Ammoniacal gas engine, New Orleans streetcar,
accession number 1965.90.51,
The Historic New Orleans Collection
Alfred Rudolph Waud (1828-1891) achieved prominence as a "special artist" for national periodicals during the second half of the 19th century. The London-born Waud’s specialty was producing drawings-from quick sketches to finished works-of places, people, and events assigned to him by editors. These drawings were the basis for wood-engraved illustrations in the periodicals published by his employers. In the decades preceding the use of the photographic halftone as the preferred method of reproduction in magazines and newspapers, Waud’s keen eye and deft pencil strokes were the means by which many Americans experienced episodes of the Civil War and visualized the cities and towns of mid-America.
Waud worked in Louisiana on at least two occasions following the 1866 assignment with Harper’s: in 1871 (for the short-lived Boston publication Every Saturday) and 1872 (for D. Appleton Publishing Company). The works reproduced in this online collection are from these three post-Civil War excursions. Waud’s drawings of the Crescent City from his 1866 visit show the South’s major metropolis physically untouched by the ravages of war. His New Orleans is one of charm, bustling activity, and sights and customs that must have seemed odd, at least in part, to his readers in the Northeast.
New Orleans’s stature as the major city of the Mississippi River came into greater focus, for readers, as a result of Waud’s assignment for Every Saturday. He and writer Ralph Keeler arrived in New Orleans by train and traveled the Mississippi by steamboat to St. Louis, recording their experiences in a series of illustrated articles. The travelogue is fascinating, comprising broad impressions of cities and towns as well as detailed profiles of people encountered along the way. Although Waud and Keeler intended to trace the Mississippi all the way to its source in Minnesota, they were diverted in October of 1871 to cover the great Chicago fire-and the northern leg of the trip upriver was never completed.
Sketches made by Waud after further travels appeared in William Cullen Bryant’s Picturesque America, published by D. Appleton in 1872. A series of engraved proofs from this work is part of this collection. Alfred Waud died in 1891 in Marietta, Georgia, while sketching southern battlefields of the Civil War.