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

"The Four Seasons of Life: Middle Age. 'The Season of Strength.'" (1868)

Overview | Nostalgia | Currier & Ives

The End of an Age
Most of the lithographs that Currier and Ives produced were hand colored until the 1880s, when the firm began to use chromolithography to be more competitive. By then the reluctance of the firm to switch to automated printing processes or to incorporate photography began to tell on the business. So did the tastes of the public, even though the fervor for nostalgia had not entirely disappeared. But the public, as a newly developed audience, was fickle. In Currier & Ives: America Imagined, Bryan LeBeau notes that by the 1890s:

[T]he unsophisticated charms of Currier and Ives no longer proved attractive. A culture that had not recognized class distinctions began to divide into 'highbrow' and 'lowbrow.' Middle-class Americans began to define 'art' as something removed from everyday life (336).

For a time, however, the prints of Currier and Ives had offered a reassuring past to a fretful nation. Eventually, the public would turn to them again; World War I stimulated a wave of nostalgic collecting of their prints, precisely because they reflected a better time in America. (9)

This site explores some of the difficulties in an age that was also replete with wonders. It is my hope that by exploring the harsher realities and positing them against cherished images of the day, you will come to understand the need for nostalgia in any age, and the pleasure it brought via the prints of Currier and Ives.

For a more thorough history of Currier and Ives, see the list of sources or visit "Currier & Ives: The History of the Firm." For a digitized collection of their lithographs, go to "A Gallery of Currier & Ives Lithographs." For related writing exercises that incorporate English, history, science, and art, visit the "Writing Across the Curriculum" page in this website.

Click on the pull-down menu below to view "Types of Prints" which demonstrate nostalgia, along with corresponding photographs and text. Navigate in any order; the list is alphabetical, not contextual.

Overview | Nostalgia | Currier & Ives | The End of an Age

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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