The inspiration behind “The Becker Collection” Web site is Sheila Gallagher, but the collection itself exists because of her great-great-grandfather Joseph Becker, who worked for Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper during the war. Becker sketched battles, camp life and more. After the war, Becker continued his work for Leslie’s in the West, eventually becoming the paper’s art director. He preserved most of his sketches and those of other artists, nearly 700 drawings, which remained in the family’s private collection until 1998, when Gallagher began a project to interpret them for a larger audience. (Check out “Seeing the War Firsthand,” in the February 2010 issue.)
Gallagher and Judith Bookbinder, the collection’s co-directors, point out that the published images were noticeably different from the sketches, which often included directions for the editors. They encourage scholars, educators and students to use the images for lectures and research (though all are restricted from publishing or using the material for profit in any way).
The Becker Collection is an outstanding resource. Anyone interested in everyday life during the war, as well as American art and journalism, will discover a wealth of unplumbed detail to explore in this site.
Originally published in the April 2010 issue of Civil War Times. To subscribe, click here.