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CNN's Abby Phillip's video Where the fight for the Black vote really started | History Refocused at about the 6 minute mark during a discussion of reconstruction, a work of art is shown during narration, called Bateman's National Picture; Black-and-white reproduction of an illustration of an allegorical representation of Reconstruction, c.1867 See also Smithsonian Museum of American History's Reconstruction.

The caption at the bottom of the engraving says:

Entered according to Act of Congress in the year 1867 by Horatio Bateman, in the Clerks Office of the District Court of the U.S. for the S. District of N.Y.

Question: What 1867 act of US congress entered this painting for the Southern District of New York? What did this act of congress actually do?

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1 Answer 1

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There was no 1867 Act of Congress relating to this specific print. The Act referred to is actually an 1802 amendment to the Copyright Act of 1790, section one of which provides the wording to be included in a map, chart, or book in order to claim copyright:

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That every person who shall, from and after the first day of January next, claim to be the author or proprietor of any maps, charts, book or books, and shall thereafter seek to obtain a copyright of the same [...] shall cause the following words to be impressed on the face thereof, viz: "Entered according to act of Congress, the __ day of 18___ (here insert the date when the same was deposited in the office) by A. B. of the state of _____ (here insert the author's or proprietor's name and the state in which he resides.)

Section two of the amendment applies the same rules to prints. The effect of the Act was to prescribe the rules by which an author or proprietor could claim copyright - this lasted for 14 years, renewable for an additional 14 years if the copyright holder was still alive.

In the Copyright Act of 1831 (page 437), the wording was amended to that included on this specific print; "Entered according to act of Congress, in the year ____ ,by A. B., in the clerk's office of the district court of ______". The date 1867 in the inscription therefore just refers to the year the work was copyrighted.

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    Interesting! So that’s basically a “long form” copyright mark and of no particular notability beyond that?
    – uhoh
    Feb 17 at 11:39
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    @uhoh yep, exactly - the option to just write 'Copyright' instead of the long-form was introduced by an 1874 amendment to the 1870 Copyright Act.
    – CDJB
    Feb 17 at 11:43
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    @uhoh you seem to have misread "according to" as meaning "by."
    – phoog
    Feb 17 at 17:41
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    @phoog yes I think you are right, and I also assigned " in the year 1867" to "act of Congress" rather than to "entered". It seems I was parsing in my own private Idaho?
    – uhoh
    Feb 17 at 20:20
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    @uhoh once you interpret "according to" as "by," the misinterpretation of the year follows very naturally :-)
    – phoog
    Feb 18 at 17:55

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