The Government House, New York

Various artists/makers

Not on view

Nineteenth-century New Yorkers were interested in pictures that provided glimpses of the city's early history. This image of Government House is a print version based on Charles Milbourne's original watercolor done in 1797 (now in the collection of the New-York Historical Society). In 1790-91, Government House was constructed on a site facing Bowling Green in lower Manhattan. Initially intended as the official residence of President George Washington, it was never used for that purpose because the nation's Capitol re-located to Philadelphia before the building was completed. Instead, the grand two-story building with a four-columned portico became the official residence of the governors of New York State between 1791 and 1797, and shortly thereafter, it became New York's Custom House. This street view shows the urban architecture of that period, in addition to aspects of daily life, including two cows lying on the cobbled carriage driveway of Government House, and the men accompanying delivery carts in the foreground.

Nathaniel Currier, who established a successful New York-based lithography firm in 1835, produced thousands of prints in various sizes that together create a vivid panorama of mid-to-late nineteenth century American life and its history. Later, Nathaniel included his brother Charles in the business, and in 1857, Currier made James Merritt Ives (Charles's brother-in-law) a business partner to handle financial matters. People eagerly acquired Currier & Ives lithographs of city views, picturesque scenery, rural life, ships, railroads, portraits, hunting and fishing scenes, domestic life and numerous other subjects, as an inexpensive way to decorate their homes or business establishments.

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