Detecting Civil War Newspaper Reproductions

A Collector Information Web Page Provided by
Phil Barber, Cambridge, Mass. 02139 Telephone (617) 492-4653


Reproductions of Civil War Newspapers

Over the years, reproductions have been made of some American newspapers originally printed during the Civil War. Virtually without exception, they were produced as historical souvenirs. It was never intended that these papers would be mistaken for genuine 1860's newspapers. With the passage of time, the facts of their origins have been forgotten, and many are now passed, usually in good faith, as genuine.

Some of the earliest of these souvenir editions appeared at G.A.R. reunions in the early 1880's, as memory dimmed the horror of the conflict and nostalgia for "the good old days" grew in the aging veterans of the great war. Many more would be produced as patriotic souvenirs as the nineteenth century continued on, and into the early twentieth century. The period of 1911 - 15 saw reprints to mark the 50 year anniversary of the war.

During the Civil War Centennial, which began in 1961, a large number of reproductions of Civil War papers was printed. As a personal aside, I bought several packets of them myself, as a boy of eleven, little imagining that one day I would handle a great many original!.

Detecting Reprints: Some Basic Clues.

Bearing in mind, as noted, that imitations of Civil War newspapers were not made to deceive collectors, there is no difficulty in distinguishing a reprint from an original. Layout and paper are the major points of authentication.

There are two methods for reproducing old newspapers. Before the advent of modern printing techniques, imitations would be typeset by hand; that is, all the words in the original text were reproduced, letter by letter, in hand-set type. It is inevitable that errors of spelling and/or punctuation would creep into such papers, and these are readily discernible from originals. There is often rearrangement of blocks of texts, and insertion of illustrations and other embellishments that could not have been produced in the 1860s due to the technological limitations of printing presses of that era.

The second and more common method of reproduction is by the photomechanical process; that is, a photograph is taken of an original paper, These also are easily detected. Generally the printing is much more indistinct and the paper is modern woodpulp rather than the rag linen of genuine 1860's newspapers.

Here are some simple diagnostics for determining authenticity

  • Title and Date. Please refer to my listings below. If you have one of the listed issues it is almost certainly a reproduction. The exception to this generalization are the listed dates of Harper's Weekly and the New York Times. Originals are abundant and highly collectible in the collector market today, even after the passage of almost 150 years. This is particularly relevant in the case of the Harper's, which was originally printed in huge numbers for nationwide circulation, and was widely saved by the public.

  • Brittle, crumbling, browned, or yellowing paper. This is the quickest key to identify a fake. If the paper feels like modern newsprint, it is a fake.

The Most Commonly Reproduced Issues.

Here is a table of the most commonly encountered reproductions of Civil War era newspapers. I have complied this list from issues which I have examined personally and others that have been publicized by other dealers and collectors. While this list should not be considered the final listing of all reprints, it does contain all those commonly encountered in today's marketplace.

If you have one of these issues, it would be well to assume that it is a reproduction until it has been competently authenticated. In many cases, tens of thousands of the reprints are in existence, while surviving populations of original issues can often be measured in dozens, at most. In my lengthy experience, general antique sellers, book dealers, and local librarians cannot be relied upon to provide informed expert opinion in this field.

A good many of these reproductions were printed before 1900, so they do look and feel "old". They differ greatly, however, from the originals, chiefly in the type of paper they were printed on, as well as often exhibiting added embellishments, incorrect typefaces, and printing techniques not appropriate to the 1860's. Most of the reproductions are immediately obvious to the experienced hand and eye.

If you know of any other titles and dates not on this listing, please let us know for inclusion in future updates.

Charleston Mercury Extra December 201860
Savannah News January 241861
Charleston Mercury Extra April 131861
Chicago Tribune April 231861
Macon Daily Telegraph May 151861
First Minnesotan March 111862
Berryville Conservator [Virginia] March 121862
The Rebel [Chattanooga, Tenn.] August 091862
Providence Evening Bulletin January 261863
Boston Herald (Sunday ed.) February 091863
Boston Herald (Sunday ed.) March 081863
Lynchburg Virginian May 131863
Daily Citizen [Vicksburg Miss. July 021863*
Union Volunteer [Louisville Ky.] July 121863
Boston Herald (Sunday ed.) July 261863
The Southern Confederacy [Atlanta, Ga.]    October 021863
Philadelphia Inquirer April 101865
New York Herald April 151865**

*Reproductions of this issue are very common. Visit my collector information page here for full details about them.
** This is the commonest reprint of a Civil War era newspaper. Millions were printed, most in the late 1800's. Click here for my collector information page with full details of the fakes and the genuine editions.

Modern Reproductions.

These papers are of more recent vintage, generally dating from the Centennial observance years of the 1960's and including more recent copies from the 1980's and 1990's. A number of them are currently on sale at Civil War battlefield gift shops.

Harper's Weekly January 121861
Harper's Weekly March 161861
New York Herald April 131861
New York Tribune April 151861
New York Times April 151861
Harper's Weekly April 271861
Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper    April 271861
Harper's Weekly May 41861
New York Tribune June 231861
Harper's Weekly June 281862
New York Times September 231862
Southern Illustrated News November 81862
Southern Illustrated News March 261863
Harper's Weekly June 201863
New York Times July 61863
New York Times July 161863
Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper July 251863
New York Times November 201863
Harper's Weekly July 21864
Harper's Weekly August 201864
New York Times September 31864
New York Times November 091864
Harper's Weekly March 181865
New York Times April 101865
Philadelphia Inquirer April 101865
New York Times April 141865
New York Times April 151865
Harper's Weekly April 291865
Philadelphia Inquirer April 291865
Harper's Weekly May 61865
Harper's Weekly May 131865
Philadelphia Inquirer July 81865

Harper's Weekly and Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper

In addition to the dates listed above, which are mostly not marked as reproductions, the entire series of Harper's Weekly from January of 1860 through December of 1869 have been reprinted in recent years. Each is marked "the reissue of" in small letters above the Nameplate, and is printed on modern newsprint. They are sometimes found bound into annual volumes, in red cloth. The same company also reproduced every issue of Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper From January 1860 through December 1867. These issues are likewise marked "the reissue of." The value of these is a dollar or less, as curiosities.

See also my collector information pages on
  • The Ulster County Gazette of January 4, 1800, another extremely common old newspaper reproduction.
  • The Honolulu Star-Bulletin of December 7, 1941, the most common modern newspaper replica.
  • I hope you have found this page useful and informative. Please let me know what you liked about this page or how it could be improved. Thanks for your feedback!

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