Pictures of the bridge were a popular item for Currier & Ives, which produced no fewer than 19 lithographs under the title “The Great East River Bridge” during a 20-year period beginning in 1872. They ranged in dimensions from postcard size to the large size of the one shown here. The views themselves also varied, some from the Brooklyn side, some from the Manhattan side, some with different details such as the types of boats in the water or with additional explanatory text. There were three versions published in 1883 alone, the one shown here and two smaller ones (Conningham 2596 and 2598). See also the small Currier & Ives print of the bridge, published in 1872.
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 and 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: “Pub’d by Currier & Ives, 115 Nassau St. N.Y. Copyright 1883, Currier & Ives, New York.”
Condition: Generally good overall. Professionally cleaned and deacidified. Laid on Japanese paper supporting sheet to flatten scattered creases, restore various marginal tears, some extending into image. Scattered abrasions restored. Four lines of explanatory text about the bridge in lower margin lacking, likely trimmed when originally framed. As is, thus, but still a nice attractive image overall and not unexpected condition for a separately issued print of this period.
Bonfante-Warren, Alexandra. Currier & Ives: Portraits of a Nation. New York: Friedman/Fairfax, 1998. pp. 9, 23-41, 57, 94.
Conningham, Frederic A. Currier and Ives Prints: An Illustrated Check List. New York: Crown, 1949. 2597, pp. 118-119.