Tales of a Wayside Inn (1863) is structured along the lines of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, in which a group of travelers exchange stories. Two short excerpts from the first section, Prelude; The Wayside Inn, are printed in the lower margin, with the order of the verses switched and omitting some of Longfellow’s original lines describing ways in which the inn has “somewhat fallen to decay.” What is left conveys the more nostalgic view of rural life favored by Currier & Ives:
As ancient is this hostelry
As any in the land may be,
Built in the old colonial day,
A kind of old Hobgoblin hall,
With weather-stains upon the wall,
And chimneys huge, and tiled and tall.
Across the road the barns display
Their lines of stalls, their mows of hay,
Through the wide doors the breezes blow,
The wattled cocks strut to and fro,
And, half effaced by rain and shine,
The Red Horse prances on the sign.
Frances Flora (Fanny) Palmer was a British-born American lithographer and draftswoman. In her capacity as one of Currier & Ives principal artists, “[i]t is likely that during the latter half of the nineteenth century more pictures by Mrs. Fanny Palmer decorated the homes of ordinary Americans than those of any other artist, dead or alive,” wrote Ewell L. Newman, a Currier & Ives specialist. Palmer was taught drawing at a girls’ school in her native Leicester, England, and later started a lithography business in 1841 with her husband, Edmund S. Palmer; she as the artist and he the printer. They emigrated to New York in 1844. Edmund descended into chronic alcoholism, and Fanny became the family breadwinner. In 1851, she was hired by Currier & Ives, where she produced close to 200 prints for the renowned firm, mainly rural landscapes. Many were of New York and Long Island, while others were pictures of places she had never seen, working from photographs. Her works are in the collections of many American museums including the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; the New York Historical Society and the Brooklyn Museum of Art.
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 either 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: “Entered according to Act of Congress AD 1864, by Currier & Ives, in the Clerk’s Office of the District. Court of the United States for the Southern District of New York. New York, Published by Currier & Ives, 152 Nassau St.”
Condition: Generally very good with the usual overall light toning and wear. Colors rich and bright. Some scattered light marginal foxing and dampstain, unobtrusive. Laid down on paper support backing, appears archival and stable.
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. 6587.
DeWan, George. “The Picture of a Workhorse.” LI History.com. http://www.lihistory.com/histpast/past1006.htm (14 May 2002).
“Frances (Fanny) Flora Palmer (neé Bond).” The Grove Dictionary of Art. New York: Macmillan. 2000. Artnet.com. http://www.artnet.com/library/06/0649/T064931.asp (14 May 2002).
“Longfellow’s Tales of a Wayside Inn (1862).” Longfellow’s Wayside Inn. 2008. http://www.wayside.org/history/literary (23 October 2008).
“Prelude; The Wayside Inn.” Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Maine Historical Society. 2000-2008. http://www.hwlongfellow.org/poems_poem.php?pid=2013 (21 October 2008).