The Process of Identification of Edward S. Hall and the “Baltimore Unknowns”

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The Process of Identification of Edward S. Hall and the “Baltimore Unknowns”

Kristina Wilson, Boston College ‘09 

Last summer, my research into the Becker Collection, a collection of Civil War drawings co-curated by Professors Bookbinder and Gallagher, led to the identification of an artist previously unknown in the collection. From the original assignment to find out as much information as possible about one drawing, the Disembarkation of Two Ohio Regiments (see figure 1) I was able to use stylistic analysis to identify a cache of seven drawings centered in Baltimore, Maryland, which lacked an artist and date, as being by the same hand. Further research let to the discovery that two of these unknowns had been published as engravings in Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper during the summer of 1861. A comparison of these prints to the works of Edward S. Hall, a known Leslie’s artist previously believed not represented in the Becker Collection, led to the conclusion that he is the artist who made these drawings. 

Before the original unknown work, Disembarkation of Two Ohio Regiments, was linked to the Hall, it was first linked to other unknown works in the collection. Stylistically and temporally, these works formed a cohesive cache drawn by a single artist’s hand. They tell the story of a turbulent city occupied by Federal troops after the violent Baltimore Riots that led to the first bloodshed of the Civil War. They depict regiments marching through the streets (cheered by supporters of the Federacy), training and drilling on the nearby grounds of Fort McHenry, and at leisure. The townspeople react, watching the goings-on in the city. The overall impression of these works is that they are well formed and planned by an artist who knew how to set a scene. No unnecessary line is included, and the artist makes every effort to ensure the maximum amount of information is recorded for the newspaper engravers who will transfer these works to wood blocks for printing, proving this artist must be a Special Artist for Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper. The fictive depth of the scenes and the approach to figural representation are similar throughout the works. A brief synopsis of the works and their similarities supports this conclusion.

The Disembarkation of Two Ohio Regiments was the first drawing examined. The scene is set on a receding diagonal of about thirty degrees, which defines a street on which troops are marching. Buildings line one side of the road, the architecture of which is crisp and clean, relying on line rather than shading. Crowds line the other side of the street up to the corner with a lamppost. The people are miniature but also well defined through line.  Horses attached to two carts are dainty and graceful looking. The scene overall is quiet and light. In addition to this scene, a detailed figure with the caption “Uniform of Ohio Regiments” is provided in the upper right corner. This figure is well defined and realistic, giving the viewer an instantaneous understanding of the appearance of Ohio uniforms. This information would be crucial to newspaper engravers, who would need to know what the uniforms look like for the scene, as figures in the drawing are too small to distinguish all the details of the uniform.

Fort McHenry (see figure 2) has a similar composition and technique to the Disembarkation of Two Ohio Regiments. A diagonal road cutting through the scene and providing recession into the fictive space is approximately 30 degrees (rising to the left). The scene is quiet, without much action. Less architecture is given than in the Disembarkation, but in the background the Hospital of Fort McHenry is shown in the same crisp lines and angles synonymous to the Disembarkation. Another detail ties the works together: the artist’s writing. Many letters in the writing are identical between the two works. Looking only at the capitals, the P, B, M, R, D, and C are formed the same way. Even the angle of the artist’s script is the same.

A final idiosyncratic detail links these works together. Similar to the Disembarkation, the artist chose to turn the paper and make a detailed representation of a figure that appears smaller in the scene. This figure is identified as Major Morris and is the exact scale of the figure included in Disembarkation. This is interesting because of its use to relay information to the engravers, who would need extra details like this figure to really transfer and express the scene. This technique also shows that this work is by a professional employee of Frank Leslie’s or someone with experience in the industry who would not only once, but twice have the presence of mind to think of the information the engravers would need. Additional writing gives the colors of Morris’s hair, moustache, and whiskers. The records for the 19th Regiment, Pennsylvania Infantry, pictured here indicate that the regiment was in Baltimore, Maryland and stationed at Fort McHenry from May to August, 1861.

The Occupation of Baltimore (see figure 3) has the same idiosyncratic and informational figure begun on the top right corner as the previous works. Although unfinished, it is clear this figure would have been an enlargement of a figure from the scene – he is clearly in uniform, as judged by the outline of his hat and pants. The scene again has a calm layout, an approximate 30 degrees diagonal recession, and figures of the same scale as in Fort McHenry. The writing here is similar to both previous drawings. In common with the Disembarkation are the capital O, B, C, M, D, and R, and to Fort McHenry the H, B, D, C and M.

Federal Hill, Baltimore (see figure 4) has a diagonal recession line provided by the fence, scale, and calm, quiet layout in common with the previously discussed works. Additionally, in comparison to Fort McHenry and Occupation of Baltimore, this work also includes notes written in the sky. The artist has just added names and lines of specific buildings, regiments, objects, etc to furnish more information for the newspaper staff. A comparison of the handwriting shows that this work has P, B, D, and M’s in common with Disembarkation, D, F, H, and M’s in common with Fort McHenry, and P and B’s in common with Occupation of Baltimore. Crisp, clean lines, which define the architecture of the city of Baltimore, also dominate this work.

In a second work entitled The Occupation of Baltimore (see figure 5), the right side of the road provides a central point of recession while the left side of the road forms a recession angel (30 degrees) similar to previous works. Architectural elements are crisp and clean, and the miniature figures are somewhat dainty, relying again on line rather than shading. The horses at the center of this work look especially graceful. The writing is very similar to the previous drawings, and the title is written in the exact dimensions, slant, and script of the previous work of the same name. A note across the front, “I shall send others as soon as possible” confirms the idea that the person who drew this work was a professional artist working for Frank Leslie’s, who was sending multiple works and was in correspondence with the newspaper.

The next drawing, People of Baltimore Witnessing the Erection of the Fortifications by Warren Zouaves (see figure 6) is uncannily similar to a section of the Disembarkation. Crowds are arranged around a lamppost – a similar motif used to place crowds on the corner of the street watching and cheering the First and Second Ohio Regiments as they marched through the city.  Appearing as if it is an enlarged section of the Disembarkation, even the ratio of the crowd extending horizontally past the lamppost to the height of the lamppost is maintained. Like previous examples, the figures are defined by line rather than shading, the layout is flat with crisp architecture in the background, and the writing is very similar to all previous samples.  The presence of the Warren Zouaves, also known as the 5th New York Infantry, places this scene between May and July of 1861.

Although Officer’s Mess Tent and Kitchen (see figure 7) is compositionally different, the technique and approach to the figures is maintained in this work. Figures are mid-size and crisp and cleanly delineated, rather than relying on shading. The writing is also identical to former samples. O, R, P, B are identical to Disembarkation; S, M, P, B, R are similar to Federal Hill; R, O,B, S are similar to Occupation of Baltimore; and P,B, M are similar to Federal Hill, Baltimore. This drawing is also of the 19th Pennsylvania Regiment, as is Fort McHenry, linking these works by subject and time.

Two of the unknown Baltimore drawings from the Becker Collection were published in Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper. These works appear on page eight of the May 18, 1861 issue, two and one half weeks after the newspaper first covered the outbreak of violence in Baltimore. Drawings known in the Becker Collection as Occupation of Baltimore, appear in the issue with the captions, “Encampment of the New York Eighth Regiment, With Part of the Boston Battery, at Federal Hill Near Baltimore – From A Sketch By Our Special Artist” and “Headquarters of General Butler at Federal Hill, Baltimore, As Seen From Johnson and Hughes Streets – From A Sketch By Our Special Artist”, respectively. In both cases, the captions in the newspaper are written almost word for word like the texts on the original drawings.

Additionally other illustrations in this issue show the same traits as the unknown drawings, and may even be altered versions of them. For instance, the illustration above the two unknowns, entitled “General Butler’s Encampment at Federal Hill, Baltimore, As Seen From Johnson and Hughes Streets – From A Sketch By Our Special Artist” has an almost identical crowd-and-lamppost arrangement as those found in Disembarkation of Two Ohio Regiments and People of Baltimore Witnessing the Erection of the Fortifications by Warren Zouaves. In this illustration, a crowd in the foreground gathers by a lamppost and looks up at Federal Hill, in the distance. The figures are miniature but crisp and detailed, a building to the left of the drawing is cleanly articulated, and a figure on horseback to the right of the drawing looks identical to the rider in “Headquarters of General Butler at Federal Hill, Baltimore, As Seen From Johnson and Hughes Streets – From A Sketch By Our Special Artist.” Page three of this issue contains an illustration captioned, ““Feeding Troops in Front of the Naval Academy, Annapolis, Maryland, On Their Way to Washington DC” that shows the same street layout, diagonal recession lines, crisp and linear architecture, and small figures seen in so many of the unknown drawings.

W. Fletcher Thompson provides confirmation that Edward S. Hall was a Special Artist for Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper in 1861 and also links him to the events in Baltimore, Maryland. In The Image of War: The Pictorial Reporting of the American Civil War, Thompson writes:

Frank Leslie best appreciated the news value of the Baltimore riot. He published several detailed sketches of the fight, and then assigned one of his artists to follow the bodies of the martyrs to their final burial place in Massachusetts. He also sent Francis H. Schell and C. S. Hall to portray the Federal occupation of the turbulent city (33).

The error of Hall’s first initial is easily made – Frank Leslie’s itself is probably the origin of this confusion as a few of the attributed illustrations credit C. S. Hall rather than E. S. Hall. Furthermore, it is unlikely that more than these two artists would be active in the same area as Leslie, a business man, would have rather split up his artists to cover more events. Thus by examining known works by Schell and Hall and comparing them to drawings from Baltimore in 1861, a single artist attribution can be made.

A comparison of the unknown Baltimore works to known drawings by Francis H. Schell in the Becker Collection shows that Schell is not the artist of the “Baltimore unknowns.” His works, there are forty-one in the Becker Collection, tend to be more dynamic. He does not organize scenes on a receding diagonal but lays his scenes closer and flatter to the frame of the drawing, often with a slight swirl towards the center. His figures are more energetic and appear caught in action, rather than having the quiet reserve of the Baltimore unknowns. His figures, when not shaded in, appear like cartoons; his lines are strong and thick rather than crisp and delicate.

With these observations in mind, it seems as if by default Edward S. Hall must be the artist behind the unknown Baltimore works. Although his name does not appear directly in the captions accompanying the drawings – in fact during this period credit given to specific individuals by name is extremely rare – a logical rationale is that if only two artists are working in an area, and the unknown drawings are not by one of them, they must then be by the other. The fact that there are so many works from Baltimore in this same hand, both published and unpublished, confirm that the artist was in the area for an extended amount of time and not merely passing through the city while following a specific army command.

During the spring and summer of 1862, Frank Leslie’s printed drawings attributed to Edward S. Hall by name.  From late March to late June, Hall was the Special Artist covering the war in Virginia. These known works show many of the same traits and choices inherent in the unknown Baltimore works of 1861. All of the works are outdoor sketches of similar composition and ratios of foreground to background and land to sky. Like the Baltimore unknowns a considerable amount of the fictive space is allotted for the sky. The methods of representation appear identical; the artist uses a fine line with minimal shading to define miniature but detailed figures and crisply articulated architecture. Illustrations appearing in the March 22, May 3, May 24, and June 21 issues such as “The War in Virginia - General Bank's Division Of the Army of the Potomac Crossing the Potomac River, At Harper's Ferry, February 26th - From a Sketch By Our Special Artist, Mr. C. S. Hall” (note the incorrect Leslie’s spelling), “The War in Virginia - Advance of the Union Army, Under General McClellan, Towards Yorktown  Scene on the Road Between Big Bethel and York Town, April 5 - From a Sketch by Our Special Artist, E. S. Hall”, “The War in Virginia - Rebel Batteries Near Lee's Mills, Warwick River, Scene of the Battle of the 16th of April from a sketch by our special artist, E. S. Hall”, and “The Army before Richmond - General Keyes's Division Crossing the Chickahominy River, May 28, Over Bottom's Bridge, and a Supplementary Bridge Built by the Engineer Corps of the National Army - From a Sketch by Our Special Artist, E. S. Hall” best exemplify the stylistic similarities to the unknown Baltimore works. These works show the trademark diagonal recession lines, often framed by architectural elements, the same architectural clarity and crispness, and the attention to detail in human and horse figures displayed in the unknown Baltimore works.  Because two of the unknowns were published in Frank Leslie’s the previous summer, it is possible to make a stylistic match because the medium and transfer process of a drawing into a woodblock print would be the same for all of the works.

In addition to working for Frank Leslie’s, Hall also provided the seven illustrations for A Christmas Dream, by James T. Brady. This was a limited release book intended for friends of the author and was published by D. Appleton & Co. in New York City, 1861. Although these illustrations are much different in theme and execution, because Hall was not pressed for time to get the most accurate Civil War events recorded and to the newspaper, there are certain similarities in the overall style and approach to figures and scenes. The figures are well defined and executed. Much attention is paid to detail, and line and shading are both used to define figures. The illustration on page twelve, which shows a horse-drawn carriage, is notable for the horse and driver. The driver strongly resembles the detailed figures included in several of the “Baltimore unknowns” in the execution of this figure and details the artist finds necessary to include. The horse too has a grace and daintiness that resembles the horses in the “Baltimore unknowns” and Hall’s published works of 1862. The forelegs are bent forward as if the horse is prancing rather than galloping.

A second illustration found on page seven of this book more firmly connects these illustrations to the Baltimore unknowns. In this illustration, two figures are shown on a street corner on a snowy Christmas night. A lamppost to the left of the illustration is identical to the lampposts in the Disembarkation of Two Ohio Regiments and People of Baltimore. Furthermore, the recession of the city street behind the lamppost is set exactly like the Disembarkation. The street recedes on the same angle and the architecture is crisp. Even the outline of a chimney on one of the buildings reflects the same tambour and technique. The similarities between these two works may indicate either Hall’s training or his preferences for laying out a scene. That Hall would have constructed a Civil War drawing as he had an earlier illustration may indicate a type that he preferred or that, when pressed for time to get drawings to his publisher, he used compositions he was already familiar with and knew he could create quickly and competently.

Although ideally one wishes that Hall signed the unknown works or was credited in the newspapers for his work, the aforesaid arguments provide the best evidence that he is the artist of the cache of Baltimore unknowns. A leading expert, W. Fletcher Thompson places him in Baltimore, covering the events unfolding with the occupation. The unknowns come from this city during the same time period and are clearly by a Leslie’s artist. Stylistically, the works correspond perfectly to Hall’s known works from both before and after the summer of 1861, through comparisons to his illustrations in A Christmas Dream and his work for the Illustrated Newspaper in 1862. For these reasons, it is both logical and reasonable that Edward S. Hall is the artist of the seven works in the Becker Collection.

 

Appendix

Figure 1

Figure 1. Disembarkation of Two Ohio Regiments. From the Becker Collection

Figure 2

Figure 2. Fort McHenry.  From Becker the Collection.

Figure 3

Figure 3. Occupation of Baltimore [2]. From the Becker Collection.

Figure 4

Figure 4. Federal Hill, Baltimore. From the Becker Collection.

Figure 5

Figure 5. The Occupation of Baltimore [1]. From the Becker Collection.

Figure 6

Figure 6. People of Baltimore witnessing the Erection of the Fortifications by Warren Zouaves. From the Becker Collection.

Figure 7

Figure 7. Officers Mess and Tent. From the Becker Collection.