That factor drives much of the current divisiveness that festers across the
USA. Many people, if not most, don’t
really like to see major changes that impact or may impact their way of live. The fact is, that wherever you live, change
is always on the horizon and its progression is virtually unstoppable.
brings me to my topic for this post… One of my mother’s books that came into my
possession when she passed in 1995 is entitled “Currier and Ives’
America”. It’s “A Panorama of the
mid-nineteenth century scene”. The book which
was published in 1952 includes 80 prints in full color. These 80 prints present a view of American
life in the 1800s, albeit sometimes looking through rose colored glasses. The prints provide glimpses of “the way it
was” that are nostalgic, idealistic, unrealistic, and that are often out of
tune with today’s views.
20 sections included in this copy of the original Currier and Ives prints. The above print was published in 1868 and
it’s entitled “The Four Seasons of Life – Middle Age (The Season of Strength).
In the book it is preceded by Childhood (The Season of Joy) and Youth (the
Season of Love…and its followed by Old Age (The Season of Rest).
Currier and Ives was a very successful printmaking company that was based in
New York City from 1835 until 1907. The
firm produced prints from paintings by talented and often renowned artists as
black and white lithographs that were then hand colored. In this case the artist was Charles Parsons
(1821 – 1910) and the talented lithographer was Lyman W. Atwater. (1835 – 1891)
series in my book is entitled “Winter Pastimes”. This particular depiction of winter fun has a
lot going on…a sleigh ride, ice skating, sledding and some form of stick
ball. The original lithograph by Frances
Flora Bond Palmer was published in 1855.
Palmer (1812 – 1876) was an English artist who became quite successful in the USA
as a lithographer for Currier and Ives.
She specialized in rural farm scenes, famous American ships,
architecture, hunters and Western landscapes.
prints in the Winter Pastimes series are: “American Winter Sports” (Trout
Fishing “On Chateaugay Lake”); “Ice-Boat Race on the Hudson”, and; “The Sleigh
idyllic print is entitled “American Country Life – October Afternoon". It is yet another Fanny Palmer lithograph and
it was first published in 1855. This
print is part of “The Country Gentleman” series in my book. The others included under American Country
Life are “May Morning", Summer's Evening”, and “Pleasures of Winter”.
prints could be reproduced quickly and they cost much to create either. Currier and Ives called itself “the Grand
Central Depot for Cheap and Popular Prints” and advertised its lithographs as
‘colored engravings for the people’. Small
works sold for 5 to 20 cents each and the larger versions sold for between
$1.00 and $3.00.
section in my book is called “Rural Enterprise”. The colorful and vibrant lithograph shown
above is titled “Preparing for Market”. It
was originally published in 1856 and the artist was Louis Maurer. (1832 – 1932)
As he lived to be just over 100 years old, this talented German-born American
lithographer was the last surviving artist known to have been employed by
Currier and Ives.
and Ives not only sold prints from its headquarters, but also via pushcart vendors,
peddlers and book stores. The company
also sold wholesale as well as retail.
Outlets were established across the USA and in London England. Prepaid orders could also be had via the
portion of the book is called “Clearing and Tilling”. Fanny Palmer was the artist who created this
lithograph, which is titled “American Farm Yard – Morning” in 1857. Other titles in this section were titled
“American Farm Yard Evening”, “Haying-Time.
The First Load.” and “Haying Time.
The Last Load.”
Currier and Ives lithographs were produced on lithographic limestone printing
plates on which the drawing was done by hand.
The drawings on the plates were copied from original artwork. It often took more than a week to prepare it
for printing. Each print was pulled by
hand. The prints were hand-colored by a
dozen or more women, often German immigrants with an art background. They worked like an assembly-line…one color
to a worker. They were paid $6.00 for
every 100 colored prints.
section titled “Homes Across the Country” includes this rather striking home in
a 1871 print called “A Home on the Mississippi”. No artist was credited for this print. Currier and Ives did have some ‘house
artists’ on staff plus not all of the art used for the companies
lithographs are credited for one reason or another. In Fanny Palmer’s case, a number of her works
weren’t signed around the time of her husband’s death.
a lot going on in this print. Carriages
in motion, couples visiting, a steamboat coming along the river…and 4 black
Americans walking along the road. The
Civil War had ended only 6 years earlier.
By way of
contrast, “The Pioneer’s Home on the Western Frontier” dated 1867 is also
included in the “Homes Across the Country” section. The remaining 2 prints in this section are
“Life in the Country – Evening” by Fanny Palmer and “The Western Farmer’s
and Ives published at least 7,500 lithographs in the company’s 72 years of
operation. Artists produced 2 to 3 new
images every week for 64 years! (1834 – 1895) More than 1,000,000 hand-colored
lithographic prints were produced…
section is titled: “---And Horses Run Faster”.
For some reason that I’ve been unable to determine, horses in this
series are generally referred to as “Cracks”.
In any case, the print shown above is called “Trotting Cracks on the
Snow”. Louis Maurer created this
composite scene which was issued in 1858.
Horses are prominently featured in many of the Currier and Ives prints
and of course they should be. They
provided the main means of transportation and if you didn’t have at least one
horse you were very poor indeed.
enough, horses were such a big deal when this print was published that all 11
horses in the picture are named. They
are: Pocahontas, Lancet, Prince, Grey Eddy, General Darcy, Flora Temple,
Lantern, Lady Woodruff, Brown Dick, Alice Grey and Stella. At one time Flora Temple held the record for
a mile in 2.19 and 3/4ths.
course…speed became a factor. If a
driver were overtaken on the road, a “brush for the lead” frequently
ensued. It wasn’t long before race
tracks sprung up and these races were a standard feature at the fairs which
were held in the fall. ‘Knocking off the
seconds’ in horse racing became a national interest!
another lithograph featured in the “---And Horses Run Faster” segment. “Trotting Cracks at the Forge” was published
in 1869. In this case, a famous
cartoonist and artist named Thomas Worth provided the sketch upon which the
print is based. The 3 horses in the
blacksmith’s shop are though…Mountain Boy, Grey Eagle and Lady Thorn.
Note: A large folio original lithograph (19.25” x
29.25”) of “Trotting Cracks at the Forge” sold at an October 11th
auction for $9,500!
“Pleasures of the City”! In this case,
the city featured was Currier and Ives home base, New York City. Those folks with the necessary means, (status
and financial wherewithal), got out and about.
It was really for social entertainment as well as to see and be
seen. This particular lithograph is
titled “Speeding on the Avenue”. The
scene is alleged to be set along the Harlem River. That bridge in the distance is called the
High Bridge or the Aqueduct Bridge. It
was completed in 1848 and today it is still being used by pedestrians and
was published in 1870. John Cameron,
(1828 – 1876), a Scottish American artist created this print and many others,
with an emphasis on horses. To view many
examples of Cameron’s work, you can just go to https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Category:John_Cameron_(lithographer).
lithograph titled “Wild Duck Shooting – A Good Day’s Sport” is part of a
grouping that’s labeled “Hunting Becomes a Sport”. The original painting was completed by Arthur
Fitzwilliam Tait (1819 – 1905) and the lithograph itself was published in 1854. Tait became an important British/American
artist, best known for his wildlife paintings.
One of his paintings sold in 2006 for $167,300!
prints in this section of the book include: “American Hunting Scenes – A Good
Chance”; “Life in the Woods – Starting Out”, and; “Life in the Woods –
Returning to Camp”. While hunting and
fishing were still survival necessities in the Western USA, in the East both
activities were already transitioning to the point where they were being
considered as a sport.
of the book is simply titled “Protecting the Property” and it includes 4 prints
that all fall under the general label of “The Life of a Fireman”. They each have sub-titles. This one is “The Fire”. The first one is “Night Alarm”, the second “The
Race” and the last one is “The Ruins”.
All 4 of these original drawings were completed by Louis Maurer. An original large folio 2-stone hand-colored
Currier and Ives lithograph of “The Fire” recently sold for $4,750.
1800s, fire was a huge threat to any city.
Fire departments were usually volunteer operations and fire service and
fire equipment were often paid for via customer subscription. Fire-fighting equipment were painted in
elaborate schemes and were given fanciful and romantic names. It wasn’t until the around the mid-1840s when
fire hydrants were installed in New York City.
Volunteer firefighters were still the norm in the city until 1866 when
they were replaced by professionals.
print is titled “Yosemite Valley – California” and it was published in
1866. The scene, which depicts an
encampment of Native Americans, was published just 3 years before the last
spike was driven for the transcontinental railroad. Note Bridal Veil Falls in the distance. Of course today Yosemite is one of our most
popular National Parks. It suffered
through 4,500,000 visitors in 2019. I
couldn’t determine who the original artist was for this piece.
Note: Copies of the Yosemite Valley prints taken
from the same book that I have can be purchased on-line starting at $15.00 and
up…some nicely framed too.
lithographs in this section include: “The Great West”; “The Route to California”,
and; “Through to the Pacific”. It’s notable
but not surprising that except for the Yosemite Valley print, all of the others
feature the newly completed railroad. Of
course they were published in 1870 and 1871 after the transcontinental railroad
really like trains and because this 1871 lithograph/print is so colorful, I just had
to include it in this post to my blog site.
It shows the brightly colored locomotive chugging along the Truckee
River through the Sierra Nevada Mountains on its way to San Francisco.
there is another section of the book that is simply called “Steel Ribbons
Unwind”, and it’s all about the railroads. “The Rail Road Suspension Bridge” by
Charles Parsons is the earliest of the group.
It was published in 1856. An original
small portfolio version of this lithograph recently sold for $1,600. At least 50 railroad prints were published by
Currier and Ives over the years.
The Rail Road
Suspension Bridge soared over the Niagara River and the river gorge just
downstream from Niagara Falls. (The Falls are visible in the distance) It was engineered
by the same company who designed the Brooklyn Bridge and it connected New York
State in the USA to Ontario Province in Canada. This bridge stood across the river from 1855
to 1897. It was the world’s first
working railway suspension bridge.
another of the prints included within the “Pleasures of the City” section of my
book. “A Night on the Hudson – Through at
Daylight” was designed by none other than Fanny Palmer. Curiously, this lithograph was published in
1864, although the 405 foot long steamboat Issac
Newton suffered a boiler explosion in 1863, killing 9 people, and was no
longer in service. Actually, the Francis Skiddy suffered 2 disasters, one
in 1861 when she collided with another ship.
A boiler explosion ensued with 3 of her coal stokers/firemen and 4
passengers killed. In late 1864 she
wrecked again, ending her career.
An 18 inch
by 28 inch original lithograph of “A Night on the Hudson” recently sold for
(Fanny) Palmer was one of Currier and Ives best known artists, creating at
least 200 different lithographs for the company. She was also one of the few women who
supported her family through her art during the mid-1800s. Fanny was involved in every stage of the
lithographic printing process in some way and she was widely known for her
technical skills. She is credited with
assisting Nathanial Currier in the improvement of existing lithographic technology,
including Currier’s own lithographic crayon.
To view a
plethora of Fanny Palmer’s works, you can go to https://www.bing.com/images/search?q=fanny+palmer+lithographs&id=1001818DF08965A2D0E696D2255BB7587E69640F&form=IQFRBA&first=1&scenario=ImageBasicHover.
subject titled “The Main Artery”, all 4 prints in my book relate to life and
riverboats on the Mississippi River. The
print shown above was created by Fanny Palmer and it was published in 1868,
only 3 years after the end of the Civil War.
Currier and Ives prints depicted a variety of images of American life beyond
the limited offerings from my book.
These included portraits of people, patriotic and historic events,
battles of the American Civil War and even Lincoln’s assassination. However, these prints were also a product of
their time in history and many of their prints were inherently racist in
nature. In this print for example, the
black residents along the river bank appear happy and content, while living in
the shadow of a big plantation house.
there is this print from “The Main Artery” section of the book. “High Water on the Mississippi” was also the
creation of Fanny Palmer and it too was published in 1868. In this case, a group of black Americans are
polling along in the flood on the rooftop of a building.
today the above images would most likely be labeled as racist, they are mild by
comparison if one were to hold them up against Currier and Ives series of
prints issued in 1879 called the “Darktown Comics”. This was an early form of popular culture with
the aim of depicting Black life and culture in a less than human manner. These cartoonish images showed African
Americans ‘trying to’ perform basic tasks that were more or less normal for ‘ordinary/white’
the “Darktown Comics” were the work of Thomas Worth, the same artist who
created “Trotting Cracks at the Forge”.
There were about 75 ‘Darktown’ prints created and published between 1879
and 1890. Originals and reprints are
available from many sources even today…
more pleasant lithographs… Under the heading “Winds of Trade” Currier and Ives
published many a ship print. These weren’t
just any ships, they were the record shattering speedy clipper ships. This is the “Clipper Ship – Red Jacket”,
artist Charles Parsons, and dated 1855.
The subtitle for this print reads “In the ice off Cape Horn, on her
passage from Australia to Liverpool, August 1854.
first voyage, Red Jacket set the
speed record for sailing ships crossing the Atlantic by traveling from New York
to Liverpool in 13 days, 1 hour and 25 minutes.
Later, she was outfitted for the Australian immigrant trade. She completed her first voyage from Liverpool
England to Melbourne Australia in just 69 days.
In 1867, she became an Australian and Indian coastal trading vessel,
finally wrecking in 1885.
clipper ship! This is the “Clipper Ship Dreadnought
off Tuskar Light”. It is yet another
work by Charles Parson. This medium size
clipper ship was built for the “Red Cross Line” which consisted of
transatlantic boats that carried immigrants westbound between Liverpool and New
York. The Dreadnought also had a couple of nicknames…The Flying Dutchman and The Wild
Boat of the Atlantic. She averaged
19 days eastbound and 26 days westbound.
1853, the Dreadnought had quite the career.
It even included a mutiny. But in
1869, under new owners, she floundered among the breakers at Cape Horn and her captain
and crew managed to put ashore on the island of Tierra del Fuego. Stranded for 17 days and living off the
shellfish along the beach, they were finally rescued by a Norwegian vessel.
this lengthy post with one more artistic creation by Fanny Palmer. “Wooding Up on the Mississippi” was published
in 1863. An 18 inch by 28 inch original
lithograph of this work recently sold for $17,500.
course, reality can be far different than the images we produce and enjoy. Life along the banks of the lower Mississippi
was far from idyllic. By the middle of
the 1800s, there had been over 4,000 fatalities on riverboats due to boiler
explosions alone. While the Princess shown in the print above was
said to be the fastest paddle steamer on the river, it was also one of the most
elegant. However, on 2/27/1859, as she
pulled away from a wharf at Baton Rouge Louisiana, her boilers violently
exploded. The steamer and its cargo were
completely destroyed and at least 200 of the passengers were killed or
missing. Many others were badly
injured. Note: Newspapers of the time
didn’t report the number of casualties among the ships enslaved crew…
that you enjoyed this look back at America…albeit through rose colored glasses. The images are generally enjoyable and
calming. But change was definitely at
work and old ways were disappearing. Conflict
was part of reality. Like now, we will persevere
and as a nation, we will be stronger due to our unavoidable progression into
I guess I
could sell my book couldn’t I? At $5 an image, I could pick up $400 and some on-line sales pro could probably turn a
nice profit on the purchase. Just a
click on any of the photos to enlarge them…
for stopping by for a visit and special thanks if you actually read through my
and Take Care, Big Daddy Dave