Then & Now
Emergence of New Tools for Communication
The Civil War marked the beginning of photography as a powerful tool for reporting the news. Photographs of battle scenes, like those taken by Matthew Brady and Alexander Gardner, relayed the conditions of war to those on the home front. More than one million photos of the Civil War offer some of the first documentation of warfare in this new format.
Weekly publications like Harpers Weekly and Frank Leslies Illustrated News also hired artists to capture battle front scenes. Artists like Winslow Homer, Theodore R. Davis, Henry Mosler and Alfred and William Waud crafted drawings on site and sent them back to New York where engravers transferred the sketches onto blocks of wood for printing. Political cartoonists like Thomas Nast, who was famous for developing the character of Uncle Sam, were also influential in shaping public opinion of the war.
Increased circulation and the need to print extra editions required improvements in the printing process. During the Civil War, rotary presses were introduced, and in 1863, the Philadelphia Inquirer became the first newspaper to use a web-perfecting press that allowed printing on both sides of a page in one feeding.
The term mass media truly took form during the Civil War, giving root to many of the methods and formats for present news that are still in use today. The media landscape was and continues to be ever evolving in response to the public's hunger for information and the advancements achieved in technology.
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