American Studies Home Site Map Gallery of Prints Writing Across the Curriculum Currier & Ives Introduction Currier & Ives Opening

Home Sweet Home

Home Sweet Home

"Mid pleasures and palaces though we may roam,
Be it ever so humble there's no place like home!
A charm from the skies seems to hallow us there,
Which seek through the world, is ne'er met with elsewhere."

The music for "Home Sweet Home," was written in 1821 by Henry Rowley Bishop; John Howard Payne added the lyrics in 1823. It became a hit song in the middle of the century. To see the score sheet, click here.

America in the second half of the nineteenth century was not only in transition, it was in motion. Relocation, emigration, and immigration in all directions of the compass whenever times grew hard in one place and looked better in another were patterns for the whole country. Little wonder, then, that the home in the nineteenth century was viewed as "...a domestic island of virtue and stability." (35) With industrialization also "...looming as threat and menace, the cultivated home grew stronger and lay greater claim as the official image of America." (36)

The home was at the heart of the nostalgia trend. Lithography (hand colored) and chromolithography (colored in the printing process) made it possible to mass produce the image of a cultivated, settled, middle-class home. Regardless of how high or low the actual standards of living were, the images gave people something to aim for, model, and believe in. (37)

Most families could affort to put up a Currier and Ives print somewhere in their home. In a middle class home, it would be framed and placed in the parlor, which served as the public center of the house. In a farmhouse, it might be found in the sitting room or barn or both.

For a host of reasons, America experienced its greatest building boom to date in the second half of the nineteenth century, and many of these houses contained either a parlor or a sitting room. The boom, and the constantly migrating population, led to the appearance of several new housing types and architectural styles, ranging from the sod house to the Queen Anne mansion. (38) Currier and Ives represented the idealized versions of the best of these, often with a happy family in the scene. The people in these images–as in all the nostalgic prints–are not meant to be real and specific. Photography could accomplish that. These images, by contrast, are meant to leave room for the viewer to imagine that it is he or she that is standing there, in his or her mansion, townhouse, farm, or sturdy log cabin.

Link to Images of Home

American Studies Home Site Map Gallery of Prints Writing Across the Curriculum Currier & Ives Introduction Currier & Ives Opening

Site created by Marcy McDonald, American Studies, UVA. Last modified: July 30, 2005. E-mail: asgrp@virginia.edu

ENDNOTES | SOURCES

University of Virginia, www.virginia.edu