Nathaniel Currier was eight years old, his father died, leaving Nathaniel and his eleven-year-old brother Lorenzo to provide for the family and two other siblings. At fifteen, he started what would become a lifelong vocation when he apprenticed in the Boston lithography shop. In 1835 at twenty-three, he set up his own shop, "N. Currier, Lithographer" until 1856, and one of his first lithographs were of a fire sweeping through New York City's business district. The print of the Ruins of the Merchant's Exchange sold thousands of copies in four days and he realized then that there was a market for current event news.
The name Currier & Ives showed up in 1857, when Currier invited James Merritt Ives, the company's clerk, and accountant, as his partner. Nathaniel Currier soon saw Ives' commitment to his business and his artistic knowledge and understanding into what general society wanted. The younger man had a flair for gauging popular interests and aided in the picking of images the firm would publish and helped expand the firm's product range to include political satire and sentimental scenes such as winter sleigh rides in the country and steamboat races. During the American Civil War, battle and navel scenes became popular, and being in the North, favored a more heroic and gallant Union depictions of the war.
Artists working there produced two to three new images every week for 64 years, producing more than a million prints by hand-colored lithography. For the original drawings, Currier & Ives used the work of many celebrated artists of the day including James E. Buttersworth, George Inness, and Eastman Johnson. The stars of the firm were Arthur Fitzwilliam Tait, who specialized in sporting scenes, Louis Maurer, who did genre scenes, George H. Durrie, who supplied winter scenes, and Fanny Palmer, who did panoramas of the American landscape, and who was the first woman in the United States to make her living as a full-time artist. Each print was pulled by hand. Prints were hand-colored by a dozen immigrant women from Germany with an art background, who worked in assembly-line fashion, one color to a worker, and who was paid $6 (equal of $156.00 today) for every 100 colored prints. Currier and Ives were the biggest and most successful company of lithographers in the U.S.
Small works sold for from five cents to twenty cents each (equal to $1.0 to $5.0 today) and large works sold for $1 to $3 (equal to $25 to $75 today) each. The Currier and Ives firm branched out from its central shop in New York City to sell prints via pushcart vendors, traveling salesmen, and book shops. The firm sold retail as well as wholesale, establishing outlets in cities across the country and in London. It also sold prepaid orders overseas through the mail, through its London office and sales agents in Europe.
Today, original Currier and Ives prints are much sought by collectors, and popular modern reproductions are the winter scenes, which are used for American Christmas cards.
They Traveled To England.
Artist's Biography compiled by Albert L. Mansour at The World's Artist, with text adapted from Wikipedia.