Images of the war come to Warren

At the Battle of Antietam in September 1862, the first true images of war were produced by photographer Alexander Gardner using a stereo camera. Gardner’s images were put on display at Mathew Brady’s Gallery in New York City. The public was shocked by the reality of the photographs. Newspapers of the day were unable to reproduce photographs and relied on artists’ woodcuts which were published in papers like Harper’s Weekly. Enterprising showmen produced traveling exhibits to tour in the North. Such a program was scheduled for presentation in Warren on Feb. 27 and 28 at Webb’s Hall on Main Street.

On this date in 1863, the Western Reserve Chronicle published a publicity story and advertisement for this event. Reporting that the exhibition was “highly spoken of by papers elsewhere,” the Chronicle reprinted an article from the Elmira (NY) Advertiser:

“The exhibition of Russell’s extensive and magnificent Panorama of the War gave the utmost satisfaction to a large and attentive audience. It gives a perfect and life-like view of the principal battles and incidents of the war, such as cannot be obtained in any other manner. None who appreciate good paintings, and an interesting rehearsal of the incidents connected therewith, will let the opportunity slip to see Russell’s magnificent Panorama.”

“The view of the city of Charleston is the most perfect production of art we ever witnessed; also the view of Baltimore was strikingly correct. The burning of Norfolk Navy Yard is a fine production. You can, as you gaze upon it, almost hear the fire as it burns and crackles through the dry timbers of those old line battleships. You see the masts falling, and can, in imagination, hear them as they splash upon the water. The artist has so truthfully portrayed the scenes of the battlefield that the observer can almost fancy himself a spectator of the real tragedy, and hear the roar of artillery and clash of arms.”

The Chronicle concluded, “If you wish to gain a comprehensive view of the war, and learn many of its interesting details, go and see Russell’s Panorama of the War.”

Webb’s Hall was built by Almon D. Webb in 1861. After the Great Warren Fire of 1860 had burned out most of the Main Street, Webb purchased the lot at 15-17 Main and erected a three story brick building, with store rooms at street level and office rooms in front on the second floor. The third floor, with a distinctive wrought-iron balcony overlooking Main, housed the opera hall with a 600 seat capacity. The stage with scenery occupied the west end of the auditorium. At the time, it was Warren’s only house of public entertainment with many traveling shows and entertainers appearing there along with local productions as well.

Almon D. Webb was active in civic affairs and served as mayor from 1863 through 1865. In the 1800s when the new opera house (later known as the Harris-Warren Movie Theatre) was built on High Street, Webb’s son, Peter L. Webb, was its manager. Peter L. Webb’s home is located at 352 Mahoning Ave. N.W.

Compiled by members of the CW150 Committee of Warren’s Sutliff Museum.