Archive for January, 2018


Student Organizes Currier & Ives Prints

   Posted by: sdickins    in Americana, Students

As a student worker in the Watkinson, I see a lot of different kinds of rare books, magazines, newspapers, etc. For the past couple of weeks, I have been working on organizing our collection of Currier and Ives prints. Currier and Ives was a lithographic printing company that produced over 7,000 images from around 1834 to 1907. In the Watkinson we have around 176 of the prints.

While organizing our collection, I saw the vast range in subject matter. Many of the prints in the Watkinson have to do with U.S. history, in particular the Civil War, but they also show images of domestic life, rural scenes and religious scenes. As I was looking at all the prints, I noticed that many of them have different artistic styles. Some are realistic and some are more distorted, especially the prints showing African American caricatures. This style of art is meant to exaggerate some characteristics of the subject in order to elicit humor. In this case, the images seem to be racist depictions of African Americans that were intended to make fun of a minority.

In addition to the style, the earlier prints are in black and white and the integration of color comes gradually. This is most likely due to the progression of the lithographic printing process. Most of the prints were originally black and white and then hand colored by an assembly line of women. Each woman would have a separate hue of water color that they added to the prints. As lithography advanced, printing in color became possible and popular, resulting in more images in color.

This project was one of the more interesting ones that I have done while working for the Watkinson. The prints depict historical moments themselves, but are also historical in their creation. I would definitely recommend taking a look at the collection if you have a chance. The prints themselves are interesting, but the history behind them is what is really fascinating.

Posted by Meg Huston (2020)