"U.S. Ship of the Line Pennsylvania" (1866) by Currier & Ives
Hand colored Lithograph
13.5" x 9.5"
Currier & Ives Firm Bio
Nathaniel Currier was an introspective man who captivated people with his piercing stare or charm them with his sparkling blue eyes. He was born in Roxbury, Massachusetts on March 27th, 1813. At age 8, his father passed away unexpectedly leaving him and his older brother to provide for their family. He worked a series of odd jobs until he began his life-long career apprenticing in a Boston lithography shop owned by William and John Pendleton. At this point, lithography was a fairly new invention, only starting about 30 years prior to Nathaniel's apprenticeship. He was taught the art of lithography under Dubois who brought the trade to America.
In 1833, Nathaniel Currier left Boston for Philadelphia, then moved to New York City to work with his mentor John Pendleton again. Soon after, Nathaniel was offered the print shop at 137 Broadway by Pendleton who was interested in returning to Boston. Although he lacked the funds, he purchased the business with the help of another local printer by the name of Stodart. The business produced music sheets and architectural plans, although Currier experimented with portraits, disaster scenes and memorial prints to make ends meet. He would sell these to the public from tables in front of his shop.
In 1852, Currier was introduced to James Merritt Ives by his youngest brother Charles. He hired him as his bookkeeper. Jim Ives was born in 1824 in New York. He was a self-trained artist, and a plump and jovial man. His personality was the exact opposite of Currier's melancholic nature.
Ives set out to improve and modernize Currier's bookkeeping methods. He reorganized the inventory and streamlined production methods with his artistic skills. By 1857, Currier was so dependent on Ives' skills that he offered him a full partnership in the firm and appointed him manager.
Currier and Ives offered prints colored in house and uncolored prints to dealers with instructions on how to prepare them for coloring. In addition, schools could order uncolored prints for use in their painting classes.
Currier and Ives attracted a wide circle of friends. Some acquaintances included Horace Greeley, Phineas T. Barnum, Rev. Henry Ward, and John Greenleaf Whittier.
The duo described their business as "Publishers of Cheap and Popular Pictures" and produced numerous categories of prints. Categories included Disaster Scenes, Sentimental Images, Sports, Humor, Hunting Scenes, Politics, Religion, City and Rural Scenes, Trains, Ships, Fire Fighters, Famous Race Horses, Historical Portraits, and just about any other topic that satisfied the general public's taste. In all, the firm produced in excess of 7500 different titles, totaling over one million prints produced from 1835 to 1907.
Currier and Ives both passed their shares onto their eldest sons. Currier retired in 1880 and Ives was active in the business up until his death in 1895.
In 1902, Currier's son sold his share to Ives' son before passing. In 1907, Ives' son found the business failing with advancements in offset printing and photo engraving and closed the business. He sold the equipment to his shop foreman Daniel W. Logan.
For a full biography on the Currier and Ives Firm, visit http://www.currierandives.com/