Appletons' Cyclopædia of American Biography/Lossing, Benson John

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LOSSING, Benson John, author, b. in Beekman, Dutchess co., N. Y., 12 Feb., 1813; d. in Dover Plains, in the same county, 3 June, 1891. After attending school, Benson was apprenticed to a watchmaker in Poughkeepsie, who, when he had served nearly seven years, took him into partnership. Two years later he became joint proprietor and editor of the Poughkeepsie “Telegraph,” and in 1836 he began with his partner the publication of a literary journal called the “Poughkeepsie Casket.” Mr. Lossing placed himself under the instruction of a wood-engraver in New York, became an engraver on wood, and was engaged in 1838 by the publisher of the “Family Magazine” to become its editor and illustrator. He performed this service for the last two of the eight volumes of this the earliest fully illustrated American magazine. In 1839 he established himself in New York as a professional wood-engraver, a craft that had then but three practitioners besides himself in the city, and two years later he severed his business connection with the Poughkeepsie publications. In 1848 he matured the plan of his principal work, the “Pictorial Field-Book of the Revolution,” which was published in thirty illustrated numbers (New York, 1850-'2). For twenty years Mr. Lossing was a frequent contributor of illustrated papers to Harper's “Magazine.” For the London “Art Journal” he prepared a series of articles descriptive of the scenery, history, and legends of the Hudson river, which were published, with illustrations from his sketches, in that monthly in 1860-'1, and afterward in a volume entitled “The Hudson, from the Wilderness to the Sea” (New York, 1866). From the papers, letters, and orderly books of Gen. Philip Schuyler he prepared “The Life and Times of Philip Schuyler” (2 vols., New York, 1860; new ed., 1880). Early in 1862 he began the compilation of a “Pictorial Field-Book of the Civil War in the United States,” which was issued in three illustrated volumes (vol. i., Philadelphia, 1866; vols. ii. and iii., Hartford, 1869). On its completion he prepared a “Pictorial Field-Book of the War of 1812” (New York, 1868). Since 1868 Mr. Lossing resided on a farm near Dover Plains, Dutchess co., N. Y. In 1873 he received from Michigan university the degree of LL. D. In 1872-'5 he edited the “American Historical Record and Repository of Notes and Queries,” published in Philadelphia. Besides the works already mentioned he was the author of “Outline History of the Fine Arts” (New York, 1841); “Lives of the Presidents of the United States” (1847); “Seventeen Hundred and Seventy-Six, or the War for Independence” (1847); “Life of Gen. Zachary Taylor” (1847); “Life of Gen. Winfield Scott” (1847); “The New World” (1847); “Lives of the Signers of the Declaration of Independence” (1848); an illustrated “History of the United States for Schools” (1854), which was followed by the other volumes of a graded series; “Biographies of Eminent Americans” (1855); “Mount Vernon and its Associations” (1859); “Life of Washington,” illustrated (1860); “Vassar College and its Founder” (1867); “Pictorial Description of Ohio” (1869); “Memorial of Lieut. John Trout Greble ” (printed privately, 1870); an illustrated “Memoir of Dr. Alexander Anderson,” the first engraver on wood in America, published by the New York historical society (1870); a “History of England” for schools (1871); a large history of the United States entitled “Our Country,” with 500 illustrations by Felix O. C. Darley (3 vols., 1873); an illustrated work on the progress of industries in the United States between 1776 and 1876, entitled “The American Centenary” (Philadelphia, 1876); “Story of the United States Navy for Boys” (New York, 1880); “Cyclopædia of United States History,” with over 1,000 illustrations (1881); “Biography of James A. Garfield” (1881); an illustrated “History of New York City” (1884); “Mary and Martha Washington” (1886); “Two Spies: Nathan Hale and John André” (1886); and “The Empire State, a Compendious History of the Commonwealth of New York” (1887). Mr. Lossing annotated Francis Hopkinson's “Pretty Story,” with a biography of the author of the allegory, which was published under the title of “The Old Farm and the New Farm” (New York, 1857). With Edwin Williams he compiled the “Statesman's Manual” (4 vols., 1858) and the “National History of the United States ” (2 vols., 1858). He also edited and annotated the “Diaries of Washington” (1859), and the “Recollections and Private Memoirs of Washington,” by George W. P. Custis (1860), edited the “Poems” of William Wilson, with an accompanying biography (Poughkeepsie, 1869), and prepared an edition of John Trumbull's “McFingal,” with a life (New York, 1871).