Thursday, July 23, 2009

American Historical Print References

One of the most popular, and valuable, types of antique prints are American historical prints. These include images of battles, portraits of important figures, and historical allegories. From the eighteenth century and into the early twentieth, historical prints have been published related to almost every American historical event or person and this provides a fertile field for collectors or those simply interested in American history. Luckily there are a number of excellent references which cover these prints. There have been many published on particular individuals (e.g. Lincoln) or particular events (e.g. the Civil War), but there are also some fine references that are more general. Today I will discuss those I would recommend in particular to those interested in the subject. A couple of these works are out-of-print, but can be found on the internet or in good libraries.

Political prints form one of the largest types of historical prints and luckily there is a terrific book which documents this type of print based on the collections in the Library of Congress (which has the largest collection of such prints in the world). This is Bernard F. Reilly’s American Political Prints. 1766 – 1876. This wonderful book documents and illustrates the thousands of political prints in the LoC, each entry including an insightful analysis of the subject matter of the print. This is a good thing, as many of the political events/personalities depicted are now quite obscure and the symbolism not readily understandable to us today. The work begins with a Paul Revere engraving from 1766 related to the Stamp Act and ends over 600 pages later with a pro-Democratic campaign cartoon from 1878. This book is currently out of print.

Portraits of U.S. Presidents have been popular since Washington, with individual prints and series produced in engravings and lithographs of all sizes and quality. Noble E. Cuningham’s excellent Popular Images of the Presidency from Washington to Lincoln is the standard work on the topic. It documents and illustrates a wide range of Presidential prints, putting them into the context of their historic period and the history of print publishing.

E. McSherry Fowble’s Two Centuries of Prints in America 1680-1880 is an insightful documentation and analysis of prints from the Winterthur Museum Collection. It covers many more types of prints than simply historical ones, but there are many on this topic included and the descriptions of the prints made both in Europe and America explain the prints and put them into the wider context of American history and culture. This book is currently out of print.

These are an excellent place for someone interested in American historical prints to start. Beyond these, most of the print references are about specific topics and of these are there many terrific ones. This is a field of research that is booming and each year seems to produce a new crop of fine references. I'll be discussing new publications as they appear.

11 comments:

  1. Thanks for sharing history...
    ___________________
    Susana
    Payday loans Today

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  2. I have a print of Presidents in the same picture from Washington to Grover Cleveland. It is signed by George L. Richards 1901. Can anyone help me with this print. I can't find anything about it.

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  3. From the middle of the nineteenth century on to the early twentieth century prints showing the Presidents grouped together were quite popular. There were tons of these prints made by all sorts of publishers. Unfortunately, there is often nothing to learn about any of these prints beyond what one can say in general about all of them. These prints were intended to be framed and hung in the home as a patriotic form of decoration. I have not heard of George L. Richards and so cannot tell you anything about him, but the form of the print is one that was very popular.

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  4. I ALSO HAVE A PRINT DATED 1901 FROM GEO. L. RICHARDS. WHAT CAN I DO WITH IT IF I WANTED TO SELL IT?

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  5. Like any print, this can be sold either directly to the public (at a house sale, flea market or whatver), to a dealer, or at auction. For the latter, you can consider ebay or a local auction.

    Note, however, that as discussed elsewhere in this blog, most prints were made purely for decorative purposes and sell for only "decorative" value, so don't set your expectations too high.

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  6. I also have the print from 1901 by Geo. L Richards. It is very interesting, but my guess is that the frame has greater value. Nonetheless, it came from my great Aunt's home so I think I will pass it on to family members. It is very well done.

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  7. Thanks for this information. My print is The Presidents of the United States (Washington to Roosevelt) and is copyrighted 1901 Geo. L. Richards. It is marked Mutual Benefit Publishing Association. It is 28 by 22 inches. It belonged to my husband's Grandmother. We too were wondering what it was worth.

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    1. I believe I have the same print, since the dimensions and description match. It is a sepia print, but heavily water damaged and fraying at the edges, and is titled "Our Presidents" on its bottom, with no other identification or attribution showing. A conservator recently examined it and advised that it would cost $650-$1K to restore, which is hard to justify. I like the print a lot and would like to find another, as I'm not wedded to the one I have and can't see attempting to restore it, when only limited success in doing so is likely. If you'd like to discuss further, please contact me.

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    2. I would definitely not spend that kind of money to restore that print. It is, as indicated, one with only "decorative" value and that would be well under the figures you give. You probably can find another if you look long enough. You can try ebay or do a search on the internet. It isn't always easy to find exactly a particular print you are looking for, but there are lots of prints out there showing the Presidents, so if you work at it you should be able to find something. Good luck.

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  8. This blog is not really forum for values, but your print will have what we call "decorative" value.

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  9. I have a Portfolio of lithographs of United States Presidents beginning with President George Washington & ending with President Lyndon Johnson. They have been lithographed on vegetable parchment. The first four presidents were based on paintings by Gilbert Stuart, President Lincoln portrait was based on a photograph by Mathew Brady. The portfolio has no date printed on it, the inside left cover has a list of the 36 names of the presidents, the center part has the lithograph prints of each individual president & the right side of the portfolio has a picture of picture of The Capitol engraved 1870 & also The White House engraved 1904. Do you know if it has any value or where it came from? I purchased it at a rummage sale. Thanks for your reply.

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