From 1834 to 1907, Currier & Ives prints provided for the American people 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. Some of the finest artists of the day, such as Louis Maurer, Thomas Worth, Arthur Fitzwilliam Tait, Frances Flora Bond Palmer, George H. Durrie, Napoleon Sarony, Charles Parsons, and J. E. Butterworth, were engaged by the firm to produce a variety of images. These included images of newsworthy events and prints depicting every subject relating to American life: sports, games, home life, religion, entertainment, views of cities, and so forth.
The firm was founded by Adam Stodart and Nathaniel Currier in 1834, with Stodart leaving the following year. Nathaniel continued to issue prints on his own until 1856, at which time he took on his bookkeeper, James Merritt Ives, thus changing the name of the firm to Currier & Ives. Currier died in 1888, and Ives passed on in 1895. Their sons, Edward West Currier and Chauncey Ives tried to gcarry on, but by then the tastes of the American public had changed and the firm was dissolved in 1907.
Most of the Currier & Ives prints–note that this name is applied not only to the prints by Currier & Ives, but also to those published by Nathaniel Currier before Ives joined him–are hand colored lithographs, though the firm did issue some of their prints uncolored, and later they published a number of chromolithographs. In business for over 70 years, the firm was the most successful American popular print publishers, a success which depended on their ability to issue prints which the America public wanted. As one of their catalogues stated, “Our experience of over Thirty years in the trade enables us to select for Publication, subjects best adapted to suit the popular taste, and to meet the wants of all sections, and our Prints have become a staple article which are in great demand in every part of the country.”
Their prints are charming and decorative and they cover almost any subject related to 19th century America you can think of. They are sought by collectors and just those who want to hang a bit of Americana in their homes or offices.