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

Overview | Currier & Ives | The End of an Age

Nostalgia
The most common response to the turmoil was nostalgia, a longing for a golden age in simpler, more harmonious times. (4) Michael Kammen, in Mystic Chords of Memory: The Transformation of Tradition in American Culture states that "[n]ostalgia is especially likely to occur in response to dramatic or unanticipated alterations, like a revolution or a civil war, a stunning transformation of the sort that rapid industrialization brings, or the crumbling of a venerated value system, like revealed religion. All of those phenomena, and their predictably attendant concerns, were present during the years from 1860 until 1917." (5)

Looking backward during the period from the Civil War to World War I helped Americans to accept dramatic political, economic, and social changes. Without emotional anchors to secure themselves to traditions, mores, and notions of an ideal past, Americans could not face an uncertain and frightening future. "Nostalgia meant more to them than consolation. It provided identity, integrity, and perhaps even a sense of security–however false." (6) Children play in a pastoral setting.

Public monuments and myths spread through novels, tracts, art, sermons, and music are some of the ways that people try to create a memory and a history–a usable mythos–for themselves. Often, the repository for a nostalgic mythos is in the archives of the affluent–in America, as well as Europe, these took the form of private collections, many of which were eventually turned over to museums. Ironically, it was one of the nation's first production lines–that of Currier and Ives–that provided the middle and lower classes with their own venue. This was the lithograph print, published by numerous printing companies but most notably and most successfully by Currier and Ives. The firm sold prints that virtually everyone could afford. The least expensive prints sold for six cents each, but even the most expensive were no more than three dollars. They ranged in size from 8 x 12.5 inches to 28 x 40 inches. (7)

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

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