Summertime Selections from Historic Harper's Weekly
Excerpts from the entry on page 347: The Coaching Parade
"Of all the bright scenes one may see on Fifth Avenue, none is more picturesque than the start of the Coaching Club parade. A dozen or more coaches are drawn up in line before the Hotel Brunswick. Around the entrances to the building move the members, the men in white high hats and long driving coats, with flowers in the button-holes, the women in elaborate toilets of light color and texture, adorned with massive, brilliant corsage bouquets. Club men of horsy proclivities stand about to criticise the horses and trappings. These are of the finest kind, for the members indulge in generous rivalry in these matters, ... Club men who care less for horses than for humanity are out in force to study the beauty of the ladies."
Excerpts from the entry on page 507: On the Harlem
"On page 504 we give a picture of the animated scene that may be witnessed every pleasant afternoon, during our long boating season, on the Harlem River just above the bridge. This part of the river forms the practice course of various rowing clubs of New York, and affords also opportunity for every one to row or sail who can command a shell or a sail-boat. On the right of the picture are the Atalanta and Columbia boat-houses, in close neighborhood, and in the distance on the left we catch a glimpse of McComb's Dam Bridge. Boats of all descriptions crowd the river whenever the weather is pleasant, and a more lively and attractive scene can hardly be imagined."
Excerpts from the entry on page 1: The Broadway Bridge
" The Leow Bridge across Broadway at Fulton Street was thrown open to the public on May 16. We give this week an illustration of the structure, by which the reader will obtain a clearer idea of its proportions and appearance than could be conveyed by mere description.
"Our engraving also gives us a view of the new Herald Building, just finished and lately occupied as the publication office of that journal. This is one of the most elegant structures on Broadway, its peculiar position, and the happy combination in its design of the ornate Italian and Ionic styles of architecture, give it a picturesque appearance, it has been specially adapted to the necessities of daily newspaper publication, and, consequently, not only fully answers the requirements of its owner, but is an ornament to the city."
The author points out that the Herald Building is constructed of stone and iron, and as such is designed to be a thoroughly fire-proof structure. He follows with a discussion of other contemporary fire-proof buildings including the Harper & Brothers edifice on Franklin Square.
Excerpts from the entry on page 668: An Indian Toilet
"No dandy of civilization is more fastidious in regard to his 'make-up' than a young Indian warrior, or 'buck,' as he is called on the plains, whether in preparing for the war-path, a big feast, or an important council. As may be seen by our illustration on page 665, engraved from a drawing made by our artist during a peaceful sojourn in an Indian village, the costume presents a curious mixture of the garments of civilized and savage life, and the effect is most ludicrous.
"The work of the toilet of an Indian warrior is always performed by the squaw, who takes great pride in adorning the person of her own particular 'brave' in the highest style of savage art. Generally the first stage of the proceeding is the painting of the face.... In winter, black appears to be the favorite color; in summer, reds and yellows are regarded as the fashionable tints."
Excerpts from the entry on page 567: Our Soldiers in the Southwest
"When General Miles's cavalry in the long campaign against the Apaches in the Southwest has chased the Indians to their own ground, the pitching of the camp is a very simple performance. Whenever a resting place for the night is selected, the soldiers dismount and unsaddle their horses. This done, they are in camp. There is little labor, and no ceremony. A roaring camp fire is a luxury they cannot now enjoy. They rest ready at any moment to be aroused. As soon as the first clear light of the morning comes and the horses are brought up from the grazing ground of the night, instead of the trumpet of the usual cavalry camp the simple order is heard, 'Catch your horses.'...
"And then the march begins. The scouts lead the way, following the trail with infinite patience and wonderful skill. They read every hoof print and the position of every twig by the way with an accuracy that an Egyptologist might envy in his sign reading.... "
Excerpts from the entry on page 274: A California Bee Ranch
"Unlike the wild 'bumble bee,' as it is commonly called, the honey bee is not an original native of this country. Its ancestors came over with the Pilgrim Fathers from England or Holland, and year by year their descendants followed the course of civilization westward. Restless swarms escaping from the farmers' hives, and failing to respond to the seductive music of tongs and tin pans with which the frantic owners tried to recover them, the fugitives took to the woods, and formed independent colonies in the cavities of decaying trees. These colonies in turn sent out new swarms every year, and peopled the forests with wild bees that gradually lost all recollection of the hives of civilization. They were called by the Indians 'the white man's fly.'...
"The method of hunting wild bees in California is the same as in our Western and Southern States. In India, Africa, and the Indian islands the bee-hunter has a serviceable friend and partner in the bird called 'the honey guide,' a member of the cuckoo family, by which he is unerringly guided to the tree where the wild bees build their nest. The American bee hunter is compelled to resort to other methods. He carries with him into the woods a box containing a small portion of honey, and perhaps some mints or essences which are attractive to bees. He waits patiently until the bees collect about the box, and when they have gorged themselves with the seductive sweets, watches them keenly as they rise circling in the air...."
Excerpts from the entry on page 383: The American Pactolus
"If the little river of Pactolus had been, as fable represents it, a stream of molten gold, it could hardly have brought to the Lydians as much or as lasting wealth as is daily thrown upon the shores of the United States by the stream of foreign immigration....
"The contribution made by immigrants to the wealth of the country is, in a general way, obvious enough...
"But this is, in reality, the least important contribution made by the immigrant to the wealth of the nation. What he brings in strength and energy, in the will and capacity to work, is far more potent, because it is more enduring, and because it is continued and multiplied in his children and in their children. ...
"... They have more generally a definite purpose, and the means of carrying it out. They arrive more often in families, and in groups of families, from the same neighborhood at home, with the intention of settling together, and not seldom with the titles to land in the West in their pockets."
Excerpts from the entry on page 541: Gardening for New York
"There is probably no business in which the profits are so certain as in that of market-gardening. ... Garden truck which is raised within a radius of twenty miles of New York reaches its market by wagon. These are of large capacity, drawn usually by two horses. They arrive [at their destination] mostly between midnight and daybreak. By sunrise Greenwich, Washington, West, and the streets adjacent and at right angles thereto are filled with truck wagons disposing of their contents. By eight o'clock the business of the day, so far as they are concerned, is usually over....
"The influx of a large foreign element has brought with it great numbers of accomplished gardeners. To them we are indebteed for the improvement in the quality of our vegetables. ... [and] for the introduction of a variety of salads which a few years since were to the masses entirely unknown....
"The water-cress, which is found in nearly all running spring water, was up to within a few years looked upon by most people as a worthless weed. Under the fostering care of gardeners from Europe, it is now one of the great luxuries of the market....
"Endowed with the fairy wand of wealth, the citizen of New York may enjoy in the depths of winter vegetable products which but a few years since were obtainable only in their season. The pleasure of anticipation is gone, but the power of realization has come."
Excerpts from the entry on page 703: Clamming in Great South Bay
"Between the southern shore of Long Island and the narrow strip of the white sand known as Fire Island Beach lies the Great South Bay, nearly a hundred miles in length and varying from two to five miles in breadth. Through the sandy strip there are occasional openings in the ocean. This bay affords one of the most extensive and productive clamming preserves on the American coast, and it was here that Mr. Abbey made the graphic and interesting sketches given on page 700, from which the reader can form an idea of the methods employed in taking clams for the markets of New York and other cities.
"The trade in clams is enormous and constantly increasing. Millions are sold every year in New York alone, and it is estimated that the number of clams annually consumed in the country reaches nearly 30,000,000."
This brief article concludes with two recipes for clam chowder.
Excerpt from the entry on page 589: Ascent of Snowdon
"Of the picturesque mountain ranges that traverse the principality of Wales, Snowdon, in Caernarvonshire, is the highest and most noted peak. The Welsh call it the Wyddfa, or conspicuous. It rises to the height of 3571 feet above the level of the sea, and its picturesque character is hardly equaled by any other mountain in Wales or England. On the western side it is extremely steep and difficult of ascent, and presents a singular formation of pentagonal basaltic columns. The summit commands an extensive view over a range of picturesque country, and every summer crowds of tourists toil up its precipitous sides, like the party in our engraving, to enjoy the charming panorama. "
Excerpt from the entry on page 890: A Cranberry Bog
"Thanksgiving turkey without cranberries is what life is without matrimony, or matrimony without quarrels. The small red spheres of the fruit, crushed, sweetened, and transmuted into a delicious crystalline jelly, bring out all that is good in the bird's flavor, and supplement it so agreeably that no reasonable housekeeper ever thinks of serving it without the sauce, which in its ruddiness of color seems to have caught the very exhilaration of autumn, and in it taste combines the sweets and sours to perfection....
"A good 'bog,' as the swamp is now called, yields about two hundred bushels an acre, more or less, and we visited one last August sixty acres of which were expected to produce over three hundred bushels an acre....The gathering begins in early September, and seven hundred people employed in it make an exhilarating and attractive scene....Most of them are young women in neat cotton dresses and voluminous sun-bonnets; but besides these are old and young fishermen with bronzed faces and salty clothing, who have taken a week from their usual occupations to share in the cranberry harvest, which almost amounts to a festival, and which, moreover, is very profitable to the laborers, paying them forty cents for every bushel gathered...."
Excerpt from the entry on page 414: Philadelphia's New Exhibition
"The Permanent Exhibition in the Main Building of the Centennial Fair of last year was opened on the afternoon of the 10th inst., in the presence of a vast concourse of people. The city presented a holiday appearance; shops, hotels, and dwelling-houses were decorated with bunting, and business was almost entirely suspended. Early in the morning long lines of vehicles and crowds of persons on foot began moving toward Fairmount Park, and the horse-cars running thither were filled to overflowing....The formal opening took place in the afternoon, and was attended by President HAYES and several members of his cabinet, ex-President GRANT, and many other distinguished persons. The President and his predecessor were received by the immense crowd with enthusiastic cheers....Our illustration on the preceding page gives a spirited view of the opening. "
Excerpt from the entry on page 655: "Struck It Rich!"
"The prospecter [sic] forms a characteristic feature of life in the mining regions of the far West. He is the real pioneer in the wilderness, the first element in the civilization of the West. Although undergoing many privations and hardships, and subsisting on the simplest necessaries of existence, the wild and independent life he leads acquires a strange fascination over him, and after once entering upon it, he seldom breaks away, only feeling happy when among his beloved mountains.
"The prospecters shown in our front-page illustration are in the famous Black Hills region, and are equipped for a ten days' trip."
This was Winslow Homer's first illustration for Harper's Weekly. His published magazine work had appeared first in Boston's Ballou's Pictorial only two months previously. With plenty of narrative detail, Homer depicted the incoming Harvard freshmen confronting their sophomore classmates (distinguished by top hats); a ball placed between them suggested a football match was imminent. It has been observed that at that time the sport was more of a rough and tumble exercise which often ended in a "free-for-all fight."*
* John A. Kouwenhoven, Adventures of America, 1857-1900: A Pictorial Record from Harper's Weekly (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1938), plate 25.
Excerpts from the entry on page 315: General McClellan's Army
"We devote several pages this week to illustrations of our Army under General McClellan, which has just driven the rebels out of Yorktown....[O]n page 308 the DEPARTURE OF OUR CAVALRY AND FLYING-ARTILLERY, under General Stoneman, up the Yorktown turnpike, in pursuit of the rebels....
"Five companies of Massachusetts troops participated in a splendid little action which took place this morning. One company made a brilliant charge on a rebel redoubt, drove the rebels away, killed quite a number, and hemmed in fourteen, who were taken prisoners. The redoubt is situated in front of a piece of woods, and faces an open cornfield to the right of the Yorktown road. It was determined last evening to reduce the work and ascertain what fortifications were behind, beyond the woods. Early this morning three companies of the First Massachusetts Regiment, under Lieutenant-Colonel Walls, and two companies of the Eleventh, under Major Tripp, left camp and arrived on the ground just about daylight."
Winslow Homer's career began as an apprentice at a Boston lithographic firm at the age of 19, where he homed his skills in draftsmanship and composition. In 1857 he moved to New York to work for Harper's Weekly, and became the preëminent designer of popular wood engravings up until the mid-1870s, when he decided to focus his efforts exclusively on painting. Homer gained great notoriety as an artist-correspondent during the Civil War, when he was sent to the front to cover Union General McClellan's advance on Richmond, known as the Peninsula Campaign. His compelling and direct observations of combat, as well as the domestic front, filled the pages of Harper's throughout the war years.*
In 1865 at the age of 29, Homer was made a full member of the National Academy of Design, indicating his acceptance into the artistic elite. However, he continued to work as a commercial artist, reaching his ultimate achievements with the technically refined, tonally expressive images of the 1870s. In his book on Winslow Homer's Magazine Engravings, Philip C. Beam reveals how the artist's engraving techniques became incorporated into the execution of his paintings.
Homer excelled in scenes of everyday life, and his series on children from the mid-seventies is considered his finest. These depict boys and girls in ordinary activities or at play, culminating in perhaps his most famous such image, entitled Snap the Whip, published in 1873 and based on his original oil painting now in the Butler Institute of American Art in Youngstown, Ohio. Two years later, Homer decided to pursue painting full time, settling in Prout's Neck, Maine, where he devoted himself to portraying the beauty and majesty of nature in land and sea. Together with those of his contemporary John Singer Sargent (1856-1925), Winslow Homer's watercolors and oils are now regarded as among the most prized works in the American canon.
* To view Homer's war-time engravings for Harper's Weekly, visit the newly reöpened Smithsonian American Art Museum on G Street between 8th and 9th Streets (Gallery Place/Chinatown Metrorail), where they are displayed in a corridor on the second floor.