is credited with founding Harper's Weekly (1850), Harper's Magazine (1850), and Harper's Bazaar (1867). Fletcher gave cartoonist Thomas Nast his start in Harper's Weekly, and gave Nast great editorial freedom. His newspaper Harper's Weekly rose to fame during the American Civil War because of Nast's depiction of the war. It was called by United States President Abraham Lincoln, "The greatest recruiter for the United States Military." Harper's Weekly was also responsible for publishing the first modern image of Santa Claus (drawn by Nast).

Harper died in New York City in 1877. His paper lost influence after his death when his successor George William Curtis began putting restrictions on Nast, causing him to quit in 1886.

John T. Hoffman

John Thompson Hoffman (January 10, 1828 – March 24, 1888) was the 23rd Governor of New York (1869–72). He was also Recorder of New York City (1861–65) and the 78th Mayor of New York City (1866–68). Connections to the Tweed Ring ruined his political career, in spite of the absence of evidence to show personal involvement in corrupt activities. He is to date the last New York City mayor elected Governor of New York.

List of Old West gunfights

This is a list of Old West gunfights. Gunfights have left a lasting impression on American frontier history; many were retold and embellished by dime novels and magazines like Harper's Weekly during the late 19th century. The most notable shootouts took place in Arizona, California, New Mexico, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas. Some like the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral were the outcome of long-simmering feuds and rivalries but most were the result of a confrontation between outlaws and law enforcement.

Santa suit

A Santa suit is a costume worn by a person portraying Santa Claus. The modern American version of the suit can be attributed to the work of Thomas Nast for Harper's Weekly magazine, although it is often incorrectly thought that Haddon Sundblom designed the suit in his advertising work for The Coca-Cola Company. Sundblom's work did standardize the western image of Santa, and popularized the image of the red suit with white fur trim. This has become the image of the American Santa, while in some European countries where Saint Nicholas remains popular, the outfit worn is closer to religious clothing, including a Bishop's mitre.

Short punt formation

The short punt formation is an older formation on both offense and defense in American football, popular when scoring was harder and a good punt was itself an offensive weapon. In times when punting on second and third down was fairly common, teams would line up in the short punt formation and offer the triple threat of punt, run or pass. Harper's Weekly in 1915 called it "the most valuable formation known to football."The formation is similar to the single wing and modern shotgun by including the possibility of a long snap from center. However, it is generally a balanced formation, and there are backs on both sides of the tailback, offering better pass protection. As a result, it was considered a much better passing formation than running, as the premiere running formation was the single wing. That said, it was regarded as a good formation for trap plays.

The Awkward Age

The Awkward Age is a novel by Henry James, first published as a serial in Harper's Weekly in 1898-1899 and then as a book later in 1899. Originally conceived as a brief, light story about the complications created in her family's social set by a young girl coming of age, the novel expanded into a general treatment of decadence and corruption in English fin de siècle life. James presents the novel almost entirely in dialogue, an experiment that adds to the immediacy of the scenes but also creates serious ambiguities about characters and their motives.

The Man He Killed

"The Man He Killed" is a poem written by Thomas Hardy. Written in 1902, it was first published in Harper's Weekly, Nov. 8 1902. The first book publication was in his Time's Laughingstocks and Other Verses (London: Macmillan, 1909).

The Pursuit of the House-Boat

The Pursuit of the House-Boat is an 1897 novel by John Kendrick Bangs, and the second one to feature his Associated Shades take on the afterlife.

The original full title was The Pursuit of the House-Boat: Being Some Further Account of the Divers Doings of the Associated Shades, Under the Leadership of Sherlock Holmes, Esq. and it has also been titled In Pursuit of the House-Boat and Pursuit of the House-Boat.

There are 12 chapters in the book. They were first published as a serial, under the full-title and including the Newell illustrations, in Harper's Weekly from February 6 to April 24, 1897.

Thomas Nast

Thomas Nast (; German: [nast]; September 27, 1840 – December 7, 1902) was a German-born American caricaturist and editorial cartoonist considered to be the "Father of the American Cartoon". He was the scourge of Democratic Representative "Boss" Tweed and the Tammany Hall Democratic party political machine. Among his notable works were the creation of the modern version of Santa Claus (based on the traditional German figures of Sankt Nikolaus and Weihnachtsmann) and the political symbol of the elephant for the Republican Party (GOP). Contrary to popular belief, Nast did not create Uncle Sam (the male personification of the United States Federal Government), Columbia (the female personification of American values), or the Democratic donkey, though he did popularize these symbols through his artwork. Nast was associated with the magazine Harper's Weekly from 1859 to 1860 and from 1862 until 1886.

Albert Boime argues that:

As a political cartoonist, Thomas Nast wielded more influence than any other artist of the 19th century. He not only enthralled a vast audience with boldness and wit, but swayed it time and again to his personal position on the strength of his visual imagination. Both Lincoln and Grant acknowledged his effectiveness in their behalf, and as a crusading civil reformer he helped destroy the corrupt Tweed Ring that swindled New York City of millions of dollars. Indeed, his impact on American public life was formidable enough to profoundly affect the outcome of every presidential election during the period 1864 to 1884.

William Allen Rogers

William Allen Rogers (1854–1931) was an American political cartoonist born in Springfield, Ohio. He studied at the Worcester Polytechnic Institute and Wittenberg College, but never graduated. Rogers taught himself to draw and began submitting political cartoons to Midwestern newspapers in his teens. At the age of fourteen, his first cartoons appeared in a Dayton, Ohio-based newspaper, to which Rogers' mother had earlier submitted a selection of his sketches.The start of Rogers' career as an illustrator came in 1873 when he was hired by the Daily Graphic in New York. He was nineteen years old at the time. Rogers' job at the Daily Graphic was to help out with the news sketches and at times draw cartoons.In 1877, he was hired by Harper's Weekly to draw the magazine's political cartoons after the departure of Thomas Nast. The cartoons were dramatic adjuncts that illustrated the magazine's editorials. Walt Reed, author of The Illustrator in America: 1860-2000, writes that while Rogers cartoons "never quite approached Nast's in power, his ideas were strongly presented and his drawings somewhat more skillful." Rogers remained at Harper's Weekly for twenty-five years.After leaving Harper's Weekly, Rogers was hired by the New York Herald, where he drew cartoons daily for a total of twenty years. He occasionally worked for Life too, and submitted cartoons and illustrations for Puck, The Century Magazine, and St. Nicholas Magazine.Rogers retired as a cartoonist in 1926 while working for the Washington Post. He died in Washington, D.C. in 1931.

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