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.
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: