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Charles Magnus & Company
Date: 1854–1900
Charles Magnus
Remarks: Charles Magnus was a print publisher, map dealer, bookseller and stationer working in New York City from 1850 to 1899 who issued over a thousand different letter sheets, maps, song sheets, envelopes, and separate prints. His best known works were city views and Civil War related material. Much of his work was copied from other printmakers. He often altered or combined design elements from several sources, rarely crediting the original artist. Many of his works after 1865 were based on photographs, which he often altered, drawing in figures or re-drawing lines for clearer reproduction. Magnus was born Julian Carl Magnus in Elberfeld, Germany, and emigrated with his family to New York City, arriving on August 28, 1848. He worked with his older brother Carl Emil, the publisher of the German language weekly Deutsche Schnellpost, in the early 1850s, learning the printing business. He married Christina (or Christiana, maiden surname unknown), and they had three children, at least one of whom moved to Germany. His early work includes pictorial letter sheets illustrated with city views or newsworthy events such as railroad and ship disasters. The images were used repeatedly, with additions of new buildings, bridges, etc., drawn in to keep the picture current. During the 1850s he also printed and published lithographed maps, often incorporating city views and decorations similar to those in the letter sheets. During the Civil War, Magnus produced around 700 patriotic envelopes and over 300 illustrated song sheets. He used images of allegorical figures, battle scenes, political cartoons, portraits and state emblems, frequently using the same images in different combinations. After the war, he expanded his work to include prints, games, reward of merit cards, and advertising and custom printing. Throughout his career, he relied on similar images and techniques. He continued to use the lithographic process and hand coloring even after most printers had turned to photomechanical processes. -Winterthur Library