The War of 1812: New Reference Aid

I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that, in addition to marking the 150th anniversary of key developments in the U.S. Civil War, we are now looking back at an even earlier conflict as the War of 1812 bicentennial launches.

Two hundred years to the day have passed since the United States declared war on Great Britain, so you wouldn’t think we’d have breaking news to report.  But recently curator Sara Duke surveyed the Prints and Photographs Division holdings for images relating to the War of 1812, and she summarized her findings in an illustrated reference aid, “The War of 1812: Selected Images from the Collections of the Library of Congress.”

This view of his majesty's ship Shannon

This view of his majesty's ship Shannon ...Print by Robert Dodd, 1813 August. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/cph.3g06294

This representation of the battle on Lake Erie is respectfully inscribed to Commodore Perry.

This representation of the battle on Lake Erie is respectfully inscribed to Commodore Perry... Print by Murray, Draper, Fairman & Co., 1815 July 26. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/pga.02257

The reference aid particularly highlights prints and drawings made during the war and in the generation afterwards–up to 1830.  (Sara also created a more extensive checklist that includes images made later, available upon request through our Ask a Librarian service.)  The pictures convey how people in the early 1800s saw the war through the dramatic moments artists and publishers chose to illustrate.  The images are categorized into works by artists operating in the U.S. or under U.S. influence and those by artists working in Britain, so the reference aid also offers an opportunity to compare points of view.

A boxing match, or another bloody nose for John Bull

A boxing match, or another bloody nose for John Bull. Print by William Charles, 1813. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ppmsca.10754

The fall of Washington--or Maddy in full flight

The fall of Washington--or Maddy in full flight. Print published by S. W. Fores, 1814. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ppmsca.31112

Scenes of land and naval engagements hint at the destruction both sides inflicted.  Equally compelling are political cartoons published in both countries, which encapsulate the arguments and attitudes that fueled the conflict.

U.S. Capitol after burning by the British

U.S. Capitol after burning by the British. Drawing by George Munger, 1814. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ppmsca.23076

Depictions of the ruins of the Capitol building in the wake of the 1814 British invasion of Washington, D.C., particularly spark reflection here at the Library of Congress.  The flames not only destroyed the structure, but the library it housed.  In order to replace the library, Thomas Jefferson sold the United States his personal collection of books.  Jefferson’s volumes and his expansive philosophy of collecting formed the foundation of the Library of Congress collection and collecting policies.

Learn More:

  • View an overview of Library of Congress holdings relating to the War of 1812: “A Guide to the War of 1812
  • View Sara Duke’s guest post about the War of 1812 in the Teaching with the Library of Congress blog.  It includes suggested activities students might carry out in connection with the images in the Prints and Photographs Division reference aid and other Library of Congress resources.
  • View information about Jefferson’s library.

One Comment

  1. Aj
    January 29, 2013 at 1:11 pm

    I like how these picture look and hoe you made it like real

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