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SCENES OF AMERICANA: Currier and Ives |

SCENES OF AMERICANA: Currier and Ives

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. They made an odd couple, Currier tall, handsome, and 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 1940s to the mid-1950s The Homer Laughlin China Company produced a line of China known as Americana. Using the existing molds from their Willow and Brittany lines they issued 25 pieces, each with a different scene. The special achievement of 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.

The Royal China Company of Sebring Ohio began production of their line of Currier and Ives, blue, brown and red China in 1950. The quaint scenes of Americana were an instant success with the public whose taste had turned to a revival of Early American decor. Sold in department stores and given as premiums by the AP grocery chain, the china was attractive and affordable to the masses. It was produced for 36 years with only a brief interruption from 1970-1975. The patterns were discontinued in 1986.

Pieces produced before 1970 will feature the famous scroll work border designed by Royal China’s art director, Gordon Parker. The scroll trim was omitted in the second issue of Currier and Ives patterns, a point which is helpful in determining age. There were a variety of back stamps used through the years of production, each featuring the Royal China mark. While there are a few unmarked pieces, the majority will carry the blue, black, or brown back stamp. Very rarely a piece will surface with the company logo in red.

Standard table settings abound and are quite moderate in price in the current soft market. Serving pieces such as oval vegetable dishes, berry bowls, cream and sugars, and chop plates are also available, and for much less than new china. For the motivated collector, the more rare items such as the holiday hostess sets, scroll lid teapot, soup tureens and the tabbed gravy boat plate, are out there if you are persistent in your search. Occasionally a wall plaque, originally given as a promotional tool, will surface. These are considered very rare and a stellar addition to any collection.

Until next time…Linda

Greensburg native and Irvington resident Linda Kennett is a profession liquidation consultant specializing in senior downsizing and the liquidation of estates and may be reached at 317-258-7835 or lkennett@indy.rr.com

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