American Express Train

Frances Flora Bond Palmer American, born England
Lithographed and published by Currier & Ives American

Not on view

Nathaniel Currier, whose successful New York-based lithography firm began in 1835, produced thousands of hand-colored prints in various sizes that together create a vivid panorama of mid-to-late nineteenth century American life and its history. People eagerly acquired such lithographs featuring picturesque scenery, rural and city views, ships, portraits, hunting and fishing scenes, domestic life and numerous other subjects, as an inexpensive way to decorate their homes or business establishments. As the firm expanded, Nathaniel recruited his younger brother Charles into the business. In 1857, James Merritt Ives (the firm's accountant since 1852 and Charles's brother-in-law) was made a business partner; subsequently renamed Currier & Ives, the firm continued until 1907.

Starting in 1853, Nathaniel Currier (and later Currier & Ives) published thirty prints featuring trains for those Americans wanting pictures of the then-modern mode of transportation that provided a convenient way to travel and ship goods around the country. At the right of the image, a powerful locomotive of an approaching train belches brown smoke from its smokestack, while a cargo car and eight passenger cars trail behind -- seemingly receding into the left background at the base of a mountain. The train dominates the natural setting, surging ahead of a steamship sailing on a river at the right background. The print suggests how railroad technology transformed rural America.

Although it was unusual for a woman to achieve prominence in a printing firm, Frances Flora (Fanny) Palmer filled an important role for the Currier and Ives firm, as she created the firm's best landscapes and most engaging scenes of daily life. Born in England, where she was an accomplished artist and printmaker, Palmer came to New York City in 1844. Shortly thereafter, she and her husband Seymour opened a small printshop in lower Manhattan. In 1849, the couple moved to Brooklyn after closing their business. Around this time, Nathaniel Currier began to buy print designs from Palmer; after 1857, she became a staff artist for Currier & Ives. As an artist able to transfer images to lithographic stones for printing, Palmer produced more than 200 prints for the firm and today is regarded as a leading woman lithographer of the period.

No image available

Open Access

As part of the Met's Open Access policy, you can freely copy, modify and distribute this image, even for commercial purposes.


Public domain data for this object can also be accessed using the Met's Open Access API.