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tv   Lectures in History 1863 New York City Draft Riots  CSPAN  November 11, 2021 12:47pm-1:22pm EST

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weekends on c-span 2 are an intellectual feast. every, nonbooks and authors. funding for c-span 2 comes from these television companies and more, including wow. >> the world has changed, today a fast reliable internet connection is something no one can live without. with speed, reliability, value and choice. now more than ever it all starts with great internet. wow. >> wow. along with these television companies supports c-span 2 as a public service. up next, another class from our series "lectures in history,". >> from july 13th to 16th, 1863 in the middle of the civil war, thousands of poor and working
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class white new yorkers incensed by inequities in the new military draft, resentful about wartime hardship, and inflamed by the lincoln administration's emancipation policies, looted and destroyed buildings, battled police, state militia, and federal troops and brutally attacked the city's african-american residents. in the century and a half since the new york si draft riots, numerous monographs popular books and articles have narrated and examined the significance of the events that comprised the largest civil insurrection in u.s. history. and most of these works have included illustrations of the violence that were published in its immediately after math in the weekly pictorial newspapers. none of these many meticulous, and illuminating studies of accounts have used these images
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as much more than an endorsement for or reiteration of their texts. certainly they have not served as evidence to be evaluated in their own right. eight illustrated newspapers covered the riots. the three american pictorials published in new york, dominated pictorial coverage. they were supplemented by three british pictorial papers, and two french publications. in all, some 80 engravings of varying size, detail, and quality depicted the unprecedented events. when these are considered together with the newspapers editorial cartoons, and portraits, along with cartoons and the humor magazines published in the u.s. and abroad, along with separately published prints and broad sized, illustrations, unpublished sketch asks two photographs.
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the number of riot images expands enormously. the international nature of contemporary pictorial news coverage of the riots present us with an opportunity to consider what from critical engagement with an informed evaluation of such visual evidence. the destruction of the colored orphans asylum on fifth avenue where the new york public library is now located late on the afternoon of july 13th was one of three riot events that received the most attention in the american and european pictorial press. built in 1843 by the association for the benefit of colored orphans. the asylum's building with its generous grounds occupied a block from 43rd to 44th street facing fifth avenue. whatever tensions existing
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between its white benefactors in the city's black community, it was recognized as a prominent benevolent reform institution dedicated to assisting the city's impoverished black residents. within hours of the riot's start, the asylum became the target of the largely irish working class crowd numbering in the thousands that invaded, ransacked, and then bound. occurring on the first day of the riot, the plunder and burning of the asylum were among the predominant subjects of pictorial and news coverage. frank leslie's newspaper at eight years the oldest of the three u.s. weekly pictorials, included a special double-page depicting 13 scenes during monday, july 13th, and to a lesser extent, tuesday, july 14th, the first two days of the
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riots. since the pictorial papers were dated, by the last day of the week of publication, these images may have actually reached the public as early as july 18th, only five days after the violence began. publication in such proximity to the events required intensive labor and haste. entailing short cuts that delivered the news in a timely fashion, but at some cost to clarity and detail. so the engraving of the as it's called, the burning of the colored orphans asylum along with the issues of other illustrations was noticeably crude in the execution, although specific as to place. showing the crowd ranging along the 44th street side of the burning building. the new york illustrated news, the newest and least solvent pictorial weekly, also rushed out images of the riots within days of the onset of violence.
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such as this one called pillaging of the orphan asylum, like those in leslie's, these images lack clarity and also are visually vague regarding context. despite the murkiness of these illustrations, both renditions of the attack on the colored orphans asylum featured one significant detail of the event, the number of women who were reported at the scene and their looting of furniture, bedding, and other possessions. in contrast, the pillaging women, as they were described in both newspapers, were reduced to one prominent and a few hazy figures in the harper's weekly engraving of the burning and sacking of the colored orphans asylum published a week later in its august 1st issue. while the three americans pictorials weekly made a point of crediting the special artist who covered the civil war's
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military campaigns, no new york-based artist was identified as the source for the draft riot pictures. frank leslie had learned after his paper broke the so-called swill milk scandal in 1958, which involved the death of children who drank milk from cows fed tainted feed from local new york distilleries that naming artists in certain circumstances only exposed them to lawsuits or physical harm. hazards that would surely be compounded in the context of rioting and its aftermath. harper's weekly introduced in 1857 and once more began the pictorial weeklies did not credit the 22-year-old thomas nash as the source of several of the riot illustrations. we know, however, he returned to the city on july 12th from a frustrated effort to cover the battle of gettysburg, and years later, he told his biographer he
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had witnessed and sketched some of the violent events. if any of the 11 harper's engravings of the riot was based on his work, it was the full page illustration of theylum fe 1st issue. nast knew the asylum neighborhood well, having lived on west 44th street until 1862. with an additional week for publication and for production for publication, the dramatic and detailed illustration captured the scale of the asylum's grounds fronting fifth avenue and was more evocative than the pictures in leslie's and the illustrated news. its delineation of the rioters and victims and the narrative it conveyed, however, was less reliable. in accordance with the story telling strategies of news engravings, the picture book compressed and extended the narrative of the event into one
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image. but aside from the very few women shown among rioters and spectators in the foreground, engraving presumably based on nast's sketch also portrayed scattered attacks on african-american children fleeing the burning building. 233 young wards escaped via a side entrance where they were threatened by the crowd but not physically attacked. whatever the quality of the illustrations, americans were able to view pictorial coverage of the riots within several days of their end. contending with the barrier of the atlantic ocean, both drawings and engravings of the riots published in the u.s. press took from one to two weeks to reach british and european publishers and readers. the venerable parisian weekly therefore did not publish images of the riots until its august
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15th issue. although better engraved than their american counterparts, the four pictures including one depicting the attack on the asylum, were clearly derived from frank leslie's special supplement. despite their being ascribed to an artist who was identified cryptically as monseurw.s. the uncredited engravings of the destruction of the colored orphans asylum which appeared in the second of two consecutive weeks of riot coverage also seemed inspired by leslie. even more, the london news engraving was finally observed. and when compared to contemporary new york fire insurance maps, appears true to the physical structure and dimensions of the asylum's 44th street side.
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the first succeeding american and european pictorial papers. the illustrated london news possessed resources that its british, french, and german competitors lacked. the london paper dispatched its senior special artist, frank visatelli to report on the war. by 1862, he had become a dedicated chronicler, not to mention supporter, of the confederacy. and the content of london news illustrations accordingly was determined by its correspondent's movement about the southern war front and home front. but the north, especially new york, was not neglected. thanks to the british paper's long establishment of a string of city-based artist correspondents. prominent among them was charles dawson shandly, who was credited as the sketch artist of several
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1864 illustrations. he illustrated london news did not identify any of its draft riot sources, but in light of subsequent work, he's a strong contender as the artist of the riot and other sketches. he certainly needed the work as of july 4th, 1863, following the collapse of had humor weekly vanity fair, for which shandly had served as editor. the similarity between the leslie's and london news illustrations, in the 1850s and 1860s, it was common for artists to produce more than one version of a sketch to accommodate two different clients, especially if they were separated by an ocean. finally, they launched the same year as harper's weekly, did not copy other papers' illustrations or purchase sketches that were
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the basis for other publications' engravings. its full-page august 15th depiction of the, as it's called, the insurgents burning the orphan asylum, complete with a barricade in the foreground and inaccurate gothic revival building looming in the back, could be mistaken for a parisian scene in the 1848 revolution. but for the one vignette of racial violence tucked into its right-hand corner. in keeping with the french weekly's other images of the american civil war, they display visualizations often involving a mash-up of european iconography and vived imagination. during these riots, frank leslie's paper assured its readers, we have had no less than seven artists on the spot transferring with graphic skill the chief events.
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our sketches are all real, not mere imaginary affairs with obscure backgrounds which will do for any scene. persons acquainted with the locaies will attest the accuracy of the sketches. these sketches were not made without risk and often obtained by only ingenuity, the mob looking intolerantly on such use of pencil and paper. special pleading was no doubt present in leslie's claims because some of the backgrounds of its riot pictures were indeed obscure, and leslie's and the illustrated news were always challenging one another about whether their news images were actually derived from direct observation. keep in mind that the artist eyewitness sketch was but the first step in industrialized and fractured labor process involving intervening office artists, editors, and
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supervisors, and teams of engravers to quickly produce and disseminate pictorial news to the public. but essentially, the work of these artists was reper torial, extent drawings, mainly battlefront sketches, demonstrate that aspect in their appended notes and instructions to office artists and engravers regarding the rendering of flora, fauna, landscape, dress, equipment, and the numbers and dispositions of figures. but with no surviving original draft riot sketches to go by, can we assume the illustrations in at least the weeklies and the london illustrated news were, to use that slippery phrase, authentic? as fellow male practitioners of a new trade, the small coterie of artists employed by the new york pictorial press knew one another well. and often moved back and forth
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between publications. the special artists' small professional world, the preponderance of illustrations of certain riot events, and the differing points of view displayed in those pictures of shared subjects suggest that artists followed the rioters together and often sketched in proximity to one another. there being marginal safety in numbers. in short, little separated the job of drawing battles on the homefront from that of drawing battles on the warfront. to be sure, ascertaining the original sketch's authenticity and eyewitness status does not make them either reliable or unreliable as evidence. but clarifying some of the conditions of these images' production helps us to discern and distinguish documentation from interpretation. and to look mid-19th century
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eyes to try to capture a more complex notion of the viewing experience of the past. in short, it helps us to begin to answer the questions, what did these pictures tell or how were they read by viewers in the summer of 1863 and what can they tell historians 158 years later? the crowd that gathered outside the ninth district marshal's office on third avenue and 46th street on the morning of monday, july 13th, as the draft lottery was resumed after a deceptive sunday lull, also attracted at least three newspaper special artists. the attack on and burning of the draft office with the fire quickly spreading to adjacent buildings and across 46th street initiated the violence. it also was the most illustrated of any riot event. some of the engravings displayed
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the aftermath, the smoldering remains of the buildings, but artists for leslie's, the illustrated news, and the illustrated london news depicted the onset of the destruction. in keeping with the practice of their battlefront colleagues, they evidently tried to find the best and relatively safest vantage point from which to sketch the scene. in this case, on the western fringe of the crowd. that location provided three different perspectives of a butcher's shop across the avenue from the draft office building, a rickety wooden shanty upon several reputed ring leaders climbed to exhort the crowd. the three subsequently published engravings offered different views of the events and especially of its location on the outskirts of the city for which we have little other visual evidence, and certainly
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no photographs to otherwise gauge its appearance. another piece of corroborating evidence about these views of the city is an 1868 painting now in the collection of the new york historical society by the new jersey artist. entitled give us this day our daily bread, the painting presents a vast cluttered scene of construction and excavation from the westward vantage point of a rear window of a house near 3rd avenue. the painting shows the strange incomplete mosaic of new york's post-war housing boom with isolated buildings and lonely telegraph polls dotting a landscape dominated by vacant lots. this scene assumes additional significance when juxtaposed to the 1863 riot engravings. the perspective of mario's painting is from a spot one or
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two lots south of the location of the building at 677 third avenue, where it was housed. in other words, it offers the reverse view of the panoramic illustrated london news engraving, which looked east towards second avenue. in effect, the painting completed five years later is a draft riot scene. chronicling the replacement of buildings, the destruction of which inaugurated four days of unprecedented violence. new york's working class districts also were unfamiliar to most readers of the pictorial press with the exception of the five points, the area in lower manhattan. so for readers in 1863, and for scholars today, the illustrated london news engraving called the conflict between the military and rioters on first avenue, was unusual in depicting an irish working class neighborhood controlled and defended by the
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rioters and the unsuccessful attempt by volunteers to walk troops on the afternoon of wednesday july 15th, to break the rioter had established around such territories. the specificity of the location, the block between 18th and 19th streets along first avenue, the relative obscurity despite its numerous casualties of the event at the time, and the absence of coverage of the incident in any pictorial paper other than in the illustrated london news suggests this illustration recorded an actual scene detailing the appearance of a particular place with some data as with battlefront artists likely gathered after the violence. so rather than serving as a generic symbol of depravity, the liquor store in the left background could be the corner establishment, quote, frond with villainous looking customers,
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upstate visitor ellen leonard described in her 1867 harper's monthly article called three days of terror. an account of the time she spent in an upper floor apartment on a nearby cross street between first and second avenues, quote, on the very edge of one of the infected districts, unquote. the illustrations of the riot crowd itself may have conveyed more evidence to alert contemporary readers that is immediately apparent. the visual markers of ethnicity were ubiquitous in the riot pictures. the pictorial typing of irish catholicism having grown familiar to readers after three decades of cartoons, prints, reform tracks, and city views. but finer distinction within the ethnicity could also be found in some of the illustrated press coverage. in keeping with a convention
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that would characterize the practice of the illustrated press for some 30 years, these visual distinctions were not necessarily in the textual disskrpg disskrpgzs that accompanied the engravings. their appearance spoke for themselves. among the new york pictorial papers, the new york illustrated news published the largest number of pictures of the riot, extending its visual coverage all the way to its august 29th issue. it also offered the most broodish and bruten images of the rioters and their degradations. the signs of irish catholicism, such as the blunt features of one of the people said to have been, quote, sketched from life, ran throughout the illustrated news' riot coverage. some of these displays of, as they put it, celtic fizz eaugust
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nmy would be reprinted as illustrations in the american phrenlogical journal to support its findings supposedly based on postmortem examinations of typical riots, rioters' heads and bodies. their cranious, quote, moral, intellectual, and spiritual regions were sadly deficient, the phrenlogical journal reported. their heads were houses of only one story, and that a basement. almost every illustrated news engraving depicted very little variation among rioters. whether male or female. that uniformity perhaps due to the antipathy toward the irish of the weekly's publisher. the rioters in harper's weekly's illustrations shared similar physical traits. as did the frequently wasp
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waisted metropolitan police. but occasionally, there were notable differences in appearance that drew attention to variations among the rioters that were rarely reported in the daily press. for example, a harper's weekly engraving of a thursday scene at 22nd street and first avenue showed ragged women and children around the body of a dead sergeant. it aligned with the depravity of their acts, their behavior and look, merging into the ensemble that denoted rioting women in general as bad, as unsexed, and as amazons. the link between these women's appearance and immorality was surely not lost on the weekly's largely republican readership. but their rags and alien features also designated them as the most destitute and usually of the city's immigrant poor. in stark contrast to depictions of working class rioters and
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rioting women in other images. the second installment of riot illustrations in frank leslie's provided readers with more visual distinctions among the rioters than the murkier first effort. amid a double page spread of engravings in the august 1st issue, two pictures in leslie's description, quote, represent groups of rioters giving an idea of the party's concern. implicit in that opaque phrase was the idea of the party's concern was readily apparent to the weekly's readership and required no further elaboration. these images also contained specific information that offers insight into the chronology of the formation and early composition of the riot crowd. in particular, group of rioters marching down avenue a offered a cross section of new york mail workers, including on the left,
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a laborer, and on the left, perhaps a veteran of an earlier campaign or a military volunteer. the three men in the middle are dressed in market formality that bespeaks the sort of clothes and craft pride appropriate to artizinal processions or as post war testimony indicates, what was considered in many skilled trades correct attire to be worn for demonstrations. this illustration may represent the first phase before it deteriorated into violence, when the primary goal of many protesters and certainly of trade unionists was to stop the draft by enforcing a general strike. such figures soon abandoned the protests and in some cases then actively opposed the rioters. finally, what did contemporary readers, white and black, conclude from the engravings of the widespread attacks,
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mutilations, and murders perpetrated by the rioters against african-american new yorkers? in addition to the extensive coverage of the destruction of the colored orphans asylum, 11 engravings out of 80 illustrations of riot events focused on such violence. among the most shocking and widely reported was the torture lynching and emilation of cartman william jones on clarkson and hudson street near manhattan's waterfront. the many portrayals of attacks on the blameless recalled and seemed to reiterate the iconography of the antibellum, antislavery movement which advocating the cause using images of the exploitation, sale, and abuse of powerless and enslaved african-americans. but despite the pictorial press' previous representations of slievry, abolition, and
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emancipation, the meaning of such shocking and no doubt for some sensational riot images had undergone a shift by the middle of 1863. for readers of frank lleslie's, harper's weekly and the illustrated news, the visualization of the riot and its african-american victims was entwined in the changing context of the war and a corresponding alteration in its pictorial coverage. thus, readers of the illustrated press came upon the engravings of the july violence having recently seen in the june 27th frank leslie's, heroic images of the assault by black regiments of the louisiana native guard against entrenched rebel forces at ft. hudson, louisiana. a week later, they viewed black troops in the battle of milken's bend of mississippi. during the following week, pictures of pennsylvania blacks
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mobilizing to defend the north from robert e. lee's invading confederate forces and a scene of stalwart new york african-american volunteers heading to a recruitment office were prominently displayed as full-page images in harper's weekly and the new york illustrated news. the latter engraving was all the more striking in light of the incendiary pictorial report in that newspaper following the emancipation proclamation in january. a full-page fifth avenue scene showing affluent black new yorkers commandeering the sidewalk as they, quote, ignored the privileges of their white brethren, unquote. moreover, in the aftermath of the riots, the sacrifice and bravery of black soldiers was featured in pictorial coverage of the 54th massachusetts volunteer regiment, when it attacks ft. wagner. and the cover of the august 15th
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issue of the new york illustrated news presented the capture of a confederate lieutenant during a skirmish near beauford, south carolina. the figure pictured subduing the rebel officer was a demonstrably powerful african-american private serving in the first south carolina colored volunteers. the pictorial coverage of the july 1863 draft riots exemplifies many of the capacities and limitations of what was a new form of journalism. the illustrated presses' war reporting established it as a news source and confirmed its commercial viability. it war also served as a ground for devising the definitive methods for recording and producing as well as the conventions for presenting pictorial news it would use until the 1890s. the resulting coverage provided contemporary readers with visual data and narratives that
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detailed the participants in and settings of events as they also dramatically portrayed their progression in critical moments. these time bound qualities also offer latter day viewers information about the appearances and conditions of people and places that were otherwise incompletely depicted. and often entirely omitted in mid-19th century photography as well as in textual accounts at the time. in the face of the experiences, contingencies of long and bitter war, these waves of seeing and representing often underwent dramatic shifts. conventions and methods for depicting warfare changed. lyrical deaths, romantic visions of orderly combat and pictures of bloodless loss were replaced by chaotic fighting and twisted
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corpses. the most striking change occurred during 1863, and the alteration of the pictorial coverage of enslaved and free african-americans. influenced by the actions of black soldiers in pursuit of union victory, the pictorial press with increased enthusiasm, illustrated their contributions. in turn, they helped change northern opinion about the role and place of black americans in the union. while never fully relinquishing signs of difference. the armed and active black soldier took precedence as the long-standing figures of the helpless antebellum slave, the early war undisciplined former slave, and the child-like contraband lost traction. in that new context, the emphasis on the racial violence of the draft riots was akin to the outraged illustrated press coverage of massacres of black
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troops. such as the infamous confederate slaughter of captured black soldiers at ft. pillow, tennessee, in april 1864. the new york african-american residents attacked during the draft riots as represented in the nation's pictorial press had a new and terrible status. in a conflict in which hey had come to be predominantly portrayed as champions of the preservation of the union and a significant participate of the alliance to end slavery, they were no longer simply innocent bystanders, but they were casualties of war. >> washington unfiltered. c-span in your pocket. download c-span now today. >> up next, another class from our series, lectures in history.

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