Torn in Two: the 150th Anniversary of the Civil War A Public Exhibition at the Grolier Club

  • Currier & Ives.  The True Issue or “Thats Whats the Matter”.  New York, 1864.  Lithograph.  Collection Norman B.  Leventhal Map Center at the Boston Public Library.

    Currier & Ives. The True Issue or “Thats Whats the Matter”. New York, 1864. Lithograph. Collection Norman B. Leventhal Map Center at the Boston Public Library.

The Grolier Club is pleased to present a groundbreaking exhibition that explores and illuminates the causes, conduct, and historical record of the Civil War through maps and other historic items.  Torn in Two: 150th Anniversary of the Civil War, organized by The Norman B. Leventhal Map Center at the Boston Public Library, commemorates this major event in America's history.  It opens to the public on February 22, 2012.  "Although cartographic material has played an important role in many past Grolier Club exhibitions, Torn in Two is the first large-scale public show in the Grolier Club's 128-year history to tell a story exclusively in maps," comments Eric Holzenberg, director, The Grolier Club.

This unique presentation – which is on view through April 28th before continuing on its national tour –  showcases 50 historical objects including maps, photographs, prints, political cartoons, letters, autographs, and press of the period.  The overarching theme of the exhibition is the central role geography has played in the events leading up to the war, the ensuing battles, and the memorialization of the American Civil War.  "Prior to the conflict, few adequate topographic maps existed for any of the major theaters of war.  While the armies rushed to remedy this situation, quickly mapping key areas, most of the maps by which we know individual battles were compiled after the war," notes exhibition curator Ronald Grim, curator,  Leventhal Map Center.

The exhibit is divided into three major sections: Rising Tensions, which will examine the economic, social, and political differences between the North and the South that led to war; Nation in Conflict, which will focus on the war itself; and Remembering Battles and Heroes, which will document the nation’s attempts to commemorate the battles and honor the lives that were lost during the war.

Included in this remarkable selection are rare examples of photographic images depicting 19th-century slave life, the first American demographic map which was one of Abraham Lincoln’s key resources during the war, and Ensign, Bridgman and Fanning’s United States railroad map which revealed the contrast between the newly industrialized, increasingly urban North and the agrarian, rural culture of the South.  Throughout the exhibition, the history of the national conflict is examined through the eyes of everyday citizens, helping to portray this most complex national schism in personal terms.

Torn in Two features a special emphasis on New York City that will challenge and engage visitors of all ages.  Of particular interest to New York audiences will be rare and original Civil War battle maps and diagrams that were published in newspapers such as The New York Times, The New York Herald and New York Tribune.  Also included is a spectacular 1854 “bird’s eye view” map of Manhattan and parts of Brooklyn published by Charles Parsons, so detailed that street patterns, church steeples and even chimney smoke are clearly visible, along with harbored ships in the distance. 

In conjunction with the exhibition, curatorial tours, lectures, and a panel discussion are planned.

About the Leventhal Map Center – The Map Center was established in 2004 as a public-private partnership between the Boston Public library and map collector-philanthropist, Norman Leventhal. The Map Center’s mission is to make the Library’s extensive collection of more than 200,000 historic maps and 5,000 atlases dating from the 15th century to the present accessible to the general public and to promote their creative use in research and scholarship, education, and civic engagement. In October 2011, the Map Center opened a permanent, state-of-the-art Map and Study Center on the first floor of the library’s historic McKim Building in Copley Square, Boston.

A virtual exhibition of Torn in Two with digital images of all objects, as well as K-12 curriculum materials and educational resources based on the exhibition’s themes, are offered on the Leventhal Map Center’s website, and at

About the Grolier Club - Founded in 1884 by Robert Hoe and eight colleagues, The Grolier Club of New York is America's oldest bibliographic society.  It is a unique mix of private club and not-for-profit cultural institution and its mission is to promote the book arts through scholarly exhibitions, publications, and —most significantly—an expansive research library on the history of books and printing.


Torn in Two is sponsored by the Liberty Mutual Insurance Company.


LOCATION AND TIME: Torn in Two is on view at the Grolier Club, 47 East 60  Street, New York, from Feb. 22 – April 28, 2012. The exhibit is open to the public free of charge, Monday – Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Additional information and directions are available at 


CATALOGUE: A fully-illustrated 170-page catalog of Torn in Two, published by the Boston Public Library, is available at the Grolier Club.


May 15 – July 28, 2012. Aaron Burr Returns to New York: An Exhibition on Burr and His Contemporaries.

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