April/May 2006 - ATHA

Currier and Ives Puzzle Box Picture Proves Interesting to Rug Hooker

Submitted by Sibyl Osicka

April/May 2006 - ATHA

Nathaniel Currier, at the age of 13, went to work for William and John Pendleton as an apprentice. In 1834, having finished his training, Nathaniel Currier felt qualified to go into business for himself. For a brief period he worked with a man named Stodart.

Mr. Currier began his print publishing business in 1834 at the age of twenty two. Up to this point only printings of letterhead were done, but Mr. Currier saw the possibilities of publishing newsworthy subjects. There were newspapers, a few magazines and only a small number of book publishers. The pulpit and the political stump took care of the spoken word. The theater and the concert stage in this country were in their infancy. Later, the stage with Uncle Tom's cabin was to have a profound political effect. The use of color in illustrations, via the printing press, was virtually unknown.

Among the additional help, which he employed, was a man named James Merritt Ives. Mr. Ives and Nathaniel's brother Charles were married to sisters. Mr. Ives at first was a bookkeeper and general handyman, but his talent and abilities became indispensable to Currier and within a few years he was made a partner. In 1857, and thereafter, all the publications of the firm carried the joint imprint of Currier and Ives.

Mr. Currier perfected the assembly line technique by using women, under supervision, to hand color the black and white lithographs pulled from the stone. He literally communicated realism to his audience, and in some cases, the original artists guided the women in their coloring. However, the colors in the prints often varied with the whims of the colorists. Currier's process was the forerunner of color printing and color television.

Currier and Ives issued four catalogues, each devoted to a special classification. At this point they had 5,600 items in stock, which posed quite a storage and inventory problem. They included such a wide variety of subjects that practically every phase of life in American of that period is covered.

Currier and Ives had many storefront locations. There were about 7,000 or a little more of their prints. - The chief salesman and general sales manager for more than forty years was Daniel W. Logan, Sr. Later, pushcart salesmen would appear each morning at the store and each would select prints that he thought would suit the potential customers in his particular area. The peddler would leave a deposit on the prints taken. At night the peddlers would return with the merchandise that was left, had their deposits returned, and paid for the prints sold. The next stop was to have peddlers in other cities. The firm also had a London office.

At wholesale the small prints sold for six cents apiece, six dollars a hundred, and sixty dollars a thousand. In the store the single prints were sold from 15 to 25 cents apiece. The large folios, which were colored by outside artists or colorists, sold at retail from one dollar and fifty cents to three dollars each.

"Down by the Old Mill Stream" was a McGown (now the House of Price) pattern. It was from a puzzle box pattern called "The Old Swiss Mill" dated 1872. It was a puzzle box picture with hidden pictures in it. I placed the hidden pictures back in the pattern, 19 of them, which I found very enjoyable.

All of them had hidden figures drawn into the background. These were probably created for children. Here are some interesting thoughts on water: