The expression “pet of the ladies” appears in mid-19th-century publications to describe men popular with women of the social elite; apparently this was the inspiration of the offered print based on its title and composition. An unsigned satirical piece reprinted from the Saturday Review in the New York Times in 1879 is titled “Interesting Young Men: A Peculiar Pet of the Ladies” and compares such men to small dogs. The offered print might even have been inspired directly by this article. It notes, in pertinent part:
“Whether pugs or interesting young men are the most objectionable of the pets adopted by middle-aged ladies is a question upon which there may be some diversity of opinion. There are certain features common to a great many kinds of pets, but nearly every variety has some special offensiveness…but the one may be unpleasant on account of his insufferable conceit, and the other on account of his propensity for snapping at trousers. There are many varieties among human as among canine pets, and it is of the type known as interesting young men that we now propose to treat. Like most other pets, interesting young men are expensive, dainty, and queer-tempered…They are less faithful than collies, less amusing than monkeys, and less useful than horses.”
The lithography firm of Currier & Ives was founded in 1834 by Nathaniel Currier as N. Currier, Lithographer, and based in New York. In 1852, he brought his brother-in-law, James Merritt Ives, into the business and renamed the firm Currier & Ives five years later. They were extremely prolific and highly successful, producing almost 7,500 different separately issued art prints through the 19th century until 1907, aptly advertising themselves as “Print-makers to the American People.” Their prints were issued in small, medium or large folio, though some particularly popular images were issued in more than one size. Dozens of American artists in the mid 19th century painted primarily for lithographic reproduction by Currier & Ives and other firms. To please a broad audience, the firm presented a warmly positive vision of America, frequently sentimental, and sometimes with a touch of humor. Currier & Ives prints generally portrayed the American landscape, scenery and landmarks, including the westward expansion, as well as daily life in both urban and rural settings. Their sporting and maritime subjects were particularly popular. These prints are now highly collectible as records of American history, as fine works of American art, and for their decorative appeal.
Full publication information: New York. Pub’d by Currier & Ives, 152 Nassau St.
Condition: Generally very good, recently professionally cleaned and deacidified, with only light remaining overall toning and wear. Two short marginal tears professionally restored.
Bonfante-Warren, Alexandra. Currier & Ives: Portraits of a Nation. New York: Friedman/Fairfax, 1998. pp. 9, 23-41.
Conningham, Frederic A. Currier and Ives Prints: An Illustrated Check List. New York: Crown, 1949. 1796.
“Interesting Young Men: A Peculiar Pet of the Ladies.” New York Times. 8 August 1879. p. 3. https://timesmachine.nytimes.com/timesmachine/1879/08/08/81755560.html?pageNumber=3 (23 March 2021).
Zellman, Michael David, dir. American Art Analog. Vol. I. Chelsea House: New York, 1986. p. 257.