Photography was in its infancy in the early 19th century and there were only a handful of newspapers, few magazines and an even smaller number of book publishers.
In 1835, Nathanial Currier created his first lithographic print, an image documenting the Planter's Hotel fire in New Orleans. This documentation of a newsworthy event in print initiated a long tradition of capturing social, economic and political events in the medium, available for reproduction.
Before Currier and his partner, James Merritt Ives, came on the scene, the use of color illustrations was virtually unheard of in the publishing business. Currier and Ives lined up black and white lithographs on long tables and hired women to individually hand-color the images. Although the artists generally supervised the colorists, often the colorist determined the palette.
Currier and Ives used many different artists to produce the underlying lithographs and many gained worldwide reputations based on the popularity of the prints. Harry T. Peters documented and compiled one of the largest collections of Currier and Ives prints in an effort to preserve the art form for future generations, a collection which he donated to the Museum of the City of New York. According to Mr. Peter's notes, Currier and Ives published over 7,000 images.