HarpWeek: Explore History
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Created and published by John Adler.
Reviewed Oct. 10–Dec. 14, 2002.

Harpweek is an archival site that includes every issue of the famous weekly published by Harper’s between 1857 (when it originated) and 1912, as well as useful essays that provide historical and biographical context. The site is still under construction, but much of the archive is complete. All issues up to 1901 are now included. By September 2003, all issues will be completed and the archive will extend from 1857 to 1912. The site is gated, but there is currently a substantial amount of free material available; that can be quite useful for getting the flavor of this archive for those who might be interested in purchasing access to the entire collection.

The archive’s publisher is John Adler, who founded an advertising research business and acquired a complete set of Harper’s Weekly (1857 to 1916). During retirement he began to have the journal manually indexed. As he states in his “publisher’s letter”, the purpose of indexing Harper’s Weekly is to provide the reader a friendly way to access all of this important material. Readers not familiar with nineteenth-century language and history would certainly gain from having an index that is easy to navigate, that translates nineteenth-century language into twentieth-century categories, and that organizes a wealth of material in ways that are easy to understand and access.

A few examples may illustrate the value of this Web-based archive. Students of cultural history can examine nineteenth-century advertising history and have access to every advertisement printed in Harper’s Weekly organized around the categories of Consumer Goods, Farm Land, Foreign Travel, Insurance, Retailers, and Souvenirs. One can click onto an article about Harper’s advertising published in Advertising Age or click onto one of the sample advertisements under labels such as “Most interesting ad,” "Most creative advertiser,“ and ”Most impressive agency ad.“ For political historians there is a presidential elections site and ”The Impeachment of Andrew Johnson“ (there is access in the free section to two hundred excerpts of Harper’s coverage of the Johnson impeachment from 1865 to 1869). One can examine the 1860 election, click onto Harper’s political cartoons with accompanying explanations, and examine the issues, central events, and key biographies of that presidential election. Of particular interest in the archive are the illustrations and political cartoons of Winslow Homer and Thomas Nast, Harper’s coverage of the antebellum debate over slavery, the complete collection of George William Curtis’s editorials, Harper’s editorials and news stories criticizing corporate power during the early 1890s, and coverage of the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago and the Pullman strike of 1894. For students of literature, all of Harper’s Weekly poetry, travel narratives, and fiction are also indexed. There are multiple ways of searching for materials organized into seventeen features of the magazine, including all issues, all illustrations, news stories, maps, fiction, advertisements, travel narratives, and editorials, among others. Moreover, there is an educational section (Eric Rothschild, consultant) that includes instructional materials on ”The Ku Klux Klan Hearings,“ "The Impeachment of Andrew Johnson,” "The Civil War Illustrations Activity: Why Did the North Win the Civil War?,“ and ”The Reconstruction Convention Simulation."

This Web-based archive is easy to navigate and comprehensive, and it makes good uses of the medium. While I think it is primarily of value to students and teachers, scholars in history, literature, and cultural studies will also find it helpful in their work.

Matthew Schneirov
Duquesne University
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania