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Celebrating Emancipation

Posted by [email protected] on January 15, 2013

Transparency displayed in Philadelphia to celebrate emancipation in Maryland

January 1, 2013 marks the 150th anniversary of the document now known as the Emancipation Proclamation.  Though its title suggests a simple executive order issued by the President, in fact the Emancipation Proclamation had a complex and fascinating evolution that is worthy of further discussion.  Bookseller and bibliographer Charles Francis Eberstadt set out to document its printing history, and in 1950 published a bibliography of every print copy of the proclamation made during the Civil War that he had identified, back to the first Cabinet discussions of the Preliminary Proclamation of Emancipation in July 1862.  Once Lincoln and his Cabinet finalized the text of the preliminary Proclamation of Emancipation, copies of the text were immediately printed in the leading newspapers the following day — September 23, 1862.  Plain text copies were also separately printed at the State Department, first for high level goverment officials and diplomats overseas who would have need of it, and then for the official State Department folio record.  The War Department had it printed, as General Order No. 139, for distribution to Union officers in the field.  A few privately issued copies were also printed, notably in Ohio and Massachusetts, between October and December of 1862.  But all of these early printings produced only the text of the proclamation.  After January 1, 1863, celebrations of the end of slavery began in earnest, and printings of the Emancipation Proclamation began to take on a growing range of decorative elements, some quite large and elaborate, others smaller and intended to be kept sedately carried in a pocket.  Eberstadt was kind enough to provide a set of photstats of all of the copies of the Emancipation Proclamation he had identified to the Hay Library for its McLellan Lincoln Collection, to supplement our large collection of original decorative printings.  These materials are available to interested researchers, both at the Hay Library and online in our Lincoln Broadsides collection.


William H. Pratt's calligraphic Emancipation Proclamation as a portrait of Lincoln (Eberstadt 40)

Emancipation Proclamation by Rufus Blanchard (Chicago 1864)

Pocket edition of Emancipation Proclamation with decorations (Eberstadt 18 variant)

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