I mentioned earlier that today is Nathaniel Currier’s birthday. Currier opened his print publishing business in 1834. James Ives joined him in 1852 and became his partner in 1857.
Currier was a trained lithographer. Ives was a businessman with “a shrewd insight into the public’s taste.”
From that infallible source:
Lithography originally used an image drawn with oil, fat, or wax onto the surface of a smooth, level lithographic limestone plate. The stone was treated with a mixture of acid and gum arabic, etching the portions of the stone which were not protected by the grease-based image. When the stone was subsequently moistened, these etched areas retained water; an oil-based ink could then be applied and would be repelled by the water, sticking only to the original drawing. The ink would finally be transferred to a blank paper sheet, producing a printed page. This traditional technique is still used in some fine art printmaking applications.
Currier & Ives employed both artists and colorists. The artists, each typically with his or her own area of expertise (American Revolution, clipper ships, firefighters, hunting and fishing, railroads, etc.), and many famous in the day, created the artwork on stone. The colorists, working in assembly-line fashion– one color per woman, hand painted the prints.
You can read more about Currier & Ives and see some of the 7500 titles in the
crappy old book, Currier & Ives Chronicles of America (1968), at Open Library. But please! Consider buying this crappy old book!