Torn in Two: The 150th anniversary of the Civil War at the Grolier Club

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Torn in Two: The 150th anniversary of the Civil War at the Grolier Club
Currier & Ives, The True Issue or “Thats Whats the Matter”. New York, 1864. Lithograph. Collection Norman B. Leventhal Map Center at the Boston Public Library.

NEW YORK, NY.- The Grolier Club presents a groundbreaking exhibition that explores and illuminates the causes, conduct, and historical record of the Civil War through maps and other historic items. Torn in Two: 150th Anniversary of the Civil War, organized by The Norman B. Leventhal Map Center at the Boston Public Library, commemorates this major event in America's history. "Although cartographic material has played an important role in many past Grolier Club exhibitions, Torn in Two is the first large-scale public show in the Grolier Club's 128-year history to tell a story exclusively in maps," comments Eric Holzenberg, director, The Grolier Club.

This unique presentation – which is on view through April 28th before continuing on its national tour – showcases 50 historical objects including maps, photographs, prints, political cartoons, letters, autographs, and press of the period. The overarching theme of the exhibition is the central role geography has played in the events leading up to the war, the ensuing battles, and the memorialization of the American Civil War. "Prior to the conflict, few adequate topographic maps existed for any of the major theaters of war. While the armies rushed to remedy this situation, quickly mapping key areas, most of the maps by which we know individual battles were compiled after the war," notes exhibition curator Ronald Grim, curator, Leventhal Map Center.

The exhibit is divided into three major sections: Rising Tensions, which examines the economic, social, and political differences between the North and the South that led to war; Nation in Conflict, which focuses on the war itself; and Remembering Battles and Heroes, which documents the nation’s attempts to commemorate the battles and honor the lives that were lost during the war.

Included in this remarkable selection are rare examples of photographic images depicting 19th-century slave life, the first American demographic map which was one of Abraham Lincoln’s key resources during the war, and Ensign, Bridgman and Fanning’s United States railroad map which revealed the contrast between the newly industrialized, increasingly urban North and the agrarian, rural culture of the South. Throughout the exhibition, the history of the national conflict is examined through the eyes of everyday citizens, helping to portray this most complex national schism in personal terms.

Torn in Two features a special emphasis on New York City that challenges and engages visitors of all ages. Of particular interest to New York audiences are rare and original Civil War battle maps and diagrams that were published in newspapers such as The New York Times, The New York Herald and New York Tribune. Also included is a spectacular 1854 “bird’s eye view” map of Manhattan and parts of Brooklyn published by Charles Parsons, so detailed that street patterns, church steeples and even chimney smoke are clearly visible, along with harbored ships in the distance.

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Torn in Two: The 150th anniversary of the Civil War at the Grolier Club

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