19th-Century Nathaniel Currier Print
This was in an office that I worked out of in Hartford, Connecticut. So they wanted to get rid of everything, and so I asked for it and they said, "No, you can't have it, you have to pay for it." And I said, "Well, how much do you want for it?" And he said, "Give me a dollar," and so I bought this for a dollar.
Now, I understand that you had a question about the maker of this print.
Yes, I noticed down here that it's by N. Currier, and I was wondering whether that was in association with Currier and Ives or... what is the story on N. Currier?
Well, actually that's Nathaniel Currier, and he was the founder of the firm. He started the firm in 1835 and he was the sole proprietor until 1856. In 1857, his bookkeeper, James Ives, joined the firm and it became Currier and Ives. Now, they are the most famous name... in fact, they're the most famous makers of 19th-century American prints. Over 7,000 different images were printed by Currier and Ives, and of each one, they probably issued thousands of them. So a lot were made, but not many survive of the originals. When one sees a Currier and Ives print, generally one suspects it's probably a reproduction, and especially when one sees a title which says, "Insured in the American Insurance Company of Newark," because that's an insurance company-- the type of firm that would have issued a reproduction. However, there were certain things about this print which made me suspicious. The size was right. It is a hand-colored lithograph-- I looked at it under a glass and it is a lithograph. And it's in a wonderful old frame—probably a 19th-century frame-- and on the back of the frame are the old slats that indicate that it's been around for a long time. I went to the "bible" of Currier and Ives collectors, and this is a book by Cunningham called Currier and Ives Prints. And looking it up, I looked under and found an entry for "Life of a Fireman" by Currier, and it says in here that "Also used with the main title eliminated "and 'Insured in the American Insurance Company of Newark' added." So it's actually a documented print. That combined with the fact that it is a hand-colored lithograph makes me believe that it is an original Currier and Ives print. Now, if it were a reproduction, such a print like this might be worth $25, $30. A print like this, you did very well on your one-dollar purchase. It's worth, in this kind of condition, about $3,000 to $4,000.
So that was a pretty good purchase. The insurance company did not do very well, but you certainly did. It's a wonderful example of America's greatest printmakers of the 19th century.
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