Spirit of ’76

Spirit of '76

Tompkins Harrison Matteson. “The Spirit of – 76.” Philadelphia, 1862. Mezzotint and etching on steel by H.S. Sadd. 15 7/8 x 19. Framed with antique gold-leaf frame, with image bright and crisp.

A classic picture of the soldier gallantly going off to war for family and country. The man of the family accepts a rifle from his elderly father and a sword from his mother. His distraught wife kneels before him while buckling his belt, and his eldest child holds his powder horn. His infant child sleeps in the arms of a nursemaid who holds a copy of the Declaration of Independence, while in the left background a soldier comes to the door bearing the call to arms. Implements of domestic life are scattered about the house interior to signify that they are to be left behind.

This print was published when the American Civil War was completing its second year, and the toll of death and destruction was making recruitment of troops more difficult. Reminding the populace of the heroism of the revolution that founded the country was a way to illustrate the necessity of continuing the heroism. We have seen this picture in later printings, but never before with the notation that it was given by newsboys to subscribers. Customarily given at Christmas time, the print would have been designed to encourage recruitment to military service with the intention to enlist and train men and boys for the coming Spring campaigns. A fascinating look at a patriotic appeal to not only Philadelphians but all Americans during the Civil War.