Who hasn’t soaked in the nostalgia of a Currier and Ives print? From the spirit of the seasons to steamboat races to sailing the vast oceans, we seem to be enchanted by the Currier and Ives lithographs of Americana.
Nathaniel Currier was born in Roxbury Massachusetts in 1813. He became an apprentice to a lithographic firm in Boston and later moved to Philadelphia to continue his career. He formed a brief partnership in 1834, but ventured out on his own a year later. Currier soon realized there was a market for current news and turned out a series of disaster prints which gained him recognition as an accomplished lithographer. In 1857 Currier partnered with his bookkeeper and accountant, James Merritt Ives, and the rest is history.
Here are a few of my favorite prints and, what some of the elite artsy-fartsy community might consider, my naïve remarks. Just click the titles to view these wonderful scenes.
I actually have a reproduction of “Maple Sugaring” which brings me back to my own childhood days of frozen fingers and toes, and collecting buckets of syrup from trees on my uncle’s farm. Replace the log cabin with a tumbled down farmhouse, an outhouse on the hill, and rub out a few people and you have a glimpse into some memories of my own childhood.
I had a friend as a child named Judy who lived on a farm not far from mt home that also looked very much like the one pictured in “American Homestead Winter“. Her dad had a small sleigh and Judy had a pony….named Nancy. (Let’s keep the snickering to a minimum, shall we?) I relive the silly secrets, the giggling, the wonderful home cooking, and especially the childhood friendship we shared as I gaze upon this winter scene. Is it any wonder this is a favorite of mine?
“American Homestead Autumn” in my opinion could use a few pumpkins to complete the scene, but I like the “Kinkade-esque” lighted sky above the cottage. Apple picking was a family affair, as it still is to this day, and since this was produced in 1869, I think it speaks to timeless family values.
For all of the rebels in the South, I give you “A Home on the Mississippi“. I know I’m in the wrong state, but for some reason I think of “Gone With the Wind” when I see this print. I can imagine myself as Scarlette O’Hara sipping a mint julep on that porch, waiting for Rhett to come sweep me off my feet. Hey, I told you my remarks might be naïve.
“Clipper Ship Sweepstakes” might be one of the most recognized nautical prints people credit to Currier and Ives; however, it was actually lithographed by Fannier Palmer and published by Currier before his venture with Ives. Remember that fact and bounce it off someone at a cocktail party. They might forgive you for wiping your mouth with your tie.
“American Whalers Crushed in the Ice” is not dated, but might be an example of the disaster series. It is subtitled “Burning the Wrecks to Avoid Damage to Other Ships”. Unfortunately, no one seems to know exactly what disaster this scene depicts.
“The Miniature Ship Red, White, and Blue” has a caption which reads:
“Length 26 Feet.
Breadth of Beam 6 Feet1 Inch.
Depth of Hold 2 Ft. 8 Ins.
2 33/100 Tons Register.
On her Voyage from New York to London, August 1866 with Capts Hudson & Fitch & dog Fanny.
Sailed from New York July 9th arrived at Margate, August 16th 1866“
I’m surprised the Miniature made it. Twenty six feet? Poor Fanny must have been happy when her paws touched British soil!
I’ll conclude our little Currier and Ives tour with “A Home in the Wilderness” since I love snow and I’m the tour guide. This was hand colored and published in 1870. There is a stark reality of the hardships of winter in this scene, but the warmth, safety, and comfort of home and the family it portrays softens the icy chill.