1812: A Nation Emerges
Sidney Hart and Rachael L. Penman. Washington: Smithsonian Institution Scholarly Press, 2012. 296 pp. Illus. Notes. Bibliog. Index. $50.
Reviewed by Gale Munro
As part of its remembrance of the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812, the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery produced a definitive exhibition of portraits, art, and artifacts titled 1812: A Nation Emerges, and this book is its catalog—albeit an extremely lavish, hardbound, collectible one. Reaching beyond their own museum’s impressive collection, authors-curators Sidney Hart and Rachael L. Penman searched federal, international, and lesser-known sources to create an assemblage on the subject that would be impossible to equal. Their underlying thesis is that while the war may have been unnecessary in origin and doubtful in tangible impact, it gave our new nation a unifying identity.