The Philadelphia Print Shop West has an extensive inventory of original antique prints by Louis Prang, one of the most important American publishers of the nineteenth century. Prang was the most prolific and influential publisher of American chromolithographs. Born in Germany, Prang learned to print in color from his father, a calico printer. In 1850, the younger Prang immigrated to the United States for political reasons. After a short-lived partnership as a chromolithographic printmaker with Julius Mayer (Prang & Mayer), Prang set up his own firm of L. Prang & Co. in 1860. Initially, his success was fueled by public consumption of his many small prints, which were popular for collections and albums. Within his first ten years of business, Prang started to issue color-printed copies of famous paintings and launched his magazine, Prang’s Chromo: A Journal of Popular Art. Prang’s prints, which were “sold in all Picture stores,” were based on oils and watercolors and received highly praised from the press and many influential persons. More than any other print publisher, Prang created the market for chromolithographs in America, and his work was highly influential on firms around the country. With great success, Prang issued about 800 such art prints, advertising them as
“PRANG’S AMERICAN CHROMOS. ‘THE DEMOCRACY OF ART’ . . . Our Chromo Prints are absolute FACSIMILES of the originals, in color, drawing, and spirit, and their price is so low that every home may enjoy the luxury of possessing a copy of works of art, which hitherto adorned only the parlors of the rich.”
Prang issued prints of all sorts, from views to genre, natural history and historical. These prints were extremely popular and hung in the homes of many Americans from after the Civil War through the rest of the century.