In 1834, Nathaniel Currier opened up a shop on Nassau Street in New York City where his company would remain for 70 years. In 1857, currier formed a partnership with James Merrit Ives who was a self-trained artist and also the firms bookkeeper. Ives was also related to Currier by marriage.
When Currier and Ives closed in 1907, it had sold millions of prints from an inventory of over 7,000 titles. Vistors to the firm saw what looked more like an assembly line then a paint shop. Artists drew the sketches which were then passed onto lithiographers who passed it onto letterers, who passed it onto colorists. The firm, Currier and Ives, never copied any paintings, but hired staff artists to work on the projects. In fact, many of the artists worked on the same project, which is why most of the paintings are unsigned.
The firm targeted the thrift-conscious middle- and lower- classes. In 1869, Catherine Beecher's American Woman's Home said a housewife should spend $20 of the $80 parlor budget on chromolithographs costing from $5 to $12. The best large-folio print in the Currier and Ives inventory cost between $1.50 and $3. This allowed for a housewife to purchase several of these prints making Currier and Ives a household name.
Although the firm was still making money in the 1880s, it started to decline because of the aging founders and the change in technology that occured. In the 1900's, photography and chromolithography began to replace hand-painted lithography. In 1907, the entire inventory was sold at auction for hardly any profit.
Its amazing the information one can find in the back of a calendar where the information for this node came from. It is titled Currier and Ives Collection: Sailing Classics.