The Wayside Inn

Frances Flora Bond Palmer American, born England
Printed and published by Currier & Ives American
Related author Henry Wadsworth Longfellow American

Not on view

In this dramatic night scene illuminated by a full moon, a four-horse carriage laden with baggage and passengers has stopped in front of an old inn, its well-lit parlor filled with guests. Across the street, two stable boys attend to the horses standing outside the stable. This picture, which is accompanied by a few lines of verse, drew inspiration from the "Tales of a Wayside Inn" (a collection of poems first published as a book in 1863) by the beloved American poet and acclaimed literary figure Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882). The artist Frances "Fanny" Flora Palmer masterfully visualized Longfellow's words to render vividly a bustling New England inn that travellers might have encountered on their journeys.

Nathaniel Currier, who established a successful New York-based lithography firm 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. Expansion led, in 1857, to a partnership with James Merritt Ives (1824–1895), the brother-in-law of Nathaniel's brother Charles. People eagerly acquired Currier & Ives lithographs, such as those featuring spectacular American landscapes, or rural and city views, hunting and fishing scenes, domestic life and numerous other subjects, as an inexpensive way to decorate their homes or business establishments.

When Palmer moved to New York from England in 1844, she was an accomplished artist and printmaker. Initially, Fanny and her husband Seymour operated a small print-shop in lower Manhattan, similar to one they had run in Leicester (United Kingdom). In 1849, the couple moved to Brooklyn after the business closed. Nathaniel Currier began to buy print designs from Palmer around this time, and she became a staff artist for Currier & Ives after 1857. As a designer 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. Although it was unusual for a woman to achieve such prominence in a printing firm, Palmer filled an important role for Currier and Ives firm, as she created the firm's best landscapes and most engaging scenes of daily life.

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