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The Philadelphia Print Shop, Ltd.Historical Prints

War of 1812

[ General selection of images | Naval Officers | Army Officers ]
Images from: [ The Port Folio | Naval Monument | Naval Battles of the United States ]


On June 19, 1812, the United States declared war on Great Britain, thus beginning what is known as the War of 1812. Though the official reasoning for the declaration was to defend the doctrine of "freedom of the seas," the factors involved were many, including British support for Native Americans in the mid-west, British actions taken against American ships as part of their fight with Napoleonic France, British impressment of American sailors, and not least, American dreams of annexing Canada. Action during the war was primarily naval: on the high seas, on the Great Lakes, and on Lake Champlain. Land battles were fought mostly in the region of Detroit, along the Niagara frontier, and in the south. Neither side gained much advantage during the war, which was ended by the Treaty of Ghent signed December 24, 1814. The war didn't really decide anything, though the British never again were quite as highhanded in their treatment of American shipping and the Americans never again tried to annex Canada.

General selection of images

Birch: Macedonian
Thomas Birch. "United States and Macedonian." Philadelphia: Benjamin Tanner, 1814. 17 x 24 1/2 (image), 19 1/2 x 26 (platemarks) plus margins. Engraving by B. Tanner. Repaired tear into top margin runs 1/4" into image. Else fine and a good strike. Framed. Grolier: 65a; Olds:160. Denver.

An excellent print celebrating one of the most famous American naval achievements of the War of 1812. The United States, under Capt. Stephen Decatur, seeking British shipping to harass, found and engaged the Macedonian near the Canary Islands. After a fierce fight, the Macedonian was forced to surrender, and in a bold move, Decatur brought the ship back to New York, the first British man-of-war as prize into an American port. It was this episode, in particular, that raised the national pride and confidence in the Navy and eventually led Congress to allocate further shipbuilding for the war and future events. This is one of the best prints of this episode, by famous marine painter Thomas Birch. It was one of three commemorative naval prints by well known engraver Benjamin Tanner. It shows the United States throwing a full broadside at the demasted Macedonian. On the sides of the title are extracts from Decatur's official letter of the engagement. The print by Birch is evocative of this national pride in the event-dramatic and powerful-and is one of Birch's best known paintings. $3,600

Battle of Lake Erie First ViewSpacerBattle of Lake Erie Second View
Pair of prints by Sully and Kearny. "Battle on Lake Erie." Philadelphia: Murray Draper Fairman & Co. and James Webster, July 1815. Engravings. Ca. 18 x 25 3/4. With some condition issues but overall good condition. First view: with small flecks or blemishes in sky. Second view: repaired tear in bottom margin just into image, a few small flecks or blemishes in the sky, and with several faint tear dropped shaped water stains extending from the top margin into the image. Prints have been professionally conserved. Good margins. Olds: 241 & 242; Smith: 124 & 125. Denver.

A very rare pair of engravings of Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry's victory at the Battle of Lake Erie, September 10, 1813. These prints were issued within two years of the battle, dedicated by the co-publisher, James Webster, to "Commodore Perry his Officers and gallant Crews." These separately issued prints were intended for purchase and framing by the crew members, their families, and any interested in this stirring American victory in the War of 1812. The pair show different stages in the battle and the depictions are precise and accurate. Indeed, Perry wrote the publishers that "I have no hesitation in pronouncing them a correct representation of the engagement at those particular moments." $6,200

"View of the action between the U.S. Frigate Constitution and the British Ships Levant & Cyane." From The Analectic Magazine, vol. 7, 1816. Philadelphia. Aquatint by William Strickland. 3 7/8 x 7 3/8. Very good condition.

In 1812, Philadelphia bookseller and publisher Moses Thomas purchased a monthly magazine entitled Select Reviews, engaged Washington Irving as editor, and renamed the publication The Analectic Magazine. Irving, his brother-in-law J. K. Paulding, Gulian C. Verplanck and, later, Thomas Isaac Wharton wrote much of the material, which concentrated on literary reviews, articles on travel and science, biographies of naval heroes, and reprints of selections from British periodicals. Illustration "was one of the magazine's chief distinctions. Not only were there the usual engravings on copper, but some of the earliest magazine experiments in lithography and wood engraving appeared here." This is a lovely aquatint by Strickland of the battle between the Consitution and the Levant and Cyane. $250

Prints from an unknown German series circa 1815. Titles in German and English. Wood engravings. Each approximately 3 1/4 x 5 1/2.

Chapin. "Action Between the Constitution and the Guerriere." New York: Virtue Emmins & Co., 1859. Engraving. 5 1/4 x 7 1/2. Very good condition.

A more primitive rendering of this battle with the French ship mast-less and the triumphant Constitution in the background. $60

Alonzo Chapell. "Battle Between the Constitution and the Guerriere." New York: Johnson & Fry & Co., 1866. 7 3/4 x 5 1/2. Steel engraving. Very good condition.

An interesting perspective of this battle just after the end of the fighting. The Constitution is seen head on with the demasted Guerriere in the background. Alonzo Chappel was a historical painter and illustrator. Born in New York in 1828 he studied at the National Academy and exhibited at the American Institute before he was seventeen. He lived his whole life in the New York City vicinity before his death in 1887. He is mainly known as an illustrator of historical books; the majority of these concerning the American Revolution and the Civil War. Some of his paintings and prints can be found at the New York and Chicago Historical Societies. This print is a good example of Chappel's work. $75

Battle of New Orleans
H. Billings. "Battle of New Orleans. January 8th 1815." From John Abbott's Lives of the Presidents of the United States. Boston: B.B. Russell & Co., 1866. 4 3/8 x 7. Steel engraving by O. Pelton. Light stain in top right. Else, very good condition. Denver.

A strong engraving of the Battle of New Orleans from John Abbott's history of the U.S. Presidents. This was to illustrate his account of the life of Andrew Jackson, who is shown prominently in the image. $65

Battle of New Orleans
J. Chapin. "The Battle of New Orleans, Fought January 8, 1815." From Harper's Weekly. New York: January 12, 1861. 9 x 13 7/8. Wood engraving. With minor blemishes, but overall very good condition. Denver.

Harper's Weekly provided most of the printed images available to the American people in the middle of the nineteenth century. This dynamic wood engraving of the Battle of New Orleans was issued at a time when the United States was facing the threat of Southern secession, and its message was that many Americans--including those from the South--had fought hard to preserve the Union. $25

Portraits of U.S. Naval Officers:

Much of the action in the War of 1812 was naval, and the young American navy acquitted itself remarkably well against the British, who had the greatest navy in the world at the time. The officers of the American navy, some who had seen action in the Revolution, became great heroes, so it is not surprising that portraits were issued of them in popular magazines. The following portraits are all octavo sized, on paper ca. 8 1/2 x 5 1/4 and they are all in very good condition, except as noted.

Jarvis: Bainbridge
J. Jarvis. "Commodore Bainbridge." New York: P. Maverick, 1820. 8 3/4 x 7 1/2 (image) plus full margins. Line engraving by Peter Maverick. Some light age spotting, and three small ticks from the original printing. Conserved. Stauffer, 2183. The National Portrait Gallery in Washington has an engraving by Asher B. Durand of the same size after Jarvis' portrait.

William Bainbridge (1774-1833) served in the American merchant marine in his early career, and entered the U.S. Navy in 1798 anticipating the quasi-war with France. He became famous in 1803 when his ship the frigate Philadelphia ran aground in Tripoli Harbour, and he and his crew were held captive for almost two years. He returned to merchant service, then returned to the Navy with the outbreak of the War of 1812. Under Isaac Hull's command he captured the British frigate Guerriere and soon thereafter sank the frigate Java, both when captain of the U.S.S. Constitution. He was rightly included in John Wesley Jarvis' 1813 series depicting portraits of American heroes in the War of 1812 for the New York City Hall. $600

Portraits of U.S. Army Officers:

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©The Philadelphia Print Shop, Ltd. Last updated November 5, 2014