HarpWeek is a web site that provides electronic access to Harper's Weekly, the illustrated 19th century "Journal of Civilization." HarpWeek's electronic database makes it possible for you to discover the lively news stories, illustrations, cartoons, editorials, biographies, literature and even advertisements that shaped and reflected public opinion in this era. Using HarpWeek's powerful features, you can browse through 20 years of Harper's Weekly page by page, locate specific articles based on search terms or phrases you specify, or use sophisticated indexing and synopsis tools to comb through thousands of Harper's Weekly articles. Page images are JPG; full text is HTML and PDF. It has been indexed using modern terms for contemporary issues.
In addition to the manually created Thesaurus-based index, HarpWeek has had the Full-text of Harper's Weekly typed and entered into an additional database. Clients now have another way to explore the nineteenth century.
The content is full-text searchable. If "Haiti" doesn't show up in Searchable Full-text, try it in the Thesaurus-based index; (it was spelled "Hayti" in the nineteenth century). If First Lieutenant J. E. Tuthill doesn't appear in the Thesaurus-based index, try him in Searchable Full-text.
Harper's Weekly is a consistent, comprehensive, week-to-week chronological record of what happened worldwide in the last half of the nineteenth century. Harper's was aimed at the middle and upper socio-economic classes, and tried not to print anything that it considered unfit for the entire family to read. In addition to the importance of illustrations and cartoons by artists like Winslow Homer and Thomas Nast, the paper's editorials played a significant role in shaping and reflecting public opinion from the start of the Civil War to the end of the century. George William Curtis, who was editor from 1863 until his death in 1892, was its most important editorial writer.
From its founding in 1857 until the Civil War broke out in April 1861, the publication took a moderate editorial stance on slavery and related volatile issues of the day. It had substantial readership in the South, and wanted to preserve the Union at all costs. Some critics called it "Harper's Weakly."
Harper's Weekly would have preferred William Seward or possibly even Stephen Douglas for president in 1860, and was lukewarm towards Lincoln early in his administration. When war came, however, its editorials embraced Lincoln, preservation of the Union, and the Republican Party. Military coverage became paramount in every issue, as its news and illustrations kept soldiers at the various fronts and their loved ones at home up to date on the details of the fighting.
The following quotation from the April 1865 issue of the North American Review shows how a leading peer publication viewed the wartime contributions of Harper's Weekly.
"Its vast circulation, deservedly secured and maintained by the excellence and variety of its illustrations of the scenes and events of the war, as well as by the spirit and tone of its editorials, has carried it far and wide. It has been read in city parlors, in the log hut of the pioneer, by every camp-fire of our armies, in the wards of our hospitals, in the trenches before Petersburg, and in the ruins of Charleston; and wherever it has gone, it has kindled a warmer glow of patriotism, it has nerved the hearts and strengthened the arms of the people, and it has done its full part in the furtherance of the great cause of the Union, Freedom, and the Law."
After the war, Harper's Weekly continued to be a major factor in Ulysses Grant's presidential victories in 1868 and 1872, the overthrow of New York City political boss William Tweed in 1871 and the first election of Grover Cleveland in 1884. Its circulation exceeded 100,000, peaking at 300,00 on occasion, while readership probably exceeded half a million people.
Throughout the course of its run, Harper's Weekly featured nearly 2,700 fictional works. HarpWeek indexers have summarized many of these works in the form of Literary Synopses. Using HarpWeek's Synopsis feature, you can access these indexer-authored summaries. Serialized works, that is, works that spanned multiple issues of Harper's Weekly, can be accessed by installment from a convenient summary document. Using HarpWeek's search features, you can find text or phrases within these summaries and then be directed to the original work as it first appeared within Harper's Weekly.
September 13, 2010