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Louis Prang papers, 1848-1932

Louis Prang papers, 1848-1932

Prang, Louis, 1824-1909

Lithographer, Printmaker, Publisher

Representative image for Louis Prang papers, 1848-1932

This site provides access to the papers of Louis Prang in the Archives of American Art that were digitized in 2015, and total 261 images.

Funding for the digitization of this collection was provided by the Terra Foundation for American Art.

Collection Information

Size: 1.2 linear feet

Summary: The papers of lithographer Louis Prang date from 1848 to 1932 and measure 1.2 linear feet. Found within the papers are biographical material, writings, art work, card samples, printed material, and photographs.

Biographical material includes a Prussian arrest warrant for Prang, a passport, a receipt for household purchases, patent and membership certificates, and a photocopy of a letter from John Greenleaf Whittier.

Writings are primarily typescripts of lectures by Prang and a typescript "Lithographic Process Used by Louis Prang" by the donor, E. Wrightson Christopher, and a hand-written page concerning a card design competition by Clarence Cook.

Art work consists of a pencil drawing executed by Prang, possibly as a school assignment. Printed material consists of a book of color separation proofs, a sales book of samples of Prang's products, and catalogs for Easter and Valentine cards. Photographs are of Prang, family members, his residence, events, and colleagues.

Biographical/Historical Note

Louis Prang (1824-1909) of Boston, Massachusetts, was a lithographer and wood engraver, famous for his chromolithographic reproductions of major works of art as well as for a series of publications used for art education in public schools. With Julius Meyer, he founded the lithographic business, Prang & Meyer in 1856 which later became L. Prang & Co. Prang reproduced paintings by noted 19th century artists, and introduced the Christmas card in the 1870s. He is considered the founder of the greeting card business in the U.S.

Provenance

The Louis Prang papers were donated in 1989 by Thomas West Christopher, M.D., son of E. Wrightson Christopher who compiled the papers while he was a publisher of greeting cards. A photocopied letter and a sales book of samples were donated separately and have unknown provenances.

Related Materials

Funding

Funding for the digitization of this collection was provided by the Terra Foundation for American Art.

A Finding Aid to the Louis Prang Papers,
1848-1932
, in the Archives of American Art
AAA.pranloui
Biographical Note
Louis Prang (1824-1909) of Boston, Massachusetts, was a lithographer and wood engraver, famous for his chromolithographic reproductions of major works of art as well as for a series of publications used for art education in public schools. Because his company was first to make commercially printed greeting cards available to the public, Prang is often referred to as the "father of the American Christmas Card."
Louis Prang was born on March 12, 1824 in Breslau in what is now Poland. He was the only son among the seven children of a French Huguenot father Jonas Louis Prang and a German mother, Rosina Silverman. Louis Prang learned to dye and print calico as an apprentice in his father's shop. After traveling as a journeyman in Europe, he became involved in revolutionary activity against the Prussian government in 1848. Prang went to Switzerland, emigrated to the United States and settled in Boston in 1850, marrying Rosa Gerber in the following year.
Between 1848 and 1856, Prang supported himself by making wood engravings to illustrate various publications. In 1856, he joined with Julius Mayer and formed the partnership of Prang and Mayer, lithographic and copper plate manufacturers. The business continued until 1860 when Prang became sole owner, changing the name to L. Prang and Co. The firm printed business cards, announcements and other forms of ephemera and soon branched into the production of maps of Civil War sites and novelty items including albums and sets of picture cards decorated with a wide variety of images that became popular collectibles.
In 1864, Prang visited Europe to study the latest techniques in German lithography. He returned to Boston to create high quality reproductions of major works of art using a lithographic process he called "chromos." In 1874, he began producing greeting cards for the popular market in England and began selling the Christmas card in the United States the next year, resulting in his being called the "father of the American Christmas card." Also in 1874, Prang began publishing books for drawing and elementary art study for public schools. This latter activity proved so successful that he formed the Prang Educational Company in 1882. During this time, Prang shared his residence and his work with the family of his son-in-law, lithographer Karl K. Heinzen, who married Prang's daughter Rosa.
Through a merger in 1897, L. Prang and Co. became the Taber-Prang Company and moved from Boston to Springfield, Massachusetts. Two years following the death of his first wife in 1898, Prang married Mary Dana Hicks, an art teacher and author associated with the Prang Educational Company. Prang had retired from active business in 1899 and traveled extensively for the next decade. He became ill and died while en route to view an Exposition in Los Angeles in 1909.
Louis Prang died on June 14, 1909, in Los Angeles, California.
Arrangement
The collection is arranged as 5 series:
Series 1: Biographical Material, 1852-1906 (Box 1-2, OV 5; 8 folders)
Series 2: Writings, 1880-1898 (Box 1; 5 folders)
Series 3: Art Work, circa 1848 (Box 2; 1 folder)
Series 4: Printed Material, 1873-1889 (Box 1-4; 0.7 linear feet)
Series 5: Photographs, 1874-1932 (Box 1-2, OV 5; 8 folders)
Provenance
The Louis Prang papers were donated in 1989 by Thomas West Christopher, M.D., son of E. Wrightson Christopher who compiled the papers while he was a publisher of greeting cards. A photocopied letter and a sales book of samples were donated separately and have unknown provenances.
Processing Information
Three collections previously cataloged separately were merged and processed by Jean Fitzgerald in January 2011. The collection was prepared for digitization by Judy Ng and digitized in 2015 with funding provided by the Terra Foundation for American Art.

Additional Forms Available

This collection was digitized in its entirety in 2014 and is available on the Archives of American Art's website.

Restrictions on Access

Use of original papers requires an appointment and is limited to the Archives' Washington, D.C. Research Center. Contact Reference Services for more information.

How to Cite This Collection

Louis Prang papers, 1848-1932. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

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