Frederick Baron

Phone
914-967-3332
Address
120 North Street
South Deerfield, MA 01373 US
Interests
Civil War, Maps and Atlases, Political, Transportation

Baseball’s Most Valuable Prints

AHPCS is pleased to welcome a new member: John Thorn, who, in addition to being a print collector, is the Official Historian of Major League Baseball. Sporting prints form a vibrant component within the print-collecting world, and we are thrilled to have John share his knowledge with us. 

E. Butterick & Co (publisher), New York Fashions for March 1870 [Multi-stone lithograph, 1870]. Courtesy of the Old Print Shop.

Last year’s holiday issue of the Old Print Shop’s Portfolio featured a print I knew well: “New York Fashions for March 1870.”  I knew that the print, published by the Butterick sewing-pattern company, was beautiful and exceedingly scarce (fewer than ten copies extant, I had surmised). And yet I was a bit taken aback by its price: $16,500 for a small lithograph, just shy of 10” x 14”.

Should I have been? On page 2 of that Portfolio, Henry Sandham’s glorious gravure of a Temple Cup game of 1894, uncolored and complete with cameos, was offered at $35,000. Might it be a bargain at that price, too?

Henry Sandham (artist), Boussod Valadon & Co. (printer), A Base Ball Game [Photogravure, proof before title, 1896]. Courtesy of the Old Print Shop.

I collect prints, and not only in baseball, so while I am more concerned with aesthetics than with values, I track the latter pretty closely, too. What, I thought, have been the highest prices paid for baseball lithos or engravings? As with baseball cards or memorabilia, the drivers of valuation are not quality or scarcity alone but also desirability, which is often enhanced by an item’s association with a star player.

According to Rich Mueller of Sports Collectors Daily May 2019: “The highest price ever paid for a Wagner [baseball card] was $3.12 million for the PSA 5 ‘Jumbo’ example, which sold through Goldin Auctions in 2016 and remains the most valuable baseball card ever sold, just ahead of the PSA 9-rated 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle which sold last year for $2.88 million.” Cards are produced as multiples, just like prints, and if scarcity alone were paramount, the famous Slow Joe Doyle card in the T206 series would be worth more than a Honus Wagner or Mickey Mantle — the latter is not even his rookie card.

Last December, a Babe Ruth bat went for $1.08 million at SCP Auctions — which a few years ago sold “The Magna Carta of Baseball,” the handwritten “Laws of Base Ball” from 1857 for $3.26 million. And a 1928–1930 Ruth jersey fetched $5.6 million last June.

Currier & Ives, The American National Game of Base Ball [Lithograph, 1866]. Courtesy of the Old Print Shop.

I offer these few indicia to support my growing suspicion that in the immature hobby of baseball collecting — still refining its criteria as, over the years, equivalents have taken shape among aficionados of stamps or coins — the iconography of the game may yet be undervalued. Some lithographs or aquatints are so scarce that no sports auction house nor print shop has ever handled one. I have in mind, particularly, the large folio version of the Currier & Ives “American National Game: Grand Match for the Championship at the Elysian Fields, Hoboken, N.J.” which has never sold publicly for six figures, and the 1867 J.L. Magee litho “The second great match game for the championship, between the Athletic Base Ball Club of Philadelphia and the Atlantics of Brooklyn, on the grounds of the Athletics, Fifteenth & Columbia Avenue, Phila., Oct. 22nd, 1866.” To my knowledge, this has never come up for sale.

J. L. Magee, The second great match game for the championship[Lithograph, 1867]. Courtesy of the Library Company of Philadelphia.

Of the two images above I have written: “This 1867 depiction of a baseball game played in the previous year is less well known than the Currier & Ives image above, but if one were to come to market today, it would probably bring about the same figure, nearly $200,000. Both are exceedingly scarce, but the Magee has more brilliantly crisp detail. It gives us a real flavor of being right there, right then.” If I could choose one to own, it would be the Magee.

From my hasty and unscientific research, the ten most valuable baseball prints (including auction commission) are listed below, in declining order of price received. It is notable that items associated with actual players and the advertising of a product have yielded more than even the rarest examples of lithography. I will mention as the highest-priced baseball painting Norman Rockwell’s study for “Tough Call,” ultimately a cover for the Saturday Evening Post, which sold in 2017 for $1.68 million.

Red Stockings Cigar … [Lithograph, 1869]. Courtesy of Robert Edward Auctions.

An Unofficial List of the Ten Most Valuable Baseball Prints

1. Red Stockings Cigar Advertising Display Poster Featuring George Wright (1874): $189,600

2. Cap Anson and Buck Ewing “Burke Ale” Beer Poster (1889): $188,000

3. Cracker Jack Ball Players Advertising Poster (1915): $152,750

4. A35 Goodwin Round Album Advertising Poster (1889): $105,750

5. Currier & Ives, American National Game (1866): $76,375

6. Sarony, Major & Knapp, Union Prisoners at Salisbury, N.C. (1864): $46,400

7. Pittsburgh Baseball Club Schedule Poster (1894): $25,000

8. New York Fashions for March 1870 (1870): $22,325 (in 2007) and $15,275 (in 2010)

9. Home Run Cigarettes Advertising Poster (1910): $11,162.

10. Hastings (photographer), Galaxy of the National League (team composite; mix of photographs with art) (1888): $8,888.

 

Otto Boetticher (artist), Sarony, Major & Knapp (lithographers), Union Prisoners at Salisbury, N.C. [Lithograph, 1863]. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

 

An earlier version of this article appeared on ourgame.mlblogs.com in December 2019.

Collector Favorites: Political Prints

When we think of American political prints, many of us immediately visualize Thomas Nast’s savage cartoons in Harper’s Weekly as he famously went after the corruption of Tammany Hall and Boss Tweed in the early 1870s. But the tradition of using illustration to convey political messages stretches back to America’s origins.

Political art can communicate everything from mockery and resistance to hope and patriotism. The images are often embedded with themes of race, religion, gender, and class.

As we get close to November’s Election Day, we asked AHPCS members to share a few favorite historical American political prints.

 


Two prints shared by Robert Newman, AHPCS member since 1982 and president of the Old Print Shop:

The Times, A Political Portrait. Triumph Government: perish all its enemies. Traitors, be warned: justice, though slow, is sure [Copper plate engraving with original handcoloring, image size 10 5/16 x 17 3/16″, circa 1798]. Courtesy of The Old Print Shop.

This is an extremely rare American imprint relating to the XYZ Affair, a diplomatic scandal that lasted from 1797 to 1800. Three French agents, originally publicly referred to as X, Y, and Z, demanded enormous concessions from the United States as a condition for continuing bilateral peace negotiations. This “affair” resulted in the limited, undeclared war known as the Quasi-War. The United States and French negotiators restored peace in 1800.

In this caricature, George Washington is shown riding in the Federal Chariot, a representation of the United States Government. He is being pulled by a team of horses and militiamen, shown here marching under a flag entitled “volunteers.” In the right background are additional  troops, who are marching under a flag entitled “Jersey.”  Three men, recognizable as Congressman Albert Gallatin, former French Ambassador Citizen Genêt, and Vice-President Thomas Jefferson, are shown attempting to “Stop de wheels of de gouvernement.” Being trampled on the ground is Benjamin Bache, a Jeffersonian journalist and editor of the Philadelphia Aurora. Further insulting Bache is a dog shown urinating on his newspaper. On the left are French troops shown killing and maiming, one of whom is shown dancing with a head on a pike. Below is the caption “The Cannibals are landing.” Above them is an image of the great seal of America, the “Shield & Eagle,” shooting lightning bolts towards them.

 

LOOK ON THIS PICTURE, and ON THIS [Etching and engraving, image size 9 5/16 x 11 1/4″, 1807]. Courtesy of the Old Print Shop.

This is one of the earliest negative political items containing portraits of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson.

The title is taken from a line in Shakespeare’s Hamlet: “Look here, upon this picture, and on this.” When this image was produced, Jefferson was the seated president of the United States of America. Jefferson was seen as almost too scholarly at the time. He spoke five languages and was deeply engaged in the sciences.  He had been narrowly elected as the third President in 1800 and was re-elected in 1804. He ran on the Democratic-Republican ticket and was loathed by the other major party at the time, the Federalist Party.

Washington is flanked by a lion and eagle with a laurel wreath above. Jefferson is flanked by a snake and crocodile with a smudgy candle above. Washington’s portrait is propped up by three books labeled: Order, Law, and Religion. Jefferson’s books are labeled: Sophisms; Notes on Virginia; Tom Paine; Condorcet; and Voltaire.

Under Washington’s portrait below the title are the lines:

See what a grace was seated on this brow.
An eye like Mars to threaten and command,
A combination, and a form, indeed,
Where every God did seem to set his seal,
To give the world assurance of a man.
THIS WAS __

Below Jefferson’s portrait it reads:

HERE IS __
Like a mildew’d ear,
Blasting his wholesome brother
Vide Hamlet.

It is very likely that this image was produced to help sway the Presidential election of 1808 to the Federalist Party candidate Charles Cotesworth Pinckney. However, the election was won by Democrat-Republican James Madison. Fear of reprisals is likely why the engraver and artist left their names off the image, though we believe this is the work of Peter Maverick, Jr., who was working in New York.


A print shared by Michael Buehler, AHPCS member since 2006 and owner of Boston Rare Maps:

Natural and Political History OF THE GERRY-MANDER! IN TWO CHAPTERS …………. WITH CUTS [Broadside, , 19 3/8 x 13 5/8″, ca. 1813-1822?]. Courtesy of Boston Rare Maps.

This rare broadside satirizes one of the most toxic yet enduring features of American politics. I love this print because of the brilliant design, the great backstory and, of course, its continued relevance to the American political scene.

In 1812 Massachusetts Republicans led by Governor Elbridge Gerry engineered a radical redistricting, designed to disadvantage the Federalist majority in the upcoming state senatorial elections. The legislation was enormously successful, and the Republicans’ majority grew even though the Federalists actually received more votes. On viewing a map of the redistricted Essex County, one wag—the painter Gilbert Stuart, some say—combined the governor’s name with that of the mythical beast, and so the “Gerrymander” was born. Soon after the first image of the Gerrymander appeared in print in the Boston Gazette.

This broadside was issued somewhat later, perhaps about 1820 or so, apparently on the occasion of another redistricting effort. The Gerrymander woodcut is almost identical to the one that appeared in 1812 and the first column of text is a reprint from the original Boston Gazette piece. The second column gives a “Political History” that may be original.


A print shared by Allison M. Stagg, AHPCS member since 2008 and author of the forthcoming book, Prints of a New Kind: Political Caricature in the United States, 1789-1828 (Penn State University Press):

James Akin, Caucus Curs in full Yell, or a War-Whoop, to saddle on the People, a Pappoose President [Etching with aquatint and engraving, sheet 19 1/2 x 21 2/3″, 1824]. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

This caricature print by James Akin, in support of Andrew Jackson’s 1824 presidential campaign, has long been a favorite of mine, although largely because of what the print represented to the artist.

James Akin was one of the first artists to work primarily in caricature in the United States, and he saw the 1824 election as an opportunity to gain patronage by Jackson. Although Jackson lost the race in 1824 to John Quincy Adams, he was elected as the 7th President in 1828 and this is when Akin attempted to use the success of this print as a means to obtain a position in the Jackson administration. Letters and petitions were addressed to both Jackson and his Vice President Martin Van Buren requesting consideration. Akin campaigned for this: letters of support came from wealthy and important Philadelphia citizens while the petitions were signed by some of the most important artists and engravers of the period, including Bass Otis, Thomas Birch, and David Edwin. Akin did not receive a position, and he quickly reversed his stance on Jackson, who became one of his most favorite subjects to portray negatively in caricature throughout the 1830s.

 

~~~~~~~

Interested in viewing more political cartoons? Visit some of these great digital collections!

 

American Cartoon Prints from the Library of Congress

 

 

 

Political Cartoons from the Library and Archives of Canada

 

 

 

Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum, The Ohio State University Libraries

 

 

Political Cartoons Collection at the Library Company of Philadelphia

 

 

~~~~~~~

Top Image Credit

Thomas Nast, Tweed-le-dee and Tilden-dum [Wood engraving in Harper’s Weekly, July 1, 1876]. Courtesy of the National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution.

 

Capturing the “Swedish Nightingale”

Fig. 1. N. Currier, First Appearance of Jenny Lind in America. [Lithograph, 1850]. Courtesy of the New York Public Library.

October 6, 2020, was the bicentennial of the birthday of Jenny Lind—one of the most famous women of the 19th century.

Born in Stockholm in 1820, Lind entered the Swedish Royal Theater School in 1830—the youngest student ever accepted. By 18, her voice had made her famous in Sweden, and during the 1840s she created a frenzy across Europe giving concerts to sellout crowds. Her reputation crossed the Atlantic. In 1845, American newspapers began printing short notices about the “celebrated songstress Jenny Lind,” and soon her name was listed on sheet music titles pages and also used to promote a variety of goods (Fig. 2). A “Jenny Lind Ice Cream Saloon” even opened in New Orleans, Louisiana, in 1848.

Fig. 2. T. I. Keily (engraver), Jenny Lind Cap [Page with instructions for making the “Jenny Lind Cap” from Godey’s Lady Book, May 1849]. Courtesy of the New York Public Library.

Lind’s name may have gained some footing in America, but it was nothing compared to what would happen when the notorious showman P.T. Barnum brought the “Swedish Nightingale” herself to the United States. For a hefty sum, Lind signed a contract in January 1850 to sing in 150 concerts for Barnum within a year to eighteen months of arriving in New York.

Lind was set to arrive in September, leaving Barnum, an expert promoter, eight months to start a publicity wildfire around the upcoming tour. His main medium was newspapers, and a biographer reported that “At one time he had no less than twenty-six private newspaper reporters in his employ.”

But newsprint only went so far. Barnum later remembered, “The people soon began to talk about Jenny Lind, and I was particularly anxious to obtain a good portrait of her.”

Luckily for Barnum, a stranger identifying himself as a Swedish artist soon appeared in his office eager to sell an oil painting of Lind for fifty dollars (approximately $1650 in today’s money). Barnum purchased the piece, only to learn later that same day “that it was a cheap lithograph pasted on a tin back, neatly varnished, and made to appear like a fine oil painting to a novice in the arts like myself. The intrinsic value of the picture did not exceed thirty-seven and a half cents!”

Barnum’s desire to show Jenny Lind to the American public must have clouded his common sense. Thanks to the advent of lithography decades earlier, Americans expected (and enthusiastically purchased) inexpensive, mass-produced prints and sheet music emblazoned with portraits of celebrities of the day. Lithography reproduced drawings, though—it was not a photographic method. Which meant the printmakers needed some sort of source material to accurately depict a person. The other option was artistic license.

Beautiful Austrian ballerina Fanny Elssler (1810-1884) was something of a precursor to Lind when she arrived in New York in 1840 for a well-publicized tour. When printmakers didn’t know the specific details of Elssler’s face they pulled from several iconic details—her dances, roles, costumes, hair—to successfully communicate their subject.

Prints of Fanny Elssler. Courtesy of the New York Public Library. For source information (from left to right): Fig. 3, Fig. 4, Fig. 5

Especially in the early days when most American artists had little idea what Lind looked like, prints and sheet music covers often depicted her in a style similar to Elssler, relying on costume, hair design, and (of course) a printed name in place of accuracy.

Prints of Jenny Lind. Courtesy of the New York Public Library. For source information (from left to right): Fig. 6, Fig. 7, Fig. 8

The problem with Jenny Lind was that she was a different sort of celebrity. In 1849, she “retired” from operatic performances, which diminished the opportunity to connect her to particular roles. She also didn’t fit the mold of a typical headliner.

Journalists regularly noted that Lind’s physical appearance wasn’t the reason for her popularity: “It is not for her beauty; for in this respect she does not equal many other women who have been before the people … It is her high moral character—her spotless name, which the breath of slander has never tainted—her benevolence—her charity—her amiable temper—her religious sentiment which she so carefully cultivates … Take her moral and intellectual qualities with her originality of vocal power, and we shall probably ‘never look upon her like again'” (The New York Herald, September 6, 1850).

Barnum’s ventures had always relied on the promise of spectacle: a 3-foot tall man, a 161-year old woman, a mermaid. For Lind, Barnum was prepping the American public to clamor for a plain, modest, seemingly near-angelic songstress. But wholesomeness isn’t a spectacle easily depicted in images. For this sort of persona, only an authentic likeness would suffice, and for that artists needed reliable source material.

Prior to Lind’s arrival in New York, two paintings by German artists from the mid-1840s were most often credited as the source of portrait prints: one by Edward Magnus (Fig. 9) and one by Conrad L’Allemand (Fig. 10).

Fig. 9. Edward Magnus, Portrait of Jenny Lind [Oil on canvas, 1846]. Courtesy of Alte Nationalgalerie, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin (photographer: Andres Kilger).

Fig. 10. Daguerreotype copy presumably of portrait of Jenny Lind by Conrad L’Allemand [Daguerreotype, undated]. Courtesy of Det Nationale Fotomuseum, Denmark.

These two portraits (or derivatives of these) became the obvious inspiration for a mountain of lithographic and engraved prints. Even in the cases where the print didn’t credit the painting, it is usually easy enough to spot the similarities.

As late as September 4, 1850, the New York Tribune reported on “a very handsome lithograph” just received from lithographer Napoleon Sarony containing vignette portraits of Lind along with her accompanists, conductor and pianist Julius Benedict and baritone singer Giovanni Belletti. The newspaper assessed that “the portrait of Jenny Lind though rather youthful, is the best we have seen.” It, too, relied on Magnus’s painting.

Fig. 19. Napoleon Sarony (lithographer and publisher), Jenny Lind, Giovani Belletti, Jules Benedict [Lithograph, 1850]. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

An artist’s copy of another artist’s depiction was the best American printmakers could do while they waited for Lind to arrive. Commercial photography did exist in 1850 in the form of the daguerreotype, but it had significant limitations. The process could create only one unique image at a time on a silvered copper plate. There was no negative. That meant that if sitters wanted five images of themselves, they had to sit before the camera for five separate exposures. If they wanted a copy of one specific photograph, the only means of reproduction was to take another daguerreotype of that photograph. It would not be until later in the decade that technology advanced enough to allow for easy photographic duplication by means of a glass plate negative that could be printed multiple times on light-sensitive paper.

Barnum’s promotion between January and September 1850 worked. A crowd estimated at more than 30,000 showed up at the docks on September 1st to catch a glimpse of Lind as she took her first steps on American soil. And it is telling that almost immediately upon arriving in New York, Lind sat for a number of daguerreotype portraits. By September 14th, she was being photographed in Mathew Brady’s Portrait Studio (Fig. 20).

Lithographic prints based on the Brady photograph were hurriedly created. It was all front-page news. The New York Tribune reported on the 26th that eight pictures were taken; two were exhibited in Brady’s gallery and “one of them which now lies before us, lithographed by D’Avignon, is an exact type of her face in repose, and so far, is the only engraving we have seen which conveys a just impression of her face” (Fig. 21). Other printmakers would soon follow with their own renditions of the Brady image.

Brady’s Studio wasn’t the only stop Lind made. Newspapers spoke favorably about the daguerreotype taken in the New York City studio of brothers Marcus and Samuel Root (Fig. 22). On September 27, 1850, the New York Tribune reported that one print publisher was working on a “magnificent portrait of Jenny Lind taken from Root’s superb daguerreotype.” The print was advertised at $2 or $4 colored. In November, the public was invited to the Roots’s studio “to call and see the best Daguerreotype ever taken on Jenny Lind” (New York Tribune, November 8, 1850).

Fig. 22. M. A. & S. Root (photographer), Jenny Lind [Daguerreotype, ca. 1850]. Courtesy of the Houghton Library, Harvard University.

For source information (clockwise from left): Fig. 23, Fig. 24, Fig. 25

The irony was that even with the existence of photography in 1850, a photographed face still had to be channeled through an artist’s hand to create a mass-produced portrait. The practice remained the same as before, except instead of working from a painting (like that by Magnus or L’Allemand), an artist could create a likeness from a daguerreotype. 

The images above emphasize that artists brought varying skill levels to their work. Certainly, the results were better when they worked from a daguerreotype rather than a copy of a painting. In many cases, of course, printmakers didn’t have access to either a daguerreotype or a painting, so they copied prints of the originals (or even copies of copies), which added additional layers of separation between the sitter and the portrait print.

Newspapers were always willing to assess how well the artist fared. The New York Tribune described a Lind portrait print that one pen manufacturer presented to his customers: “It is evidently copied from a daguerreotype, and gives the features with tolerable correctness, without their expression” (Sept. 4, 1850).

Critics identified both the photographer and lithographer as artists who either succeeded or failed at accurately “capturing” not only Lind’s facial features but her spirit as well. The language of critique used for both prints and daguerreotypes was not that of a documentary medium but of an art form.

The sheer variety of engraved and lithographic portraits of Lind remains as evidence of her popularity in the United States. Barnum achieved his goal. For her part, Lind returned to Europe in 1852 having received over $175,000 (more than $5 million today) from her North American tour.

 

~~~~~~~~~~

Image Credits

Fig. 1. N. Currier, First Appearance of Jenny Lind in America. [Lithograph, 1850]. Courtesy of the New York Public Library. Return to print.

Fig. 2. T. I. Keily (engraver), Jenny Lind Cap [Page with instructions for making the “Jenny Lind Cap” from Godey’s Lady Book, May 1849]. Courtesy of the New York Public Library. Return to print.

Fig. 3. J. Bouvier, Fanny Elssler (fac. sig.): In the Cracovienne Dance, in the Ballet of The Gipsey [Lithograph, 1839]. Courtesy of the New York Public Library. Return to print.

Fig. 4. N. Currier, Fanny Ellsler [sic] in The shadow dance [Lithograph, 1846]. Courtesy of the New York Public Library. Return to print.

Fig. 5. N. Currier, Fanny Elssler in the favorite dance La Cachucha [Lithograph, 1838-1846]. Courtesy of the New York Public Library. Return to print.

Fig. 6. Jenny Lind as Vielka [Lithograph, undated]. Courtesy of the New York Public Library. Return to print.

Fig. 7. Jenny Lind [Print, undated]. Courtesy of the New York Public Library. Return to print.

Fig. 8. Jenny Lind. Aged 29 [Print, undated. Courtesy of the New York Public Library. Return to print.

Fig. 9. Edward Magnus, Portrait of Jenny Lind [Oil on canvas, 1846]. Courtesy of Alte Nationalgalerie, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin (photographer: Andres Kilger). Return to print.

Fig. 10. Daguerreotype copy presumably of portrait of Jenny Lind by Conrad L’Allemand [Daguerreotype, undated]. Courtesy of Det Nationale Fotomuseum, Denmark. Return to print.

Fig. 11. Sarony (lithographer), William Hall & Son (publisher), Jenny Lind [Lithograph sheet music cover, 1850]. Courtesy of Houghton Library, Harvard University. Return to print.

Fig. 12. C. G. Crehen (lithographer), Nagel & Weingartner (printers). Jenny Lind [Lithograph, copyrighted August 29, 1850]. Courtesy of the American Antiquarian Society. Return to print.

Fig. 13. Kellogg & Comstock. Jenny Lind [Lithograph, 1851]. Courtesy of the Connecticut Historical Society. Return to print.

Fig. 14. N. Orr (engraver), Life of Jenny Lind [Wood engraved cover of Memoir of Jenny Lind, 1850]. Courtesy of Harvard University through the HathiTrust. Return to print.

Fig. 15. Albert Newsam (lithographer), P.S. Duval (printer), A. Fiot (publisher) Jenny Lind’s Songs [Lithographed sheet music cover, undated]. Courtesy of Lester S. Levy Sheet Music Collection, Johns Hopkins University. Return to print.

Fig. 16. Sarony & Major, Jenny Lind [Lithograph, ca. 1846-50]. Courtesy of the American Antiquarian Society. Return to print.

Fig. 17. J.H. Bufford (lithographer), Geo. P. Reed (publisher), Jenny Lind’s Songs[Lithographed sheet music cover, ca. 1850]. Courtesy of Lester S. Levy Sheet Music Collection, Johns Hopkins University. Return to print.

Fig. 18. Burt (engraver) after painting by L’Allemand, Jenny Lind [Engraved frontispiece to Jenny Lind: Her Life, Her Struggles, and Her Triumphs by C. G. Rosenberg, 1850]. Courtesy of Harvard University through the HathiTrust. Return to print.

Fig. 19. Napoleon Sarony (lithographer and publisher), Jenny Lind, Giovani Belletti, Jules Benedict [Lithograph, 1850]. Courtesy of the Library of Congress. Return to print.

Fig. 20. Mathew Brady Studio, Jenny Lind, three-quarter length portrait, [Daguerreotype, September 14, 1850]. Courtesy of the Library of Congress. Return to print.

Fig. 21. F. D’Avignon from a daguerreotype by Brady, Jenny Lind [Lithograph, 1850]. Courtesy of the Library of Congress. Return to print.

Fig. 22. M. A. & S. Root (photographer), Jenny Lind [Daguerreotype, ca. 1850]. Courtesy of the Houghton Library, Harvard University. Return to print.

Fig. 23. C. G. Crehen (artist), Nagel & Weingartner (printer) after a daguerreotype by M.A. & S. Root, Jenny Lind [Lithograph, 1850]. Courtesy of the National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution. Return to print.

Fig. 24. T.B. Welch (engraver) after a daguerreotype by M.A. & S. Root, Portrait of Jenny Lind [Engraving, ca. 1850]. Courtesy of the New York Public Library. Return to print.

Fig. 25. Sarony & Major (lithographer), William Hall & Son (publisher), Jenny Lind [Lithograph, 1850]. Courtesy of the National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution. Return to print.

The Business of Mourning: Currier & Ives and the Death of President Garfield

Fig. 1. Currier & Ives, Death of General James A. Garfield, Twentieth President of the United States [Lithograph, 1881]. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

September 19th marks the 139th anniversary of the death of James A. Garfield, the 20th President of the United States. Garfield died from infection a little more than two months after he was shot by an assassin on July 2, 1881, in Washington, D.C.

The Smithsonian’s Archives of American Art hold an interesting letter from Ned Currier to his father, publisher Nathaniel Currier, written two days after Garfield’s death. Writing at nearly midnight, Ned recounted the day’s activity in the Currier & Ives print shop in New York City.


28 W. 27th St.
Sept. 21st 1881
11:30 P.M.

My dear Father,

The demand for Garfield pictures is perfectly overwhelming, it surpasses everything.

We took twelve hundred and twenty-five dollars in hard cash over the counter today!! We could have sold more but we could not get them from the steamers.

We closed up tonight with not a stock print of Garfield in hand. All day the store has been crowded with people.

All the old campaign banners are sold. Six hundred of Bufford’s 22 x 30, bought today are nearly all sold. We raised the price three times and still they wanted them.

We expect a big day tomorrow. The demand for Lincoln is starting up a little.

Your affectionate son,

Ned

Source: Ned Currier to his father, Sept. 21, 1881, microfilm reel 2323, frame 0809-10, Nathaniel Currier Papers, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC.


 

The frenetic business that Ned Currier witnessed that day reflected a public clamoring for any visual memento of the dead President. Newspapers reported that cities across the nation were draped in black. On September 22nd, the New-York Tribune described the city streets: “One could not turn in any direction without seeing emblems of mourning … Now and then could be seen a flag suspended across a street bearing a portrait of the dead President framed in black. Portraits were also framed in with drapery above doorways and displayed in shop windows.”

Currier & Ives had a long history of catering to the public’s hunger for images following tragedy. Nathaniel Currier’s national reputation originated from his success in quickly producing lithographs that depicted the deadly explosion of the steamboat Lexington in 1840. When a newsworthy event might translate into the increased sale of prints, Currier & Ives wasted no time focusing their manufacturing might towards the production of applicable images. The Library of Congress’s copy of Currier & Ives’s Death of General James A. Garfield (fig. 1) is stamped with a September 24, 1881, copyright date—only five days after Garfield’s death.

In his letter, Ned reported that production was stalled due to the limitations of the steam-powered printing presses. With their own stock of Garfield-related prints exhausted, Currier & Ives even purchased and resold the prints of a competitor: J. H. Bufford. Interestingly, Ned also observed an uptick in requests for Abraham Lincoln images—presumably, some customers felt reverberations from the shocking assassination of President Lincoln sixteen years earlier.

Currier & Ives wasn’t the only lithographic firm capitalizing on Garfield’s death. It was good business for any publishing house. Bufford’s firm reissued its lithographic portrait of Garfield in October 1881—identical except for additional text and a poem about Garfield’s death in the margin.


Fig. 2a-b. From left to right: J. H. Bufford, James A Garfield. President of the United States [Lithograph, 1881 ]. J. H. Bufford, James A. Garfield. President of the United States [Lithograph, copyrighted October 25, 1881]. Both images courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Who was Little Fannie?

A collector recently queried us about a print she had of “Little Fannie” published by Currier & Ives. The collector wanted to know: Was this a famous child? How had Fannie ended up immortalized in a print? Who was Fannie?

Currier & Ives, Little Fannie [Lithograph, undated]. Courtesy of the Yale University Art Gallery.

The truth is that Little Fannie could have easily have been Little Mary or Little Kate. Her picture falls into a genre known as “juvenile prints”—a large group of small-folio prints (usually 8 x 12.5 inches) of posed girls and, to a lesser extent, boys. While some were given broad titles like Little Sweetheart or Little Brother, many were titled with a specific first name.


Henry R. Robinson, Adelaide [Lithograph, ca. 1843]. Courtesy of the Harry T. Peters “America on Stone” Lithography Collection, Smithsonian National Museum of American History.

N. Currier, Little Kate [Lithograph, circa 1851]. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Kellogg & Bulkeley, Little Bobbie [Lithograph, 1867]. Courtesy of the Connecticut Historical Society.

These prints were most popular in the 1840s and 1850s when the average American could little afford to have a portrait of their child painted or even photographed. Small-folio lithographs typically cost between 10 and 25 cents each. Daguerreotypes, made using a popular photographic process of the time, were more costly. In the early 1850s, newspaper advertisements promoted “daguerreotype likenesses” for 50 cents or more.

“American Girl Store NYC” by Margalit Francus, licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

There were many unusual first names given to children in Victorian America, but the juvenile print titles are common ones. These names might be better understood as similar to the miniature license plates one finds in highway convenience stores engraved with hundreds of different names or even the “Truly Me” dolls from the American Girl company. The publishing houses didn’t want potential consumers wondering who the posed Fannie was–they wanted them thinking about their own Fannie or Mary or Kate.

In the mid-1800s, a number of lithography firms took advantage of a ready market desiring personalized prints, as well as a culture that sentimentalized and idealized childhood. In particular, N. Currier (and later Currier & Ives) in New York City and the Kelloggs of Hartford, Connecticut, published many of these prints.

Detail from a Currier & Ives sales list, ca. 1860s

For a 2009 Imprint article, collectors James Brust and John Zak explored which Currier & Ives prints were most popular in the 19th century. They noted that while the most desirable (and expensive) prints among modern collectors are steamboat, railroad, and winter scenes, the ones more commonly found for sale on eBay and in antique stores are juvenile, sentimental, and religious themes. They asked, “Does that mean these were leading sellers in their day, or do they simply accumulate in the marketplace because they are not popular with modern collectors and hence are not purchased?”

The article reviewed Currier & Ives sales catalogs dating from the late 1850s to the early 1880s to gauge which broad subjects appeared most frequently. Among five different catalogs, each listing between about 500 to 1200 small-folio prints, juvenile themes consistently accounted for between 11 and 14% of the total titles.

One interesting feature of these prints, noted by Brust and Zak, is their variety: “It would have been possible for Currier & Ives to create four or five generic pictures, vary them further with different hair coloring, then issue multiple versions of each with different names printed in the title. This would have left one family’s Mary looking like the next one’s Jane, but enabled buyers to find the name they needed for their child or loved one. But virtually each title is a distinct image, despite the fact that today’s collector likely sees little difference between the numerous portraits of pretty women and children.”

While discussing a similar type of print of stylish young women issued by these same lithographic firms, costume and textile historian Lynne Zacek Bassett writes in Picturing Victorian America, “Lithographs such as Emeline, Eliza, and Lucina served as fashion plates for the style-conscious American Woman.” Given the similar attention paid to clothing, accessories, and hairstyles in the prints of children, it’s possible that the juvenile portraits played a similar role. If this was the case, then it also explains why there would be such variety; the prints would require regular updating to keep up with the newest style trends of the moment.

Kellogg & Bulkeley, Little Martha [Lithograph, c. 1867-1871]. Courtesy of the Connecticut Historical Society.

One of the reasons our querier asked about Little Fannie is that her print had a handwritten note on the back from a relative about a family member named “Fannie.” A print held by the Connecticut Historical Society of “Little Minnie” includes a faded handwritten inscription below the title: “Presented to Minnie …” from her teacher. Both of these examples, coupled with the sheer number produced, reflect that these prints must have been appealing (and inexpensive) personalized gifts in the 19th century.

E. B. & E. C. Kellogg, Little Minnie [Lithograph, 1863-1866]. Courtesy of the Connecticut Historical Society.

 

Kellogg & Bulkeley, Little Minnie [Lithograph, 1867-1871]. Courtesy of the Connecticut Historical Society.

 

Currier & Ives, Little Minnie Taking Tea [Lithograph, ca. 1857-72]. Courtesy of the Flint Institute of Arts.

 

Currier & Ives, Little Minnie [Lithograph, circa 1862]. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

 

An Early Etching by Henry Farrer

By David G. Wright

Henry Farrer (1844-1903) was one of the most celebrated of the American painter-etchers during the late 19th century, and someone who today is far too underappreciated. He held leadership positions in the New York Etching Club, which became one of the prime movers in generating interest in etching within the American public for the majority of its existence. Farrer served as president for over twelve years, from 1881 to early 1894, when the club ceased to function. During the same time, he served as secretary of the American Water Color Society and achieved tremendous accolades for his work in that medium as well as in etching.

Henry Farrer was born in London, England, in 1844, and he immigrated to New York City in 1863. To date, Farrer’s Old New York series of fifteen views of historic buildings and locations in and around Manhattan, etched between 1870 and 1877, are considered to be his earliest etchings.

Farrer’s Tree Study (Fig. 1) may be an even earlier etching, dating from about 1870. This print, now in a private collection, had previously been sold by the Kennedy Galleries of New York City to a longtime print dealer. Tree Study clearly shows Farrer’s pre-Raphaelite roots and stylistically foreshadows his Old New York series. It predates the huge interest in etchings that developed within the United States—well before the formation of the New York Etching Club in 1877.

Fig. 1. Henry Farrer, Tree Study [etching, circa 1870, plate 5-1/2″h x 3-7/8″w. Signed in pencil, lower left: “Etched by H. Farrer”]. Private collection, Maryland.

Farrer’s attention-to-detail when studying trees—their overall shape, the branching structure, the arrangement of limbs, and the way that the foliage emerged from the branches—lasted throughout his entire artistic life as a focused fascination. This study represents one of his earliest etched attempts at such documentation. The variety of tree recorded here may have been the black locust (Robinia pseudoacacia) captured during its blooming season.

Fig. 2. Views of the black locust. Left: Flower cluster. Center: Lower tree formation with an open side branch and tree in bloom. Right: Character and pattern of bark and leaf formation.

This would explain the otherwise somewhat curious “whipped cream” splotches seen in the upper branches. Farrer provided no clues as to the scale of the tree, other than what might be an indistinct and minuscule church tower seen off to the distant right. The very low ground plane and horizon line, as well as the large expanse of sky, created the sense of an immense tree dominating an open countryside. Another early undated etching by Farrer, a fine study of a tree titled Pelham Bay (Fig. 3), warrants comparison.

Fig. 3. Henry Farrer, Pelham Bay [etching, ca. 1875]. Courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Note: The MET dates this print to c1875, but it may be as early as 1870.

Examples of Farrer’s studies that focused on trees abound. An undated watercolor (Fig. 4) undoubtedly done during this same early period, shows a tall, lone tree with a scale and perspective similar to that found in the etching.

Fig. 4. Henry Farrer, undated watercolor tree study, size: 7″ x 4-1/2″. Provenance: Hirschl & Adler Galleries, NYC, 1971. Currently unlocated.

Three pencil sketches, Figs. 5-7, all undated, may be studies at different seasons of the same type of tree depicted in this etching. The branch, leaf, and upper floral arrangement and treatment are all sympathetic.

Figs 5-7. Three undated pencil sketches for a tree study by Henry Farrer. Fig. 5 (Left). Tree Study, perhaps a black locust in winter. 11-1/2” x 8-1/4”. Courtesy of the Columbus Museum, Georgia. Fig. 6 (Middle). Tree Study, perhaps a black locust in bloom. 8-1/2” x 4-3/8”. Courtesy of the Los Angeles Museum of Art. Fig. 7 (Right). Tree study, perhaps a black locust in bloom. 5-1/4” x 4-7/16”. Courtesy of the Davis and Longdale Gallery, NYC.

The circa 1870 date for the etching is conjecture, but the artistic style in the work places it within Farrer’s earliest period, when he maintained a strong reliance on the Pre-Raphaelite doctrines. Pre-Raphaelite doctrines became popular thanks in large part to British art critic, author, and lecturer John Ruskin (1819-1900) and his five-volume Modern Painters series, written in the 1840s and 1850s. Ruskin advocated the need for artists to study Nature diligently, to work close-up and in detail, and not to editorialize on or adjust how Nature presented things.

Farrer’s attempt at etching began in 1869 and this work must date to shortly thereafter. The plate has no date or signature, but the pencil signature definitely appears to be in Farrer’s hand, comparing it to an 1870 dated signature (Fig. 8).

Fig. 8. Henry Farrer, pencil signatures. Top: detail from Tree Study etching. Below: Detail from signature on a rowboat print, Bunte auction, Illinois, May 2017, private collection.

It may seem a bit strange that the etcher would add the phrase “Etched by” before his signature. Only one other example, a print from his Pelham Bay etching, has been seen that included such a qualifier.* Today, when we encounter such an attribution, it might signal that someone other than the original artist signed the piece, perhaps to help future viewers understand the work’s authorship. Or in some cases, such signatures point toward a misguided forging effort to increase the work’s value. In this case, however, since the handwriting matches so well Farrer’s authentic script, other possibilities need to be considered.

Perhaps Farrer felt that this etching— being one of his earliest and done c1870—needed the “etched by” qualifier in order to help the viewer understand what the medium actually was. In 1870, the American public had an extremely limited understanding of the process. At this early date, only a handful of artists in America understood or actively practiced etching. Of note, Farrer’s early studio neighbor, R. Swain Gifford, actually signed his 1868 etching of Storm Beaten Cedars on Martha’s Vineyard, in the plate, lower center, “Drawn and etched by R. Swain Gifford” (Fig. 9), which may have prompted Farrer’s pencil notation of several years later.

Fig. 9. Robert Swain Gifford, Storm Beaten Cedars on Martha’s Vineyard [etching, 1868]. Size: 6-1/2” x 8-1/2”. Private collection, Maryland.

Another anomaly with this early etching concerns the lack of an open bottom margin (Fig. 10)—an area free of etched line within the plate—something that Farrer included in almost all of his earliest etchings.

Fig. 10. Bottom margin of Farrer’s Tree Study.

Most likely he created this work before he established that convention. Alternatively, but less likely, the date of this etching could be later—as late as 1877—when he entered into a transition phase with some of his etchings continuing to include the blank bottom margin, and others abandoning it.

In 1879, Farrer provided a list of his early etchings to Sylvester R. Koehler, who published a record of his most significant etchings to that time in the American Art Review (December 1879). That list did not include this example. The etching is rare and seen in only one private collection.

*Henry Farrer. Old Storm-Beaten Cedar, on the Sound, aka Pelham Bay (New York Public Library, Prints and Photographs Department, Farrer collection #23).

~~~~~~~

An architect by profession, David G. Wright, FAIA, has spent close to thirty years researching the lives and work of the American painter-etchers of the last third of the nineteenth century, a group of men and women who captivated the American art scene–and thrilled the American public–with evocative and stunning prints. He has written articles discussing the etchings of Robert Swain Gifford, Emily Kelley Moran, Mary Nimmo Moran, Thomas Moran, Stephen Parrish, and Stephen Ferris, to name but a few. In 2010 he published a two-volume work on Peter Moran, Domestic and Wild: Peter Moran’s Images of America, which received the Ewell L. Newman Book Award from the American Historical Print Collectors Society in 2011. For the past decade, he has been studying the life and work of Henry Farrer and recently completed a 150-page in-depth discussion of Farrer’s early etchings. 

Tracking the Tract House

A print collector recently contacted AHPCS asking if we could provide any insight into two 1849 Nathaniel Currier prints lacking the predictable 152 Nassau Street address. (James Ives didn’t become a partner until 1857.)

For a typical 1849 Currier print, like Louisa below, one expects to see “152 Nassau St.” printed somewhere in the bottom margin:

 

These addresses are useful on undated prints because they offer a clue to the time of publication:

1834-35Stodart & Currier137 Broadway
1835Nathaniel Currier1 Wall Street
1836-37Nathaniel Currier148 Nassau Street
1838-56Nathaniel Currier152 Nassau Street and 2 Spruce Street
1857-65Currier & Ives152 Nassau Street and 2 Spruce Street
1866-72Currier & Ives152 Nassau Street and 33 Spruce Street
1872-74Currier & Ives125 Nassau Street and 33 Spruce Street
1874-77Currier & Ives123 Nassau Street and 33 Spruce Street
1877-94Currier & Ives115 Nassau Street and 33 Spruce Street
1894-96Currier & Ives108 Fulton Street and 33 Spruce Street
1896-1907Currier & Ives33 Spruce Street

This chart looks busy, but all of the addresses are located within a mile of each other in New York City. In the case of 148-152 Nassau and 2 Spruce Street, the addresses actually refer to the same property located on the southwest corner of Printing House Square in New York City.

Why, then, our recent emailer asked, do the bottom margins of two companion prints by artist John Cameron: The Crucifixion / La Crucificazion / La Crucifixion and The Resurrection / La Resureccion del Senor / La Resurrection have the credit line: “Published by N. Currier, Tract House, N.Y.”?

 

N. Currier, The Crucifixion / La Crucificazion / La Crucifixion (Lithograph, 1849). Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

 

N. Currier, The Resurrection / La Resureccion del Senor / La Resurrection (Lithograph, 1849). Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

In the entry for The Resurrection in the standard reference Currier & Ives Prints. An Illustrated Check List, author Frederick Conningham parenthetically notes: “The only print I have seen with this address.”

Where was the Tract House, and what was Nathaniel Currier doing there?

A little detective work took us down a circular path. The “Tract House” building was, in fact, 144-152 Nassau Street.

The American Tract Society (ATS), a religious publishing organization founded in 1825, owned the southeast corner lot at Nassau and Spruce Streets (144-152 Nassau Streets). ATS was Currier’s landlord and, in 1847, they erected a five-story building, a new “Tract House.” A detail from an 1870s stereograph shows the building (after Currier & Ives had moved down the block to 125 Nassau) complete with a “Tract House” sign:

Detail of Statue of Franklin. New York City [Stereograph, ca. 1870s]. Courtesy of the New York Public Library.

So why did Currier (apparently) only use the “Tract House” address for those two religious prints? An answer comes from art historian Elizabeth Gilmore Holt in a 1972 paper on revivalist themes in American prints: “Currier received a contract from the American Tract Society for two folio-size prints, one the Crucifixion, the other Resurrection” (page 45).

“Tract House” tied the print back to the ATS but also reflected Currier’s actual address. “Tract House” was also a clear enough landmark that there are contemporary newspaper advertisements for other businesses locating themselves at the “Tract House” in the late 1840s.

An Icon’s Birthday

The Brooklyn Bridge turns 137 years old today! After more than 13 years of construction, the bridge opened on May 24, 1883, connecting Manhattan and Brooklyn across the East River. At the time, it was the longest suspension bridge in the world. Its distinctive architecture has inspired art in a variety of mediums–including prints. Here we offer just a sampling of prints to celebrate the birthday of an icon.

 

Contemplated East River Bridge [Etching, ca. 1869]. Courtesy of the New York Public Library.

 

Robert Bross (artist). The Foot Bridge Over the East River, New York [Wood engraving; Scientific American illustration, March 10, 1877]. Courtesy of the New York Public Library.

 

Parsons & Atwater (Currier & Ives, publisher). The Great East River Suspension Bridge. Connecting the Cities of New York & Brooklyn – From New York Looking South-East [Lithograph, 1877]. Courtesy of the Huntington Library.

 

The Caisson [Wood engraving; Harper’s Monthly illustration, May 1883]. Courtesy of the New York Public Library.

 

A. Major. Bird’s-Eye View of the Great New York and Brooklyn Bridge, and Grand Display of Fireworks on Opening Night…May 24, 1883 [Lithograph, 1883]. Courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

 

Currier & Ives. The grand display of fireworks and illuminations at the opening of the great suspension bridge between New York and Brooklyn on the evening of May 24th, 1883. View from New York, looking towards Brooklyn [Lithograph, 1883]. Courtesy of the New York Public Library.

 

General view of the Brooklyn Bridge [Wood engraving, ca. 1883]. Courtesy of the New York Public Library.

 

Haasis & Lubrecht. The Wonderful East-River Suspension Bridge Connecting the Great Cities of New York and Brooklyn [Lithograph, 1883]. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

 

Franklin Square Lithographic Company. Bird’s-Eye View of the Great Suspension Bridge, Connecting the Cities of New York and Brooklyn – From New York Looking South-East [Lithograph, 1883]. Courtesy of the Huntington Library.

 

Raphael Tuck & Sons. New York Harbour with Brooklyn Bridge [Chromolithograph from a painting by Andrew Melrose, 1887]. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

 

Thure de Thulstrup. A Wet Day on the East River Bridge [Wood Engraving; Harper’s Weekly illustration, November 5, 1887]. Courtesy of the Old Print Shop.

 

L.W. Schmidt. Bird’s Eye View of the City of New York – Chromo [Chromolithograph, 188-]. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

 

Harry LeRoy Taskey. Frozen Assets [Lithograph, Public Works of Arts Project, 1934]. Courtesy of the New York Public Library.

My First Currier & Ives Print

By James S. Brust

It was October 8, 1974, though at the time I made no special effort to remember the date. Driving up the coast of Maine at the start of an autumn trip through New England, I stopped at a cluttered, musty antique barn. Having grown up in New York City, I was familiar with “Currier & Ives” images through their frequent use on Christmas cards, calendars, advertisements and ceramic ware. But it was only a couple of years before that I’d picked up a book and learned that Currier & Ives were actually two men, not a generic term. They had run a very successful printmaking business a hundred years and more before, producing hand-colored lithographs with a wide range of images so popular they were still commonly seen. And most exciting, those original prints were still available. Somewhere I had read an article telling how to differentiate original C&I prints from later reproductions, and it came to mind as I noticed framed prints hanging on the wooden walls. Suddenly more interested, I saw many carried the words “Currier & Ives” and seemed to be the real thing.

I was drawn to a charming picture of a beautiful sleeping child sitting next to an oversized, vigilant, obviously loyal terrier—The Watchers. The frame was literally falling apart, the glass gone, the print stained and damaged—none of which bothered me at all. I asked the price, and was surprised to learn it was only fifteen dollars. “But it is undoubtedly an original Currier & Ives,” I pontificated. Of course it was also a wreck, but I had yet to learn how much that affected value. The dealer just smiled and said nothing. I happily paid him and bounced out of the shop, certain that I had gotten a great bargain.

Another two days down the road found me in New Hampshire, at the shop of a quiet, neatly groomed, older woman. She had a room with prints hung floor to ceiling. I went wild and picked out an American Homestead Spring marked sixty-five dollars, with a tear half way through the image.

“Do you collect Currier & Ives?” she asked with the measured tones of a true New Englander. Suddenly flushed with pride at the realization, I replied, “I now have two so that must mean I’m a collector.” “Well,” she said, pausing a moment for emphasis, “If you’re going to collect Currier & Ives, you’ve better have a lot of money.” Not the most supportive statement, but an unexplainable yet powerful affinity for these prints had already taken hold in this neophyte.

Another two days, another state (Vermont), another antique barn and another forty dollars bought my third Currier & Ives – The Roadside Mill – also in terrible condition. I headed back to NYC to visit my family before returning to California, anxious to show off my three treasures. My father and sister, out of respect for my obvious enthusiasm, said nothing negative, though it was simple to see from the looks they gave each other that they thought I was nuts. But the hook was now set, and nothing was going to curb my newfound passion. I reached for the Manhattan Yellow Pages, and found an establishment called The Old Print Shop, which happily was within walking distance. I telephoned and naively asked: “Do you have any Currier & Ives prints?” With the verbal equivalent of a straight face, I was politely told they did.

Walking into OPS a short white later, I realized there would be far greater heights to Currier & Ives collecting. Large, beautiful prints, which were not all torn to shreds. And, of course, prices ten or even a hundred times higher than those in musty barns. But I’d been warned (“if you’re going to collect Currier & Ives, you’d better have a lot of money”), and was undeterred. Prints of this caliber would have to wait for another day, but I knew that day would come.

Returning to California, I read more on C&I, corresponded with dealers, and soon joined a fledgling group called the American Historical Print Collectors Society. Forty years have now gone by, and that compelling attraction to these prints has never slackened. There is no doubt the events of that long-ago autumn immeasurably changed my life for the better.

And what became of those fateful first three purchases? Once I’d become a little more grounded in the importance of condition, numbers two and three were quickly sold. But not The Watchers. After all, it was my very first Currier & Ives print, and of great symbolic importance to me, so I plan never to part with it. The image remains charming, and I never tire of it. And since it was so beat up to start with, I was not worried about hanging it in less than ideal conditions. I hope readers won’t consider this an “overshare,” but it hangs over the toilet in our bathroom, where nature’s necessary activities lead me to look at it several times a day.

On October 8, 1974, I had gotten a great bargain. Not financially as I thought at the time – most collectors would never buy a print in such poor condition, and I understand why the dealer was pleased to get anyone to give him fifteen dollars for it. But that first Currier & Ives, and all that has flowed from it, has enriched me in ways I could never have dreamed of at the time. It may well be the best fifteen dollars I have ever spent.

~~~~~~

This article first appeared in the Fall 2014 AHPCS News Letter.

Image credit: The Watchers [Currier & Ives, lithograph, undated]. Courtesy of James Brust.

Examining Historic Prints During a Pandemic

Invisible enemies have long been an elusive subject to illustrate. But throughout print history, artists have tried their hand at capturing various angles of disease. When epidemics strike, we can try to pull back into our own print collections to see examples of medical prints, diagnostic illustrations, maps and surveys used as tracing tools, and even representational satirical images. However with American prints, there are few “medical images of any kind from around 1750 until the mid-nineteenth century. Not even of something as common as bleeding.”1

Color lithograph of French chemist and microbiologist Louis Pasteur from 1887. Pasteur ushered in the era of preventative medicine and made the connection between virulence and epidemics. Courtesy of the National Library of Medicine in Bethesda, Maryland.

A hallmark of visuals—in whatever manifestation—is that they can tell us about events in real-time (as do those created today). Sometimes these showcase erroneous public health advice owing to an undeveloped understanding of the workings of the human body. But prints can also include those created by and for the scientific community, government agencies, and by the press to inform the public; still other pandemics proved the fodder for caricatures and cartoons. In my brief survey, I’ve seen few illustrations of American epidemics (I’ve looked for ones on smallpox, yellow fever, cholera, tuberculosis, influenza, polio, malaria, and typhoid fever). Printed material with examples of popular medicine included illustrations in books and pamphlets used by physicians as well as engraved labels, trade cards, portraits of treating doctors and others.2

“Doctor Schnabel von Rom,” a famous engraving after an Italian broadside from 1656 showing a figure dressed with coat, gloves, mask and hat. Courtesy of the Trustees of the British Museum.

I am interested in exploring the intersection of medicine and material culture regarding pandemic history to share. As many of these images are great study-images, the images are available here. We hope to offer this as a multi-part series, and would love other institutions and dealers to submit their favorites so we can capture a range of prints, periods, places and treatments, especially of America.

Dr. John Snow’s now famous cholera map of London created in 1854. When Snow used the map to track cholera cases with other scientists he was able to trace infection to a single water pump in the city. The image is from Snow, J. On the Mode of Communication of Cholera, 1855. Courtesy of the British Library Board.

 

A colored Italian engraving from 1831 depicting a young woman of Vienna who died of cholera, shown when she was healthy and a few hours before her death. Courtesy of the Wellcome Library, London.

 

A series of four French plates from 1819 showing the development of yellow fever. From Observations sur la Fievre jaune. Courtesy of the Wellcome Library, London.

 

The Present Quarantine Station, Staten Island, Map of New York Bay, depicts a proposed new fever hospital. The text states “we have engraved this week, for the information of our readers, the site of the present Quarantine station on Staten Island.” It also shows a map with the bearings of these places to New York. The article appeared in Harper’s Weekly, May 23, 1857. Courtesy of the Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art at the New York Public Library.

 

A 1785 Boston survey by Edward Wigglesworth, which shows statewide mortality data for Massachusetts. The broadside was printed and distributed to ministers and physicians throughout Massachusetts and New Hampshire and was also published in newspapers. Courtesy of Boston Rare Maps and James Arsenault & Company.

 

Health to all the world, D. Leland & Co. of Boston patent medicine for cholera, diarrhea, neuralgia and toothache shows fifty-four flags from Austria to Venezuela. Chromolithograph by L. Prang & Co. 1876. During times of epidemics, doctors (sometimes actual physicians and sometimes quacks) tried to sell “cures” to frightened people.

 

An unillustrated version of this piece originally appeared in the AHPCS News Letter (Volume 44, Issue 4).

Notes:
1. Charles Greifenstein, Curator of Archives & Manuscripts at the College of Physicians quoted as speaking to author Jim Murphy (p. 157) in his book An American Plague, 2003.

2. “Every man his own doctor”: Popular Medicine in Early America was an exhibition at member institution The Library Company of Philadelphia in 1998 and the entire full-text exhibition catalogue is available in Google books. It is a wonderful and well-illustrated read, particularly relevant during the current pandemic.