Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Civil War Oddities #41

Frank Leslie, who was born in England in 1821, came to the United States at age twenty-seven. After working for Gleason’s Pictorial and Illustrated News, in 1854 he launched Frank Leslie’s Ladies’ Gazette of Paris, London, and New York Fashions. One year later he began putting out his own illustrated weekly newspaper, only moderately successful at first. But circulation increased dramatically when it began giving the North a battle-by-battle view of the Civil War.

Made bold by success, “the man who took the war into drawing rooms of the Union” launched numerous new publications. Soon his list included Boys and Girls Weekly Sunday Magazine, Jolly Joker, Comic Almanac, Chatterbox, Ladies Magazine, and Ladies Journal. Perhaps overextended, he was forced into bankruptcy and died as a debtor.

Today each of the more than two hundred 1861-1865 issues of the illustrated newspaper is a collector’s item, and since that time, Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Weekly has been a major source of Civil War art.