During the late 19th century, it is said that in the homes of most ordinary Americans there were lithographs created by Frances "Fanny" Palmer.  Aside from the drawings, you will see her work on countless numbers of greeting cards, calendars, and in books as the print makers in America loved to use her artwork.  Even though her work was so widely used throughout America, she was ignored by many art historians.


Fanny was born Frances Flora Bond in 1812, in Leicester, England.  She received her art training from a private girl's school, where she was instructed by Mary Linwood who was an artist herself.  When Fanny was age 20, she would marry Edmund Palmer, who was employed as a gentleman's gentleman.

After Edmund lost his job, Fanny and Edmund fell on financial hard times.  They decided to start a lithography business together, where Edmund would work as a printer and Fanny would do the artwork.

In 1844, Fanny and Edmund saved enough money from their lithography business to move to America.  They would move to Manhattan, New York, where they set up a business that was named "F. & S. Palmer".  This business failed and again left them and their two children, along with other family members from Fanny's family, with a bleak financial outlook.

Edmund took a job running a local tavern where he quickly drank up most of the profits that the tavern brought in.  In the book titled "Currier & Ives: Printmakers to the American People", Harry Peters describes Edmund as:

"He was fond of shooting, even fonder of drinking, and had no interest in any kind of work.  As time went on, his son Edmund Jr. became a handsome second edition of his father."

In 1851, Fanny went to work for Nathaniel Currier, who owned a lithographic firm in New York.  She would travel to New Jersey, Long Island, New York, and other cities throughout New York.  However, most of her artwork was of places that Fanny had never been.  She would create her artworks after drawing on various sources such as books describing the places she was drawing, by viewing daguerreotypes, and in the latter part of her career, by viewing photographs of the places she was drawing.

In 1857, Nathaniel Currier took on a partner named James M. Ives, forming the firm called "Currier & Ives".  They would employ many artists and became known as the largest supplier of lithographs in America.  Fanny began working an excessive amount of hours in her later years while being employed at Currier & Ives.  Her body was said to appear almost deformed from leaning over while she created her lithographs.  Her specialty was in creating atmosphere in her drawings and creating beautiful backgrounds and scenery.

She would travel frequently to Long Island, where she would be driven throughout the countryside in a carriage.  This allowed her to quickly sketch many types of rural and suburban settings such as:

Although many artists relied on others to do the actual lithograph of their drawing, Fanny could not only sketch but was talented enough to work at creating her own lithographs.

In many of the wildlife and hunting lithographs, Fanny would use the background that she sketched in the rural areas of Long Island and would use her husband and their dogs as subjects portrayed in the lithograph as a hunter and his dogs out hunting

In 1859, Fanny was told that her husband, Edmund fell down a flight of stairs while drunk where he broke his neck and quickly died.  James Ives, of Currier & Ives, said this about Edmund's death,

"That's the best thing he ever did for her."

Fanny began signing some of her works as F. F. Palmer.  It is estimated that she created over 200 unique works for Currier & Ives.  However, since the majority of her works were unsigned, that figure could be quite a bit higher.

Many of Fanny's works have been reproduced millions of times throughout the years appearing on calendars, greeting cards, and as illustrations in books. 

Charlotte Rubinstein, who wrote the book titled "American Women Artists: From the Early Indian Times to Present " had this to say about Fanny:

"Like a Hollywood screen writer or advertising artist today, Palmer operated as part of a big machine - in this case one that presented a glamorized and picturesque view of America, free of sweating immigrants in factories and slums.  The upward mobile public identified with the technological progress, and with images on their walls of well-kept homes, happy families, idyllic landscapes and rich still lifes."

Fanny died from tuberculosis on August 20, 1876 and was buried in the Greenwood Cemetery in Brooklyn, New York.

The wife of the last owner of Currier & Ives, Mrs. Daniel Logan, had this to say about Fanny Palmer:

"She was a very refined woman.  Worked very hard.  Was modest and subdued in dress ... she was a lady, born and bred."


Sources:
H. T. Peters: Currier & Ives: Printmakers to the American People (New York, 1942).
M. B. Cowdrey: ‘Fanny Palmer, an American Lithographer’,  (New York, 1962),
Rubinstein, Charlotte. American Women Artists: From the Early Indian Times to Present. 1st ed. : G K Hall , (1982).
C. S. Rubinstein: ‘The Early Career of Frances Flora Bond Palmer (1812–1876)’, Amer. A. J., xvii/4 (1985).

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