Nathaniel Currier (1813-1888) and James Merritt Ives (1824-1895) founded the American printmaking firm Currier and Ives. The New York City firm was famous for its hand painted lithographs by well-known artists. Easily reproducible, they were inexpensive and popular. The firm described itself as “Publishers of Cheap and Popular Prints”.
Nathaniel started out as an apprentice in a Boston lithography shop and went on to work in Philadelphia for the noted engraver and printer M.E.D. Brown. Currier first partnered with Stodart and sold music manuscripts, but unhappy with the lack of sales, Currier ended the partnership in 1835 and started working alone. One of his first lithographs, “Merchant’s Exchange”, was so popular that it sold thousands of copies in just days. Because the lithograph depicted a current news item, a fire in the business district of New York, Currier went on to produce more lithographs based on news events such as the “Awful Conflagration of the Steam Boat Lexington”.
Currier and Ives first partnered in 1857. Currier was impressed with Ives devotion to the company as the bookkeeper and accountant and noticed his ability to sense what the public wanted.
Currier and Ives lithographs were especially popular amongst the Victorians and their new found love of nature. Animals, and especially cats, became subjects of their prints and decorated many American homes.
After the deaths of both Currier and Ives, their grandsons continued the business until 1907 when the firm closed due to the public’s lack of interest in lithographs due to improvements in photoengraving and offset printing.
For Currier and Ives cat greeting cards, click here.