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Illustrator Frank Leslie Publishes Fanciful Grand Reception of Civil War Notables as a Subscription Premium
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Frank Leslie published this print as a premium for his new family magazine, Frank Leslie’s Chimney Corner, and copyrighted it on April 8, 1865, just a week before Lincoln’s death. The image, created by engraver Henry B. Major and lithographer Joseph Knapp, portrays Lincoln, flanked by the First Lady and Vice President Andrew Johnson, greeting Julia Dent Grant, wife of Lieutenant General Ulysses S. Grant who stands nearby.

According to a notice printed at the bottom right corner, “Every Person who pays Ten Cents each for numbers 1 and 2 of Frank Leslie’s Chimney Corner, The New Family Paper, is entitled to a copy of this PLATE without extra charge,” or individuals could purchase the print for $3.

[ABRAHAM LINCOLN]. Lithograph. “Grand Reception of the Notabilities of the Nation, at the White House 1865,” New York: Frank Leslie, [April] 1865. 1 p., 19 x 23¾ in.

Inventory #25618       Price: $2,750

In the first issue of The Chimney Corner, Leslie described the “Grand Reception” image as “the most costly gift plate ever presented by any publisher in the United States, having been produced at an expense of $10,000.”

“Every family should possess this truly national picture, and carefully preserve it,” Leslie continued, “as it will transmit to future generations the men who have restored our great national unity. It is especially valuable, as it contains an excellent likeness of our late lamented President, introducing General Grant and his wife to Mrs. Lincoln.” The picture contains “nearly 100 portraits of our most celebrated Generals, Statesmen and Civilians, also of many of our most distinguished American ladies. The likenesses are admirable, having been taken from photographs by Brady.”[1]

The key, giving the names of each individual portrait was published in issue number 4 of the Chimney Corner, on June 24.

Included in the image are Generals Ulysses S. Grant, John G. Foster, William T. Sherman, Hugh J. Kilpatrick, Nathaniel P. Banks, Philip H. Sheridan, Winfield S. Hancock, John A. Logan, Joseph Hooker, Benjamin F. Butler, Oliver O. Howard, John A. Dix, and Henry W. Slocum. Admirals David Farragut and David Dixon Porter represent the Navy. Members of the cabinet include Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton, Secretary of State William H. Seward, and Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles. Members of Congress include Senator Henry B. Anthony of Rhode Island, Senator William P. Fessenden of Maine, Senator Charles Sumner of Massachusetts, and Speaker of the House Schuyler Colfax of Indiana. Chief Justice Salmon P. Chase represents the U.S. Supreme Court. New York newspaper editors Horace Greeley, Henry J. Raymond, and James Gordon Bennett are also present. Prominent women include First Lady Mary Lincoln, Ann S. Stephens (dime novelist and magazine editor), Miriam Folline Squier (wife of Leslie’s former editor-in-chief and Leslie’s future wife), Julia Dent Grant (wife of Ulysses S. Grant), Kate Chase Sprague (daughter of Chief Justice and wife of Rhode Island Senator), and Adele Cutts Douglas (widow of Stephen A. Douglas). Others identified in the key include Ephraim G. Squier (Leslie’s former editor-in-chief, archaeologist, and U.S. commissioner to Peru), Governor Andrew G. Curtin of Pennsylvania and Ambassador to Russia Cassius M. Clay of Kentucky.

Despite Leslie’s copyright, Anton Hohenstein created a very similar image entitled “Lincoln’s Last Reception,” which also featured Lincoln’s meeting General Ulysses S. Grant’s wife Julia. Published by John Smith in Philadelphia in 1865 and hand-colored, “Lincoln’s Last Reception” also included more than thirty military and political leaders and a few prominent women among the onlookers in the ballroom.

Frank Leslie’s Chimney Corner (1865-1884) was a weekly family newspaper published “every Tuesday” in New York by Frank Leslie. Each illustrated issue of sixteen pages contained serial fiction, short stories, poetry, biographies, history, travel sketches, natural history anecdotes, and other subjects. According to the prospectus, the newspaper would be “a welcome messenger of instruction and amusement to the young and old, in the family and by the fireside—that altar around which cluster our holiest and most cherished recollections.” Leslie had copyrighted the title in 1861, but “the great Rebellion, now happily closing, intervened to put a stop to the enterprise.”

Frank Leslie (1821-1880) was born in England as Henry Carter, but he adopted the pseudonym of Frank Leslie to keep his artistic activities a secret from his relatives who disapproved. He came to the United States in 1848 and settled in New York in 1853 to engrave woodcuts for P. T. Barnum’s Illustrated News. When that publication failed, Leslie began work on his own series of illustrated publications, including Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper, The Budget of Fun, Frank Leslie’s Chimney Corner, and others. At his death, he was deeply in debt, but his second wife, Miriam Folline Squier (1836-1914), continued his publications and again made them profitable, even legally changing her name to Frank Leslie in 1881.

Condition

Spot-mounted to modern board, mat toning, moderate foxing, minor edge wear. Would benefit from conservation.


[1] Frank Leslie’s Chimney Corner, June 1, 1865 (New York: Frank Leslie), 10.


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