The Graduate Center - City University of New York

"Explosion of the 'Merrimac,' or any other ship."

The claims made by the pictorial press about the authenticity and accuracy of their war news illustrations were challenged by some critics (not to mention by the illustrated weeklies, themselves, which were not above charging one another with accusations of invention and misrepresentation). The weekly humor magazine Vanity Fair took particular pleasure in satirizing the pictorial newsweeklies' "eyewitness" war coverage. One cartoon showed an "on the spot" special artist sitting in his comfortable office sketching toy soldiers for a battle scene. This illustrated piece, published in May 1862, lampooned both the news engravings and accompanying descriptions that purported to depict explosions and other catastrophic incidents that, by their very unpredictability, were not likely to have been directly witnessed by an artist-reporter. Started in 1859, Vanity Fair went out of business in July 1863.

Creator: Henry L. Stephens

Date: May 31, 1862

Publisher: Vanity Fair

Source: HarpWeek