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The Philadelphia Print Shop

Western Scenes

Contemporary images of the American West
from illustrated newspapers

[ General scenes | Specific locations: Colorado | Indians | Frederic Remington | From The Aldine ]


By 1848, the United States had expanded to encompass the entire central part of the North American continent between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans and the attention of Americans began to turn to the vast trans-Mississippi West. Beginning in the late 1840s and accelerating after the Civil War, thousands looked to the West as a land of new opportunity. Reports of various explorations, from the 1804-06 Lewis & Clark expedition to the U.S. government railroad surveys of around mid-century, began to provide some first-hand information on the region to those in the east, and Americans soon developed a fascination with this "wild" and far-away U.S. territory.

This led to a demand for images of the West, a demand well met by a wonderful series of prints published in popular illustrated newspapers which appeared around the middle of the nineteenth century. These prints were wide-ranging in their coverage of events, places, things and persons of interest to the readers, and they were extremely timely in their appearance. The fact that these prints were "merely" illustrations in a newspaper and were issued in huge numbers has led some to dismiss them as unworthy of study or ownership. However, most of the pictures of the American West from this source were drawn by skilled artists, they are based on first-hand observation, and they provide some of the only images of these scenes available to readers at the time, and of course, to us today.

The images, which appeared in American newspapers like Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper and Harper's Weekly, as well as in European publications, were drawn by many of the leading American artists of the later nineteenth century, including Frederic Remington, Charles Graham, R.F. Zogbaum, Thomas Moran, Paul Frenzeny & Jules Tavernier. These illustrated newspaper prints are one of the most valuable and interesting sources of contemporary images of the American West, an important legacy of our past.

Unless noted otherwise, the following prints are uncolored wood engravings issued in Harper's Weekly. They are in very good condition, except as noted. Sizes are for image only, excluding text. Photographs can be provided upon request.

One of the most famous of the illustrators who worked for the newspapers was Frederic Remington. We have a separate page with a listing of prints by this great western artist.
GoGo to listing of prints by Frederic Remington

General Scenes

Modern Ship of the Plains
R. F. Zogbaum. "The Modern Ship of the Plains." From Harper's Weekly. New York, Nov. 13, 1886. 9 x 13 1/2. Wood engraving. Denver.

Rufus Fairchild Zogbaum was an artist who specialized in military and naval art, but he also made a number of trips to the West to record the scene for Harper's Weekly. He went to Montana a number of times in the mid-1880s and produced articles and illustrations for this widely read publication. Though he tended to idealize things (all his horses are well-fed and his soldier's neatly dressed), he did carefully note details which he accurately portrayed. This print shows an emigrant train on the Northern Pacific which had left St. Paul, Minnesota, in May, 1885, heading to the "Wild West" (to quote Zogbaum). The train was filled with German, Scandinavian, Scotch, English and Irish emigrants. Zogbaum noted that while there was no ornamentation or upholstering in the car, "everything seems strong and well made." He further commented that compared to the rigors of travel by ox-train across the plains, standard a few decades before, this "new" method of travel was luxurious. $75

More general scenes:

Specific locations

Views from The Aldine.

Views from The Aldine. An American Journal. New York, 1868-79. Wood engravings.

The Aldine. An American Art Journal was not strictly speaking an illustrated newspaper, but its prints were similar in process to those of Harper's and the like. The Aldien (1868-79) was started as a house organ for a New York firm of printers, but became a general magazine devoted to art and typography under the editorship of R.H. Stoddard (1871-75). It was filled with wood engravings based on art by some of the best American artists of the day, including most famously Thomas Moran, after whose work thirty-nine prints were made. Many of these, and images by other artists, featured American western landscape, increasing the awareness among the public of the beauty of this region.


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©The Philadelphia Print Shop, Ltd. Last updated December 2, 2014