Skip to Main Content

American Women: Resources from the Prints & Photographs Collections

Popular Graphic Arts

James Baillie, publisher. The Life and age of woman, stages of woman's life from the cradle to the grave 1848. Popular Graphic Arts. Library of Congress Prints & Photographs Division.

During the nineteenth century the marketing of popular prints to adorn the walls of middle-class homes flourished. The Currier and Ives firm, for instance, advertised its wares under the slogan “Works of art to brighten the home within the reach of all.” In its Popular Graphic Arts (PGA & PAGA) Collection (65,000 prints, 1600s-1970s, primarily 1700-1900), the division has a substantial body of these types of prints, mostly acquired through copyright deposit.

Currier and Ives prints, as well as lithographs and chromolithography by other prominent firms such as Prang and Strobridge are prolifically represented in the collection; samples of the products of a wide array of lesser known publishers can also be found. Ranging in subject matter from genre scenes of everyday life and portraits of celebrities of the day to religious iconography, the prints comment on women's dress and gender roles. Many idealize women in their roles as wives and mothers or as decorative “objects.” Although many of the prints were designed for home decoration, quite a few appear to have been intended for advertising purposes. Like product labels, they can reveal how women's images were incorporated into the marketing of products and ideas.

Searching the Collection

The prints can be searched in the Prints & Photographs Online Catalog where the collection has its own listing, Popular Graphic Arts. Digitized images accompany most descriptions. Subject access is limited. On-site researchers can also consult:

  • Popular Graphic Arts card catalogs — prints are listed by publisher or printer, sometimes with the size, color, and names of individuals or companies associated with the production of the print indicated.
  • Graphics File — provides broad subject access to a substantial selection of the prints (as well as other non-photographic materials in the collection—see the description of the Graphics File in Using the Collections). The prints are represented by photocopies.

Further Information

Sample Images