Thursday, October 15, 2009

Currier & Ives

As time goes on, I plan to feature different American printmakers in this blog and the most famous and successful of them all is the subject of today's post. Everyone has heard of "Currier & Ives," but there is some confusion about what this refers to. "Currier & Ives" was the name used by a New York printmaking firm from 1857 until 1907. This business had been in operation since 1834, first as Stodart & Currier (1834) and then as N. Currier (1835 to 1856). Though the name changed, all the prints produced by this firm are usually referred to as "Currier & Ives prints."


Nathaniel Currier (pictured on right) was a printmaker and businessman; James Ives (pictured on left) started as the firm's bookkeeper in 1852 and five years later became Currier's partner. Neither was an artist, so though all Currier & Ives prints were published by the partners, they were drawn and lithographed by other persons. Nathaniel Currier retired in 1880 and died in 1888 and James Ives died in 1895. The firm, under the direction of their sons, Edward West Currier and Chauncey Ives, carried on until 1907.

The Currier & Ives firm was in the business of producing lithographed prints intended to be sold to the general public for framing and display in the home or at work. Calling themselves "Printmakers to the People," they provided for the American public a pictorial history of their country's growth from an agricultural society to an industrialized one. For nearly three quarters of a century the firm provided "Colored Engravings for the People" and in the process became the visual raconteurs of nineteenth-century America.

The firm produced a variety of images, including pictures of newsworthy events and prints depicting every subject relating to American life: sports, games, home life, religion, children, hunting, fishing, entertainment, trains, ships, views of cities, and so forth. Currier & Ives used all sorts of sources for their prints, including staff artists who are unknown today, as well as a group of more famous artists such as Louis Maurer, Thomas Worth, Arthur Fitzwilliam Tait, Frances ('Fanny') Flora Bond Palmer, George H. Durrie, Napoleon Sarony, Charles Parsons, and J. E. Butterworth. Currier & Ives were also not above borrowing images from other print publishers, both American and European. In all, it is likely Currier & Ives published more than 8,000 prints total!

Currier & Ives' prints were sold either directly from Currier & Ives' shop or through other printsellers. The firm's shop in New York was a popular place to browse through their ever changing inventory. Images of current events and personages were always shown in their window for passers by. Currier & Ives also used others to market their prints, maintaining a brisk wholesale business. Their prints were sold by itinerant sellers who would push carts filled with prints through the streets of New York and other cities, as well as from more established print shops around the United States and even overseas. The quality and variety of Currier & Ives's prints meant that other printsellers were always eager to carry the latest images, thus insuring a wide distribution.

The prints by the firm are famous for three main reasons. First, they had a tremendous ability to produce images that appealed to a wide segment of the general public in the nineteenth century (and continue to do so today!). Secondly, the quality of their prints was very high while their prices were low. Thirdly, because of their financial success (the result of the first two factors), they issued more different prints in more copies than any other publisher. It is interesting that here is a case where the more common prints (Currier & Ives) tend to sell for higher prices than those that are more scarce (those by other American popular print publishers).

In the following blog I will discuss some interesting aspects of Currier & Ives prints and those who collect them, but first I must emphasize that Currier & Ives were print publishers and only prints are "original Currier & Ives." Their images have become so famous and iconic that they have been used on many objects other than their original prints. Many calendars over the years have used Currier & Ives images, as have plates, lamp shades, trash baskets, and so forth. None of these are original Currier & Ives. In another blog, we'll look at more about original Currier & Ives prints.

63 comments:

  1. Thank you for the wonderful blog. We were walking in the Green-wood cemetery last Saturday and found both their tombstone well kept there. Here is the link of the pictures that you may be interested:

    http://picasaweb.google.com/1ericmiller1/GreenWoodCemetary#5391081132212072658

    http://picasaweb.google.com/1ericmiller1/GreenWoodCemetary#5390781310016313090

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  2. Your blog is great and this post in particular is very interesting. I can't wait to see the next installment.

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  3. I came to your blog just when I was surfing on this topic. I am happy that I found your blog and information I wanted. We wish you all the best for this memorable paintings, by the team of Famous Artists??

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  4. i happen to have four original prints from currier ives great possibilities from early 1900s currier ives singniture print bottom left.the tittles are FROZEN UP!.VIEW ON HUDSON RIVER.SUNNYSIDE-ON HUDSON.THE SNOW STORM.....these prints are in thee original wood frame.they look awesome...if interested my email benjaminnaisha@gmail.com

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  5. From what you write it is difficult to say if you have original Currier & Ives prints, but there are things you say which indicate they are not. First off, if the prints are from the early 1900s, then they are reproductions. While C&I were in existence until 1907, they did not issue these prints at that time. Secondly, if there is a title to the group (e.g. "Great Possibilities") then that again indicates they are reproductions as C&I prints did not have such group titles. Finally, If all it says in the bottom left is "Currier & Ives," this again shows they are not originals, as no original C&I print had just that imprint.

    They probably are very attractive, as many C&I reproductions are, but they are almost certainly not original prints by this firm.

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  6. I have, I think three Currier and Ives first print is Landscapeand fruits some of the infromation on it reads 1863 in congress. Second is Frozen up and the other is Winter. Can you please shed any light.
    I can be reached at Steelers611@verizon.net

    Thanyou

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  7. The first point to make is that anyone who has a "Currier & Ives" print should try to look up the print in the book by Conningham that lists most known C&I prints. This usually gives sizes so you can compare the size of yours with what is listed in the book. Most reproductions are the wrong size.

    The second thing is to realize that if you have very popular images (like the three you mention), they are likely reproductions. For most of the most famous images (like yours) there are lots and lots of reproductions and few originals. The odds are very strong that you have reproductions.

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  8. I have an old Frozen Up. There are no small dots, it is a stone lithograph. It is mounted on masonite and somewhat yellowed.
    The only words other than Frozen Up (bottom middle) is Currier and Ives, bottom left. So what do I have?

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  9. This is a reproduction. No original C&I print has just the title and then "Currier and Ives," but many reproductions do. How it was made I cannot tell you, but it could be a collotype.

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  10. I have just purchased 5 Currier & Ives:
    1. The American National Game of Base Ball
    below title it reads Grand Match for the Championship at the Elysian Fields, Hoboken N. J. above the title it reads entered according to act of Congress at 1866 By Currier & Ives in the clerks office of the district court of the United States, for the Southern district of N.Y.
    The left hand bottom reads Lith of Currier & Ives and the bottom right corner reads 152 Nassau st N.Y. I also have three of the "Trotting Cracks" At The Forge and Woodcock Shooting all were from the same collection and all in the same frames. They were purchased At Vanguard Studios in California. Can anyone tell me if I should have them appraised ? Thank you for all of your help.

    Bill Caldwell

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  11. These are all reproductions. First off, the wording is wrong, but easier is the subject matter. The most popular C&I prints are the ones most often reproduced, and the Trotting Cracks and the Baseball print are very popular. There are thousands of reproductions of the baseball print for every original. This is a very, very rare original, but reproductions turn up all the time.

    Clues are i) that the wording is wrong, ii) that it is found with other prints that look like they come from the same series (it was not issued in a series and is almost always found with very different prints if any), and iii) size. Even if you find one with the right wording, by itself, and the right size, it still is probably a reproduction as there is a famous one that matches in all ways other than the way it was printed (collotype) as opposed to the original (lithograph)

    I am sure the prints you purchased are attractive, but they will not need to be appraised.

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  12. Hi Chris,

    I have a print by Nathaniel Currier that I would like to know more about. I have tried but haven't been able to cross reference the title in on-line collections I've located. The title is:

    AWFUL EXPLOSION of the "PEACE-MAKER" on board the U.S. STEAM FRIGATE, PRINCETON, on WEDNESDAY, 28th. FEB. 1844 .

    There is a small y inserted after the word FEB.

    It then reports the names of those killed or injured. It's a very interesting picture and account of a large cannon on the ship deck exploding and killing several high ranking governement officials and others.

    Can you shed any light?

    Thank you very much,

    Jaye

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  13. I am not sure what your question is. This is a well known Currier print about which everything said in this blog applies. As noted, there are well over 7,000 Currier (& Ives) prints made and what is on line is only a small portion of that. Other than the most popular titles, it is more likely you will not find a C&I print listed on line than that you will find it.

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  14. I have a Currier & Ives that I would like to know more about called Up The Hudson. In the lower right it has an address 125 Nassau St. New York. Can you tell me if I should have this appraised?

    Thank you for your help.

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  15. There really isn't anything to say about most specific Currier & Ives prints. What I say above, and on our web site, about C&I prints in general will apply to your print.

    In terms of appraisal, that is an individual decision that depends on lots of factors so we really cannot tell you one way or other. This print, like most C&I small folio prints, does not really have what we could call a "significant" value, if that helps your decision.

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  16. My dad left me what he thought was an original Currier & Ives print - My Little White Kitties Playing Dominoes. Under the picture in the left corner, it says Published by Currier & Ives, In the right corner, it says 125 Nassau St New York. How can I know if this is an original?

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  18. That is too long and complex a question to go into here. However, we have a web page that goes into the issue in some depth at www.philaprintshop.com/currorg.html

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  19. Wow, I can't believe this blog. I purchased a Currier and Ives lithograph for $3.00 at a resale shop. It is "The Blessing of a Wife" and some of the ink is glossy when tipped. In the left hand corner it reads Published by Currier and Ives and in the right hand corner it reads 152 Nassau St. New York. The measurements are 9 1/2 by 12. This is the measure of the imprint only not the title included. ANY thing about this would be welcome. Thank you.

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  20. I have a large print titled "winter in the country. Getting Ice". Under the title it reads "new york, currier & ives, 152 nassau st." Directly under the picture it states "Entered according in Act of Congress, in the year 1864, by Currier & Ives. In the Clerks Office of the District court of the United States, for the Souhern District of New York. On the left hand corner it reads "painted by C.H. Durrie." and in the right it says "Currier & Ives, LITH. N.Y. ". Does this mean it is a lithograph print?

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  21. an original Currier and Ives print as seen below. It is a small folio, aprx 10" X 14". This print, titled "Easter Flowers" is an original, hand colored, stone lithograph and was printed in New York by Currier and Ives in 1869, intended as a memorial to the 700,000 fallen during the Civil War. This is not a common print and is difficult to find.it does need conservation due to foxing and UV toning.I am considering buy it, is it a bad investment, they or only asking about 80.00 for it?please post back thanks

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  22. I am sorry, but this blog is not the place to be giving appraisals nor specific values on particular prints.

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  23. Hello. I am in the process of bidding on the Currier and Ives Black Americana. My concern about the lithographs is that they are not as nice as the ones I have seen in auction just this evening. Is there any value if they have age spots. And when do they become not acceptable for auctions?

    Sabine Denu

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  24. I just purchased a print entitled, "The Queen of Love." underneath it states-published by currier & ives, 152 nassau st. New York. Is it a true currier and ives, or a reproduction. Thanks

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  25. From that information we cannot tell you one way or the other. There are a number of ways you can tell, which we explain on the Philadelphia Print Shop's Currier & Ives page. Read what we say there...

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  26. I have 3 prints that say they are reprinted from lith by Currier &n ives, N.Y. The Whale Fishery - Attacking a Right Whale, Summer Scenes in New York Harbor and A Stopping Place on the Road. Are these worth anything? mfloros92@yahoo.com

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  27. As stated elsewhere in this blog, all reproductions have only "decorative" value.

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  28. I purchased a large print (which I have seen on your sight also "Rural Life in America #1") It is by N. Currier, published in New York, 152 Nassau Street: a plowing scene. How can I tell if it is a reproduction or an original. If it is an original it could be quite valuable.

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  29. Plz help I need info on a currier&ives "roadside mill" 24kart gold filled printed in england print 186 !!! What is worth? ? Plz help

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    1. This is a reproduction. All C&I reproductions have only "decorative" value.

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    2. Why can't i find any info on this 24k goldfilled roadside mill on the internet?

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    3. Because what is on the internet is only what someone bothers to put on the internet. No one has ever done so (or so I gather from your comment) on this print. There are literally thousands and thousands of C&I reproductions of different sorts which no one has written about on the internet.

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    4. May I add a picture of my c&I print so maybe I can find out more info of said print?

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  30. Are some C&I reproductions worth more than others? I have seen a wide range of prices for different reproductions. My brother has a copy of "The American National Game of Baseball". We know it is a reproduction and we are certain that it is old, but we do not know how old and we are wondering if it might some value.

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    1. All C&I reproductions have only "decorative" value. What decorative value of a print is does, of course, vary. It depends on what the subject is (baseball is popular) and how good the quality it. Whether a reproduction is old or not does not really matter.

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  31. I have Home to Thanksgiving,
    bottom left is G.H Durrie

    below that is
    PAINTED BY G.H.DURRE. CURRIER&IVES,LITH


    the bottom right has
    Ino Schuller Del.

    below that is
    NEW YORK GRAPHIC SOCIETY-FINE ART PUBLISHERS

    Can anyone tell me if this is a reproduction?

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    1. All prints by the NY Graphic Society are reproductions.

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  32. I bought a Currier & Ives pic entitled The Roadside Mill in an old frame at a thrift store a few years ago. Under the pic, it is printed "Entered according to Act of Congress AD 1869, by Currier and Ives in the Clerks Office of the District of Court of the United States for the Southern District of New York". In the left-hand corner it is printed "Pubd by Currier & Ives" and the right-hand corner "152 Nassau St. N.Y." I don't know how to tell how old it is or whether or not it is a print.
    Laney A., Oct. 28, 2013, 11:00 pm

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  33. From what you say, I think that this is a reproduction, but not positive. We have explained on the Philadelphia Print Shop how you can do some investigation (go to our Currier & Ives section and click on the link for queries) or you can show it to an expert.

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  34. Hello Chris,
    Were the early N. Currier small folio prints 10x13?

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  35. I have "The Blessing of a wife" approx. 13" x 15" including the border. It says 152 Nassau St New York in the bottom right hand corner. How can I tell if this is an original ?

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    1. With this print, it is likely your print is an original, as I know of no reproduction of this image. You can read more about how to tell original C&I prints by visiting the on-line reference library for The Philadelphia Print Shop West

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  36. Hi,...I have a currier and ives "my little white kitties playing dominoes"...125 Nassau st new York....it different then everyone ive seen,....the Kitties are opposite each other then the ones you usually see...meaning the kittie sitting upright paw/leg stretched up is on the left....not the right like usual......cant seem to find it anywhere.....I truly believe it to be an authentic C&I....thanks in advance

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    1. Many Currier & Ives prints have variations of the same image, for the firm kept redoing popular subjects. It is certainly not unlikely yours is an original, just a more unusual variant.

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    2. Would that mean this version is rare?....after days and hrs of research,..i found one and it hangs in the historic White house of the Confederacy in Richmond Virgina

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    3. if the print is rare would there be more collector interest in this variation?.....thanks again for all your help....and speedy response!

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    4. Not really. All the prints by C&I are relatively rare and for a variant like this it really doesn't matter to collectors. All the prints are nice; this one is not really enough different to be extra special.

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  37. I purchased an old pic(print) of Currier & Ives' Landscape, Fruit and Flowers at a flea market type business. it says on left lower corner-F.F. Palmer,DEL. Lower rgt-LITH.Currier & Ives, N.Y. Under pic-Entered according to act of Congress, in the year 1862, By Currier & Ives,in the clerk's office of the district court of the United States for the southern district of New York. Then under Print title it says, New York, published by Currier & Ives, 152 Nassau St. THEN in very bottom of paper (left)CI 1114-24 (center)Published, 1946 by I.B.Fischer Co., New York City (right)Printed in U.S.A. I realize this is probably a reproduction but would it have any value at all? I'm just learning and am having fun investigating. Any tips?

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    1. It indeed is a reproduction. Like all reproductions, the value is "decorative," that is what someone would pay for a picture that looks like it does. It has no collectors value, but many reproductions are quite attractive.

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    2. Thank You so much for your comment. I was pretty sure it was as I have been reading about sizing and other info. Are there ever cases maybe by other artists that old reproductions are valuable ( I'm suggesting other art not Currier & Ives.) Thanks again. Judy

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    3. The "decorative" value applies to all reproductions.

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  38. Hi! You've provided some great information to folks like me and we thank you! I just bought a print at a small estate sale. It is entitled, "TROTTING CRACKS" AT THE FORGE. Under the lower LH corner it reads is small text, LITH. OF CURRIER & IVES. In the lower center is: ENTERED ACCORDING TO ACT OF CONGRESS IN THE YEAR 1869 BY CURRIER & IVES, IN THE CLERKS OFFICE OF THE DISTRICT COURT OF THE UNITED STATES, FOR THE SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK. Under the title is: NEW YORK PUBLISHED BY CURRIER & IVES 152 NASSAU STREET. Above the FORGE in the title in typewriter CAPITAL FONT IS: MOUNTAIN BOY and right of that in the same capital typewriter font is: GREY EAGLE and under that is: LADY THORN. The paper is thick and a bit bumpy or wavy. The colored portion measures 8" X 12". There is a slightly yellowed border area that measures 9 1/16 X 12 1/2". The entire print is 11" X 14". The back is quite browned and does not appear to have been trimmed. There are some irregular dots so it is not hand colored or original. I welcome any insight you may have regarding this piece. Thanks, Scott

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  39. Hi Thank you for this site. I have been trying to find out if i have an original Currier & Ives. It is in a wood frame, looks very old. It has a small plaque on the bottom that reads
    CURRIER & IVES
    THE ROADSIDE MILL
    1869
    It is approximately 9 1/2" X 14 3/4"
    Its in a wood frame so i dont think it has a boarder. Can you tell me if this is an original?

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  40. That is not the right size, so it is likely a reproduction. This is a popular image so it has been reproduced many times...

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  41. I think i measure wrong. its actually 15x9.5

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  42. I can't get exact measurments because its in a picture frame. It does have a metal plaque nailed to it that says 1869 with the pictures name. thats little about 2.5"

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  43. Thank you for your knowledge.

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  44. Chris, my Roadside Mill indicates "published by Curried & Ives" but with
    an 1870 date. Did the year follow the reprint year, or when a publishing change was made?





    es

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    1. The date that is listed for this print in the standard listing is 1870, so most (if not all) of the examples of this print will have that date.

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  45. Hello, I also have a copy of, "The Roadside Mill" 1870. I have been reading various reference pages to try and determine if it is authentic or a reprint. The entire paper is about 12" x 9" matte paper. I opened the frame it was kept in to check for other clues as some reprints will indicate a company and year of reprint (I understand that not all do) and this one does not have any such notation. It is a lovely picture and I will enjoy it regardless, but I also love old things and am quite curious about it.

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    1. If the entire sheet of paper is that size, it is a reproduction. An original will have an image (not including margins) that is about that size.

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    2. Thanks for your reply! Yes the paper is about that size and the image itself is about 10.5" x 6.75".

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