2010 Imprint Volume 35-2 Autumn


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219. Michael W. Schantz, “‘A Joy To the Eye:’ The Floral Prints of James D. Smillie,” Vol. 35, No. 2 (Autumn 2010), 2-15, 15 illus.

James D. Smillie (1833-1909) was trained by his father, James Smillie (1807-1885) to become one of the most respected banknote engravers in America. He was also a master of reproductive engraving. In 1877, James D. Smillie played a central role in the founding of the New York Etching Club and embraced freehand printmaking. Among Smillie’s painter etchings, a group of floral prints made between 1888 and 1894, are outstanding for their freedom, tonality, and experimentation. He used the flower studies to explore the expressive handling of drypoint, aquatint, roulette, and mezzotint. Excerpts from Smillie’s diary describe his process, and the author’s close examination of the technical qualities of the prints is supported by reproductions of nine florals and six details. Although Smillie felt that his creativity was crushed by his rigorous technical training, the curator and critic Frank Weitenkampf (1866-1962) and others recognized his floral prints as extraordinary and rank them among the best artistic work of his time.

220. Richard Samuel West, “A Britisher among the B’Hoys: Thomas Butler Gunn and His Forgotten Comic Gem.” Vol. 35, No. 2 (Autumn 2010), 16-29, 12 illus.

In 1949, the British artist Thomas Butler Gunn (1826-1904) arrived in New York City in search of work. The young artist was a skilled draughtsman with a comic bent, and also a talented writer, so he decided to seek fame and fortune by creating illustrated comic books. Gunn began his New York diary on July 17, 1849, when he was trying to sell his first effort, “Cholera in Gotham,” which was never published. The diary, filled with self-pity and pain, expresses Gunn’s financial worries, the difficulty of dealing with publishers, and his relationship with the girl he left behind. It also contains descriptions of Gunn’s lodgings, excursions and entertainments, and street life, including the activities of the New York firemen–the “B’hoys.” These colorful toughs inspired the theatrical character Mose, acted by Frank Chanfrau (1824-1884) in the hit play New York as It Is. Inspired by seeing Chanfrau’s performance of the character, Gunn purchased wood blocks and began engraving the plates for Mose among the Britishers. This tale of a clash of cultures when Mose travels to London to see the sights, was eventually published by A. Hart in Philadelphia in 1850, with hand-colored lithographs printed by Thomas Sinclair of that city. It is the earliest sequential comic art book published in the United States. The diary excerpts constitute a rare and vivid account of the struggles of a young artist along the road to his first success, and the process of developing, printing, and publishing illustrated works in this period.

221. Martha Catchpole, “Early Christmas Cards in North America: Examples from Library and Archives Canada,” Vol. 35, No. 2 (Autumn 2010), 30-43, 15 illus.

Examples of published Christmas cards are found in diverse collections of Library and Archives Canada. The majority of images reproduced in this article are from the collection of Kenneth Rowe, a prominent philatelist who emigrated to Canada from England in 1953, and donated his Christmas card collection to the Archives in 2004. Commercially printed cards became popular in England when John Calcott Horsley published a Christmas and New Year greeting card in 1843. Their development coincided with advancements in color printing in England, France, and Germany and the card market was launched. In London Marcus Ward & Co. and Raphael Tuck & Sons were prolific card publishers. Initially Canada and the U.S. imported cards from England and Europe. After the Civil War, Louis Prang became “Father of the American Christmas card” and also sold to Canadian and European markets. Significant commercial production of Christmas cards in Canada began about 1874. No single printer or publisher dominated the Canadian market. The iconography of Canadian cards included winter landscapes, sleighing, snowshoeing, tobogganing, religious images, Santa Claus, and national symbols such as the beaver and maple leaf. Canadian publishers could not compete with cheap English and American imports, and World War I destroyed existing international publishing partnerships, bringing the great era of the Christmas card to a close.