This is one of the deluge of patriotic images that poured from American presses in the early years of the Civil War. It provides a boater’s-eye view of the national capital as seen from the Potomac, extending from the Pennsylvania Avenue Bridge and the eastern edge of Georgetown, downstream to the mouth of the Anacostia River. Captions in the lower margin identify major landmarks, including the Washington Monument under construction, while a bit of narrative energy is added by the many boats plying the Potomac. According to Reps, “although exaggerating the size of the public buildings, it otherwise provides an accurate delineation of how Washington would have appeared to someone arriving in the city by boat.” (Reps, p. 162) The heights of the hills east of the city are greatly exaggerated, no doubt with an eye toward giving balance to the composition.
The view was issued folded accordion-style and tipped into an illustrated pocket folder. The folder, present here, features patriotic motifs including statues of Presidents Washington and Jackson on horseback, the Stars and Stripes, and soldiers in uniform, all in red, white, blue and gold set off by a dark background. Though somewhat crude in execution, the overall effect is wonderful.
The view was issued in 1862 by the Philadelphia lithographic firm of Lewis (or Louis) N. Rosenthal. Rosenthal
“was one of five brothers born in Poland. He was sent to London with his brother Simon to learn lithographic printing and later, about 1849, came to the United States and settled in Philadelphia. Shortly thereafter he formed a partnership with his brother Max, who had worked briefly for Napoleon Sarony. It was probably Max who drew the Washington panorama, since according to Max’s son, Lewis confined his activities to printing and publishing. The Rosenthal firm produced a large number of prints of the Civil War, as well as scenes of Philadelphia, and other lithographs.” (Reps, p. 147, n. 9)
The view is very, very rare, not surprising given its fragility. We have been able to locate institutional holdings only at the National Portrait Gallery and George Washington University, and the only sales record noted is a damaged example that sold on eBay in 2016 and is now in private hands.
OCLC 881523212 (George Washington University only, as of Nov. 2021). Reps, Washington on View, pp. 147, 160-163. Reps draws heavily from a much longer professional biography of the Rosenthal brothers in Peters, American on Stone, pp. 343-346.