America On Stone
[ History | Lithographic Firms | Selection of American popular lithographs ]
Nineteenth Century Popular Lithographs
Popular decorative lithographs made their first American appearance in the 1820s, but by the middle of the century, lithography had transformed the role of art in America. Before the advent of lithography in America, the general public had little art in their lives. Prints intended for display, produced by woodcut or engraving, had a long history, but these prints were generally expensive and limited in distribution to the social elite. Lithography allowed for the production, in large numbers, of inexpensive and often colorful prints which could be purchased by the general public for display in their homes, at work, and in their places of leisure. By the second half of the century, many homes, taverns, shops, and offices were decorated with these cheap and colorful prints on myriad subjects of interest to the public. Whereas at the beginning of the century most Americans had little access to art in their life, by the end of the century, popular art was ubiquitous in the lives of most Americans.
It was a lithographic business from New York City, Currier & Ives, that had the greatest impact in this Democratization of art. Currier & Ives' output of popular art was vastly larger than any other firm; the number of prints they published may be as great as that of all the other American lithographers of popular prints combined. However, there were a large number other American firms issuing wonderful popular lithographs in the nineteenth century. From a beginning of just a few small lithographers on the east coast in the 1820s, by the end of the century American lithography was represented by hundreds of businesses located in most major cities in the country, coast to coast. Some of these business had but a fleeting existence, with few prints produced, while others, like the Kellogg firms from Hartford, lasted for years and issued hundreds and sometimes thousands of popular prints.
All of these printmakers and their lithographs had an impact on the lifes of Americans in the nineteenth century. The subjects of these prints covered every conceivable topic of interest, including portraits, historical events, disasters, flowers, animals, sports, American and foreign views, ships, American progress and expansion, comical themes, and religion. These prints offer us a unique window on our past. They show us the interests, fashions, activities, buildings, machines, and many aspects of life in America in the nineteenth century. They are accurate in many ways and idealized in others, depicting America both as it was and how Americans at the time wished it was. They were so much a part of the fabric of nineteenth century life, that without some knowledge of what these prints were like, our understanding of our past will be necessarily incomplete.
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James S. Baillie began in the late 1830s as a picture framer in New York City. Trained as an artist, he later worked as a colorist for Currier, before setting up his own business sometime about 1843-44. For about the next decade he issued a wide variety of popular lithographs, mostly small folio images of the type published by his former employers.
Currier & Ives:
The most successful and famous American lithographic firm. Currier & Ives epitomize American popular lithographs.
Go to Currier & Ives page
Ehrgott & Forbriger:
A regional lithographic firm from Cincinnati. Known particularly for their music sheets and prints of the Civil War
Go to Ehrgott & Forbriger page
Haskell & Allen:
A Boston lithograph publisher which seems to have issued more large folio images than small folio. Haskell started as picture framer and print seller; listed in 1868 Boston directory as partner in Haskell & Ripley (18 Hanover St.). A year later he formed partnership with George F. Allen. In 1873, Haskell & Allen moved to 61 Hanover St., where they prospered until they went bankrupt in 1878. They had a wide range of prints, including many horse prints.
Joseph Hoover started by his career making elaborate wood frames in Philadelphia in 1856, but within a decade or so he began to produce popular prints. Initially he mostly worked for other publishers, including Duval & Hunter, but he also issued a number of hand-colored, popular prints. During the Centennial, Hoover won a medal for excellence for his chromolithographs after Queen's renderings, and in the 1880s, he and his sons began to print chromolithographs exclusively, with an average annual production of between 600,000 to 700,000 pictures.
The output of the various Kellogg lithographic firms, situated in Hartford, was surpassed only by Currier & Ives. They issued prints on similar subjects to those of their New York rival, but the Kellogg prints have their own style.
Go to Kelloggs page
Thomas Kelly, of New York City, was one of the more successful publishers of the period, creating archetypal and idyllic views of all areas of life in America. Kelly's work is distinctive for strong coloring and vivid, forthright compositions.
Kurz & Allison:
The Chicago firm of Kurz & Allison is well known for its production of commemorative prints of American historical scenes.
Go to Kurz & Allison page
An obscure Philadelphia publisher from ca. 1856.
Philadelphia publisher A. Pharazyn issued a disaster print in conjunction with J.L. Magee in 1856. H. Pharazyn, also of Philadelphia, published a trotting print in 1870. The relationship between these two individuals is not known---Peters conflates the two in America on Stone, p. 325.
Louis Prang, from Boston, was the most prolific and influential publisher of American chromolithographs.
Go to Prang page
Sarony, Major & Knapp
Napoleon Sarony, Henry B. Major, and Joseph F. Knapp, in various combinations, issued lithographs in New York from the early 1840s until the early 1870s. Napoleon Sarony was one of the most important figures in American lithography, working as an artist and publisher on his own, for Currier & Ives, and for other publishers.
Born in the Orkney Islands, Sinclair emigrated to Philadelphia by 1833 and had set up his own lithographic business in 1838. He was one of the first American publishers to experiment with color lithography, winning a silver medal for his work in it from the Franklin Institute in 1848. From 1854 to 1859 he was joined by his brother William in the firm Thomas Sinclair & Co., and later by his son in Thomas Sinclair & Son.
William Smith was a picture frame manufacturer from Philadelphia from 1856-60. By 1860 he was selling pictures and within a few years was also publishing prints. Many of the prints published by Smith were restrikes of previously published prints, but he also had a small output of original popular prints.
Thomas W. Strong was a New York publisher of popular lithographs, along with penny ballads and comic valentines. His output is quite varied in subject and quality. He was the first American employer of Louis Maurer.
An obscure Boston publisher.
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