Storming of the Engine-House by the United States Marines

November 5, 1859, page 712

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This illustration is one of several in Harper’s Weekly that depicts John Brown’s unsuccessful raid on the federal arsenal at Harper’s Ferry, Virginia (now West Virginia). Brown, a radical abolitionist previously involved in the violence of "Bleeding Kansas," had hoped to capture the arsenal and instigate a slave revolt. He and his co-conspirators were captured, tried, and hanged.

The coverage of John Brown’s raid was unusual for Harper’s Weekly since the newspaper usually shied away from the slavery issue so as not to alienate any of its national readership. Editor John Bonner, however, could not resist covering this breaking news story when one of Harper’s top writer-illustrators, David Hunter Strother (pen-name, Porte Crayon), was visiting near Harper’s Ferry and thus able to report the unfolding events. Harper’s Weekly used his illustrated stories in an attempt to sell more newspapers than its chief rival, Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper. The coverage, though, generated too much criticism for the cautious editor, so he censored Strother’s final report and illustration of the executions.


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