Steamboat Times
Printmakers Currier & Ives, headed by Nathaniel Currier (1813-1888) and James Merritt Ives (1824-1895), produced some of the most popular American art of the 19th century. The company specialized in publishing inexpensive hand-colored lithographic prints for the growing American middle class. It is estimated that over 8500 lithograph titles were published by 'Currier & Ives' between 1834 and 1907, and that more than one million lithographic prints were made.

Currier began issuing prints in 1834 and the name ‘Currier & Ives’ was first used in 1857, when Ives (the company's bookkeeper and Currier's brother-in-law) became a partner. Their lithographs depicted almost every aspect of American life, including sporting, sentimental, patriotic and political subjects, disasters, portraits, landscapes, scenes of country and city life, sleigh rides in the country, railroads, Mississippi steamboats, and so forth. The company advertised its prints as ‘Coloured Engravings for the People’, and sold them cheaply to the public through agents, printsellers, and pedlars, for prices ranging from 5 cents to $3, depending on the size. A number of artists, most of whom specialized in particular subjects, were retained to draw the lithographs in black and white; the prints were then coloured by hand on a production-line (one assistant to each colour). While never pretending artistic greatness, Currier & Ives insisted on fine craftsmanship and quality lithographic materials. The sons of the founders continued the business until 1907.
The Levee at New Orleans

Credit:
Artist, William A. Walker.
Printmakers: Currier & Ives.

Enlargement: 1600 x 1077pxs.

The Levee at New Orleans ~ 1884

A colorful New Orleans levee scene depicting steamboats loading and discharging freight, including the famous racer the Natchez (VI) with the red stacks and 'scape pipes. Painted by Southerner William Walker in 1883, revealing his keen attention to detail and his talent for characterization. Published by Currier & Ives in 1884.

William Aiken Walker: ~
(b Charleston, SC, 23 March 1838; d Charleston, 3 Jan 1921)
William Aiken Walker is considered to a leading painter of the American South, and is known for his paintings of Negroes, plantations, cotton fields, and dock scenes. The son of a prominent cotton agent, he was a true Southerner, born in Charleston, South Carolina in 1838.

Walker completed his first painting at twelve and painted until his death in 1921. Although he studied in Düsseldorf, Germany, sometime during the 1860s, he was mostly self-taught.

Throughout the Civil War, Walker remained in Charleston; becoming a member of the Confederate Engineer Corps, drafting sketches and preparing maps for the Confederacy.

Currier and Ives published several of his color lithographs in 1884; most notably "Cotton Plantation on the Mississippi" and "The Levee, New Orleans," after which his reputation grew. His larger compositions may have been commissioned by wealthy patrons, but Walker was able to stick to his goal of providing art for the common man, since Currier and Ives sold the prints for three dollars apiece.

He was something of a gastronome. When he had the option of traveling by steamboat or railroad he more often chose the former, because not only could he sketch the passing scene while under way, but also the steamboats were famous for their "plentiful cuisine."

From 1876 to 1905, Walker regarded New Orleans as his home. Walker's most productive period was during the early 1880s when he painted hundreds of pictures of poor rustic blacks. His works are detailed due to some use of a camera, and sometimes lack of emotional depth. The number of landscapes he painted increased after 1890. He used an assembly line method of a sort to turn out post card-size portraits which he sold to the Yankee tourist trade as souvenirs of the Old South.

Walker was a sociable man with added talents, and was known to sing, play the violin and piano, and compose poetry in English and French.
A Midnight Race on the Mississippi

Credit:
Artist, Frances F. Palmer.
Printmakers:
Currier & Ives.
Enlargement: 1600 x 1049pxs.

A Midnight Race on the Mississippi  ~ 1890

(Also published 1860, 1866, 1875)

This moonlit scene depicts a race between the Natchez (fourth) and the Eclipse on the Lower Mississippi, in 1854, in which the Eclipse proved victorious. Another version shows the Memphis and the James Howard.

The original for this print was completed by Frances F. Palmer, working from a drawing by H.D. Manning.

Frances F. Palmer: ~
(b Leicester, England, 26 June 1812; d Brooklyn, NY, 20 Aug 1876)
Frances (Fanny) Flora Bond Palmer, was a lithographer and draughtswoman of English birth, who became one of the outstanding graphic artists of the 19th century. She learnt to draw at a girls’ school in Leicester run by the artist Mary Linwood (1756-1845). In the 1830s, she married Edmund Seymour Palmer, and they had two children. With her husband, she started a lithography business in 1841 (she was the artist and he the printer), publishing a series of picturesque views, Sketches in Leicestershire (1842-3).

In 1843, she immigrated to the United States with her family, and opened a lithography company in New York. Although she gained an excellent reputation for lithography, the business lost money and closed in the 1850s. However, Currier & Ives had recognized her talents and began to employ her in 1849. Particularly adept at background tinting and rendering atmospheric landscapes, she became one of the company's principle artists. She had a prodigious output, completing several hundred lithographs, more than any of the other regular artists in the employ of Currier & Ives.

Her husband, who had become a tavern keeper, died in 1859, ignominiously falling drunken down a flight of stairs in a hotel in Brooklyn. A small and frail woman, Frances Palmer sustained her family until her death in Brooklyn in 1876. She was further burdened by a son who was never employed and who had tuberculosis. Never becoming wealthy, despite her brilliance and productivity, it has been said that she worked so hard for over twenty-five years, bent over her pictures in the same stooped position, that she became hunchbacked in later life.
Eclipse Loading Cotton
     
Credit:
Artist, unknown.
Printmakers: Currier & Ives.
Enlargement: 1345 x 830pxs.
Loading Cotton on the Mississippi ~ 1870

A depiction of the steamboat Eclipse at a landing on the Mississippi, loading bales of cotton.


Bound Down The River

Credit:
Artist, unknown.
Printmakers: Currier & Ives.
Enlargement: 1348 x 826pxs.
Bound Down The River  circa 1870

Three forms of river craft are rendered in this lower Mississippi scene; a flatboat, a sternwheeler, and a sidewheeler at a landing, while other boats are in the distance. The flatboatmen are typically sitting on top of the flatboat, and one is dancing a "jig".


High Water on the Mississippi

Credit:
Artist, Frances F. Palmer.
Printmakers: Currier & Ives.

Enlargement: 1340 x 690pxs.
High Water on the Mississippi ~ 1868

A poignant image depicting the struggle to endure seasonal flooding.

Among uprooted trees and floating debris, two men using a roof as a raft pole themselves and nine others to safety, while one of their companions holds tight to the reins of a mule swimming beside the roof, and two others rescue furniture and a barrel. In the middle-ground, there is a large white-painted house with second-floor balconies front and back, and a smaller cook-house off to the right side. Two men in a row-boat approach the back of the house, and a lady stands on the balcony speaking to the men. On the roof of the house a man and a woman stand as the man waves a handkerchief to the steamboat Stonewall Jackson, which is traveling at speed. Passengers line the rails attracted by the human drama they are passing.

Frances F. Palmer: ~
(b Leicester, England, 26 June 1812; d Brooklyn, NY, 20 Aug 1876)
Frances (Fanny) Flora Bond Palmer, was a lithographer and draughtswoman of English birth, who became one of the outstanding graphic artists of the 19th century. She learnt to draw at a girls’ school in Leicester run by the artist Mary Linwood (1756-1845). In the 1830s, she married Edmund Seymour Palmer, and they had two children. With her husband, she started a lithography business in 1841 (she was the artist and he the printer), publishing a series of picturesque views, Sketches in Leicestershire (1842-3).

In 1843, she immigrated to the United States with her family, and opened a lithography company in New York. Although she gained an excellent reputation for lithography, the business lost money and closed in the 1850s. However, Currier & Ives had recognized her talents and began to employ her in 1849. Particularly adept at background tinting and rendering atmospheric landscapes, she became one of the company's principle artists. She had a prodigious output, completing several hundred lithographs, more than any of the other regular artists in the employ of Currier & Ives.

Her husband, who had become a tavern keeper, died in 1859, ignominiously falling drunken down a flight of stairs in a hotel in Brooklyn. A small and frail woman, Frances Palmer sustained her family until her death in Brooklyn in 1876. She was further burdened by a son who was never employed and who had tuberculosis. Never becoming wealthy, despite her brilliance and productivity, it has been said that she worked so hard for over twenty-five years, bent over her pictures in the same stooped position, that she became hunchbacked in later life.
Low Water on the Mississippi

Credit: Artist Frances F. Palmer.
Printmakers: Currier & Ives.

Enlargement: 1340 x 723pxs.

Note: This lithograph has been marked with the name "F. E. Palmer", and is here attributed to Frances F. Palmer. It is thought that her name was sometimes disguised, because it was an age when woman were seldom acknowledged as professionals. Her prodigious output of several hundred lithographs is probably much greater.
Low Water on the Mississippi ~ 1867

Here, a sidewheeler, sternwheeler and a flatboat run during low water, with snags in the river resulting from eroding riverbanks.

Frances F. Palmer: ~
(b Leicester, England, 26 June 1812; d Brooklyn, NY, 20 Aug 1876)
Frances (Fanny) Flora Bond Palmer, was a lithographer and draughtswoman of English birth, who became one of the outstanding graphic artists of the 19th century. She learnt to draw at a girls’ school in Leicester run by the artist Mary Linwood (1756-1845). In the 1830s, she married Edmund Seymour Palmer, and they had two children. With her husband, she started a lithography business in 1841 (she was the artist and he the printer), publishing a series of picturesque views, Sketches in Leicestershire (1842-3).

In 1843, she immigrated to the United States with her family, and opened a lithography company in New York. Although she gained an excellent reputation for lithography, the business lost money and closed in the 1850s. However, Currier & Ives had recognized her talents and began to employ her in 1849. Particularly adept at background tinting and rendering atmospheric landscapes, she became one of the company's principle artists. She had a prodigious output, completing several hundred lithographs, more than any of the other regular artists in the employ of Currier & Ives.

Her husband, who had become a tavern keeper, died in 1859, ignominiously falling drunken down a flight of stairs in a hotel in Brooklyn. A small and frail woman, Frances Palmer sustained her family until her death in Brooklyn in 1876. She was further burdened by a son who was never employed and who had tuberculosis. Never becoming wealthy, despite her brilliance and productivity, it has been said that she worked so hard for over twenty-five years, bent over her pictures in the same stooped position, that she became hunchbacked in later life.
Rounding a Bend on the Mississippi

Credit: Artist, Frances F. Palmer.
Printmakers: Currier & Ives.

Enlargement: 1346 x 696pxs.
Rounding a Bend on the Mississippi ~ 1866

Full title: 'Rounding a Bend on the Mississippi. Steamboat Queen of the West. The Parting Salute'

This scene depicts the Queen of the West rounding a bend in the river and firing a parting salute from the stern to two steamboats traveling behind.

Frances F. Palmer: ~
(b Leicester, England, 26 June 1812; d Brooklyn, NY, 20 Aug 1876)
Frances (Fanny) Flora Bond Palmer, was a lithographer and draughtswoman of English birth, who became one of the outstanding graphic artists of the 19th century. She learnt to draw at a girls’ school in Leicester run by the artist Mary Linwood (1756-1845). In the 1830s, she married Edmund Seymour Palmer, and they had two children. With her husband, she started a lithography business in 1841 (she was the artist and he the printer), publishing a series of picturesque views, Sketches in Leicestershire (1842-3).

In 1843, she immigrated to the United States with her family, and opened a lithography company in New York. Although she gained an excellent reputation for lithography, the business lost money and closed in the 1850s. However, Currier & Ives had recognized her talents and began to employ her in 1849. Particularly adept at background tinting and rendering atmospheric landscapes, she became one of the company's principle artists. She had a prodigious output, completing several hundred lithographs, more than any of the other regular artists in the employ of Currier & Ives.

Her husband, who had become a tavern keeper, died in 1859, ignominiously falling drunken down a flight of stairs in a hotel in Brooklyn. A small and frail woman, Frances Palmer sustained her family until her death in Brooklyn in 1876. She was further burdened by a son who was never employed and who had tuberculosis. Never becoming wealthy, despite her brilliance and productivity, it has been said that she worked so hard for over twenty-five years, bent over her pictures in the same stooped position, that she became hunchbacked in later life.
A Cotton Plantation on the Mississippi

Credit: Artist, William A. Walker.
Printmakers: Currier & Ives.

Enlargement: 1600 x 1060pxs.

A Cotton Plantation on the Mississippi ~ 1884

Full title: 'A Cotton Plantation on the Mississippi. The Harvest, 1884.'

William Aiken Walker: ~
(b Charleston, SC, 23 March 1838; d Charleston, 3 Jan 1921)
William Aiken Walker is considered to a leading painter of the American South, and is known for his paintings of Negroes, plantations, cotton fields, and dock scenes. The son of a prominent cotton agent, he was a true Southerner, born in Charleston, South Carolina in 1838.

Walker completed his first painting at twelve and painted until his death in 1921. Although he studied in Düsseldorf, Germany, sometime during the 1860s, he was mostly self-taught.

Throughout the Civil War, Walker remained in Charleston; becoming a member of the Confederate Engineer Corps, drafting sketches and preparing maps for the Confederacy.

Currier and Ives published several of his color lithographs in 1884; most notably "Cotton Plantation on the Mississippi" and "The Levee, New Orleans," after which his reputation grew. His larger compositions may have been commissioned by wealthy patrons, but Walker was able to stick to his goal of providing art for the common man, since Currier and Ives sold the prints for three dollars apiece.

He was something of a gastronome. When he had the option of traveling by steamboat or railroad he more often chose the former, because not only could he sketch the passing scene while under way, but also the steamboats were famous for their "plentiful cuisine."

From 1876 to 1905, Walker regarded New Orleans as his home. Walker's most productive period was during the early 1880s when he painted hundreds of pictures of poor rustic blacks. His works are detailed due to some use of a camera, and sometimes lack of emotional depth. The number of landscapes he painted increased after 1890. He used an assembly line method of a sort to turn out post card-size portraits which he sold to the Yankee tourist trade as souvenirs of the Old South.

Walker was a sociable man with added talents, and was known to sing, play the violin and piano, and compose poetry in English and French.
Champions of the Mississippi

Credit: Currier & Ives.
Enlargement: 1751 x 1167pxs.
Champions of the Mississippi ~ 1866

Full title: 'Champions of the Mississippi. Race For the Buckhorns.'

The Queen of the West racing the Morning Star. Another boat is just behind them. Spectators cheer from the bank near a large bonfire. The victor was entitled to mount the "the buckhorns" between her stacks for a year.


The Great Race on the Mississippi

Credit: Currier & Ives.
Enlargement: 988 x 627pxs.

Note: Explanatory text on this reads:
'From New Orleans to St. Louis, July 1870. Between R.E. Lee, Capt. John W Cannon and Natchez, Capt. Leathers. Won by R.E. Lee. Time: 3 days, 18 hours and 30 minutes. Distance 1210 miles.'

On a subsequent update of this print the minutes were corrected to '14.'
The Great Race on the Mississippi ~ 1870

Perhaps the most famous steamboat race on the Mississippi occurred in June, 1870, from New Orleans to St. Louis, between the Natchez (VI)* and the Robt. E. Lee. In that month, the Natchez had made a record breaking trip from New Orleans to St. Louis in 3 days, 21 hours and 58 minutes. Captain John W. Cannon of the Robt. E. Lee was determined to outdo the Natchez. While waiting for the Natchez to return to New Orleans, he readied the Robt. E. Lee for a race by stripping her of excess weight and declining any passengers or cargo.

Captain T. P. Leathers of the Natchez welcomed the challenge, but refused to lighten his burden. The two boats left New Orleans with the Robt. E. Lee slightly ahead. During the race, Captain Cannon arranged for barges to be floated alongside of the Robt. E. Lee to hasten the refueling process. The Natchez was forced to do the same, but only after some time had passed. The Robt. E. Lee won the race by several hours, but the Natchez had been delayed by fog and was stuck on a sandbar for six hours.

Though the Natchez lost the race, she was very likely just as fast, or faster, and might have won the race if Captain Leathers had unloaded his cargo and passengers.

* She was the sixth boat named Natchez commissioned by Captain Leathers, but the seventh that bore the Natchez name, the first having been built in 1823.
Wooding Up on the Mississippi (Night Version)

Credit: Artist, Frances F. Palmer.
Printmakers: Currier & Ives.

Enlargement: 679 x 439pxs.
Wooding Up on the Mississippi (Night Version) ~ 1863

(Also published 1866)

Depicts the Princess at a landing, loading wood.

Frances F. Palmer: ~
(b Leicester, England, 26 June 1812; d Brooklyn, NY, 20 Aug 1876)
Frances (Fanny) Flora Bond Palmer, was a lithographer and draughtswoman of English birth, who became one of the outstanding graphic artists of the 19th century. She learnt to draw at a girls’ school in Leicester run by the artist Mary Linwood (1756-1845). In the 1830s, she married Edmund Seymour Palmer, and they had two children. With her husband, she started a lithography business in 1841 (she was the artist and he the printer), publishing a series of picturesque views, Sketches in Leicestershire (1842-3).

In 1843, she immigrated to the United States with her family, and opened a lithography company in New York. Although she gained an excellent reputation for lithography, the business lost money and closed in the 1850s. However, Currier & Ives had recognized her talents and began to employ her in 1849. Particularly adept at background tinting and rendering atmospheric landscapes, she became one of the company's principle artists. She had a prodigious output, completing several hundred lithographs, more than any of the other regular artists in the employ of Currier & Ives.

Her husband, who had become a tavern keeper, died in 1859, ignominiously falling drunken down a flight of stairs in a hotel in Brooklyn. A small and frail woman, Frances Palmer sustained her family until her death in Brooklyn in 1876. She was further burdened by a son who was never employed and who had tuberculosis. Never becoming wealthy, despite her brilliance and productivity, it has been said that she worked so hard for over twenty-five years, bent over her pictures in the same stooped position, that she became hunchbacked in later life.
Wooding Up on the Mississippi (Day Version)

Credit: Artist, Frances F. Palmer.
Printmakers: Currier & Ives.

Enlargement: 1267 x 461pxs.
Wooding Up on the Mississippi (Day Version ) ~ 1863

(Also published 1866)

Depicts the Princess at a landing, loading wood.

Quote: ~

TERRIBLE DISASTER. EXPLOSION OF THE MISSISSIPPI STEAMER PRINCESS -- 75 TO 100 PERSONS KILLED -- 100 WOUNDED -- NAMES OF LIST, MISSING AND INJURED.

A telegram from New Orleans, published on the 1st instant, briefly announced the explosion of the steamer Princess on the Mississippi, and a dreadful loss of life. The New Orleans papers give full particulars of the disaster. The names of the killed had not been fully ascertained, but it is supposed that from seventy-five to one hundred lives were lost. Upwards of one hundred persons were wounded. The Princess was about four years old, a first-class packet, plying between New Orleans and Vicksburg. She was put in thorough repair last summer, at a cost of $30,000. On Sunday morning, Feb. 27, at about 10 o'clock, while on her way to New Orleans, her boilers exploded. Out of four hundred passengers on board, over two hundred were killed or injured. The Picayune says that four of the large, powerful boilers exploded at once, driving aft, clearing all before them, and the whole upper cabin, state rooms, hurricane deck and all, fell in almost immediately, and in a few moments the flames burst forth. The shock was so sudden and so tremendous, so utterly unlooked for, as apparently to have bewildered the bravest and most experienced men.

The chief engineer, ANDY SWEENY, had ended his watch at 8 A.M.; when the second engineer, PETER HERSEY, went on, and was attending to his duty when the explosion occurred, he being the first victim. He was cut in two.
The force of the explosion, or some other lucky accident, gave the boat a turn towards the bank. She soon struck on a sand bar that jutted out into the river from the shore, and where she grounded. The mate on duty, with several of the crew, jumped on the bar and succeeded in making the boat fast. In the mean while, those who were uninjured, busied themselves in endeavoring to rescue their unfortunate companions buried in the burning ruins of the cabin and gathered in which were many ladies and children. All who could be moved, wounded or not, were taken on the sand-bank, there to await, in a state of agony and horror that can faintly be imagined, the hand of rescue from some passing vessel.

The companion packet to the Princess, the steamboat Natchez, which left here on Saturday afternoon, was the first boat to near the disastrous scene.
The Natchez laid by the wreck for some hours, her officers, crew and passengers exerting themselves to the utmost to give all the relief in their power, and soon this steamer started on her way up the river, her decks filled with mattresses, on which reclined the blackened forms of those who, but a day before, had left their homes to spend the last joyous week of the Carnival in the Crescent City.

The boat is a total loss. No papers, books, or other property was saved. Captain THOMASSON, of the steamboat Magnolia, arrived last night from Vicksburg, informed us that he laid by the sand bar some time, but nothing of the wreck could be seen; and the same bar itself was deserted. Nothing remained to tell of the accident but a few cotton bales floating about, here and there.
Credit: ~ The New York Times, New York, 1859-03-10. Researched and transcribed by Stu Beitler.

Another transcript reads:
'The weather was foggy at the time of the explosion. She was behind time and had too much steam on. A Baton Rouge despatch says that the engineer is reported to have said that he would reach New Orleans in a certain time, or blow her up. The engineer was completely cut into pieces by the explosion.'


Frances F. Palmer: ~

(b Leicester, England, 26 June 1812; d Brooklyn, NY, 20 Aug 1876)
Frances (Fanny) Flora Bond Palmer, was a lithographer and draughtswoman of English birth, who became one of the outstanding graphic artists of the 19th century. She learnt to draw at a girls’ school in Leicester run by the artist Mary Linwood (1756-1845). In the 1830s, she married Edmund Seymour Palmer, and they had two children. With her husband, she started a lithography business in 1841 (she was the artist and he the printer), publishing a series of picturesque views, Sketches in Leicestershire (1842-3).

In 1843, she immigrated to the United States with her family, and opened a lithography company in New York. Although she gained an excellent reputation for lithography, the business lost money and closed in the 1850s. However, Currier & Ives had recognized her talents and began to employ her in 1849. Particularly adept at background tinting and rendering atmospheric landscapes, she became one of the company's principle artists. She had a prodigious output, completing several hundred lithographs, more than any of the other regular artists in the employ of Currier & Ives.

Her husband, who had become a tavern keeper, died in 1859, ignominiously falling drunken down a flight of stairs in a hotel in Brooklyn. A small and frail woman, Frances Palmer sustained her family until her death in Brooklyn in 1876. She was further burdened by a son who was never employed and who had tuberculosis. Never becoming wealthy, despite her brilliance and productivity, it has been said that she worked so hard for over twenty-five years, bent over her pictures in the same stooped position, that she became hunchbacked in later life.



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