Figure 1: Pulaski
The tendency of publishers such as Walker to employ shortcuts such as copying illustrations from other works of history instead of commissioning original compositions had an obvious and negative impact on Frost’s Pictorial History of the United States. Walker appropriated images without fear of retribution, because there were no copyright laws regarding the use of visual materials in the 1840s. He knew it was much easier for engravers to make adjustments to plates that were already prepared than it was to commission and execute original works of art for the book industry. Consequently, engraver B. F. Waitt was encouraged to adapt an earlier illustration depicting the death of a Prussian soldier in the Seven Years’ War in Europe for Franz Kugler’s biography Geschichte Friedrichs des Grossen (published in Leipzig in 1840) for use in Frost’s Pictorial History to render pictorially the death of Polish mercenary soldier Casimir Pulaski at the Siege of Savannah during the American Revolution. [Image 18]
By superimposing the uniforms of Prussian soldiers on Revolutionary officers, Waitt did more than shamelessly modify a preexisting image; he also distorted the historical record by implying that the military strategies and accouterments of war in Europe in the 1750s were interchangeable with those of America in the 1770s. [Image 19] Frost perpetuated the misconception by transitioning directly in his narrative from the Seven Years’ War to the American Revolution without adequate discussion of the intervening years. This incident and others like it suggest Walker’s unwillingness in Frost’s Pictorial History to incur the expense of commissioning original drawings where adaptable images (no matter how unsuited) presented themselves for use.