Greensburg Daily News, Greensburg, IN

Columns

November 20, 2013

Currier and Ives china: Americana

Nathaniel Currier’s printing business was in a shambles due to the untimely departure of his long time partner.

While an excellent artist, he had little knowledge of how to run a business or keep the books. In 1852, discouraged and depressed, he met James Merritt Ives through a mutual friend. Ives was a self-trained artist and professional bookkeeper. An odd couple they made, Currier tall handsome and well refined, Ives, a plump jovial man with little formal education. Yet within five years they would form a partnership that would prove to be one most prolific and profitable companies in the history of American lithography, “Currier and Ives.”

Describing themselves as the “Publishers of Cheap and Popular Pictures”, the Currier and Ives Company produced more than one million hand-colored lithographs from 1857-1907. The prints depicted a variety of images of American life, including winter scenes, horse racing images, portraits, ships, sporting events, and scenes of the Civil War. Currier died in 1888. Ives remained active in the firm until his death in 1895. Public demand for lithographs gradually diminished and Currier and Ives closed in 1907.

In 1923 the early works of Currier and Ives passed into public domain, making them available for reprint or duplication. Many companies took advantage of the charming lithographic images to enhance their products, but none more successfully than The Homer Laughlin and the Royal China Companies.

From the late 1940’s to the mid-1950’s The Homer Laughlin China Company produced a line of china known as Americana. Using existing molds from their Willow and Brittany lines they issued 25 pieces, each with a different scene. The special achievement of the Homer Laughlin China Company has always been its ability to mass-produce inexpensive dinnerware with outstanding artistic value.

Although their line of Currier and Ives was short lived, it is recognized as the first ware of its kind to successfully translate the transfer patterns found on expensive English china onto quality everyday dinnerware. Homer Laughlin Currier and Ives came in green, blue and rose and is easily identifiable by the leaf trim around the edge of each piece and the Currier & Ives/HLC back stamp.

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