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The Gettysburg Cyclorama opened to the public in Chicago on October 22, 1883, to critical acclaim. General John Gibbon, one of the commanders of the Union forces who repelled Pickett's Charge, was among the veterans of the battle who gave it favorable reviews. So realistic was the painting that many veterans of the war were reported to have wept upon seeing it.

The Chicago exhibition was sufficiently successful to prompt businessman Charles L. Willoughby to commission a second version, which opened in Boston, Massachusetts, on December 22, 1884. From its opening until 1892, approximately 200,000 people viewed the painting. The Boston version was housed in a specially designed building, the Cyclorama Building, on Tremont Street, and was the site of popular public lectures on the battle. Two additional copies of the Gettysburg Cyclorama were made: the third was exhibited in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, beginning in February 1886 and a fourth in Brooklyn, New York, in October 1886.

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