One of the things that I have collected over the years are small personal albums mainly before the year 1900. These personal albums give you a glimpse of what life was like back then. They are always started by young women and would contain poems or clever writings much like what your family or friends would write in your Year Book, only much longer. Sometimes they will contain elaborate drawings, which are collectible by themselves. You could find just about anyone she knew writing something in the album. Family, friends male and female, people she visited or visited her. The writings would usually contain the name of who wrote it, their relationship, what city or state and the date.
The other day I came across a album I forgotten that I had. It was a bit more unusual then most albums that I've collected. Every page was used from front to back and it contained this person life story or as close to it without being a day to day diary. It began in the year 1852 and ended after 1900. The album is at least from 1852. It contained most of her family and friends and piecing it together, I figured out how some of them were related. When someone would write something they just put it on a blank page which could be in the beginning of the album, in the middle or even in the back. I have to keep rereading the pages to see if I can connect the family.
For those who are interested in this kind of writing and a glimpse into a real persons past life, I will be presenting this history with some of my own comments over a period of time. It also contains newspaper obituaries and other newsworthy items. I will copy the wording verbatim and some of them could be long, but interesting. The personal writings by her friends and family are in old handwriting and is hard to read and some are faded. Bear with me for any mistakes in deciphering the words, I will do the best I can. And now to see who "her" is.
The album is black leather embossed in gold, and on the front cover it reads Flower Tokens with a lyre looking design holding 2 baskets of flowers. The back cover has a woman in a flowing gown taking flowers out of a basket and throwing them to the ground, while butterflies are surrounding her. Through out the album are colored lithographs of flowers with elves and other people. They are signed F & S Palmer 34 Ann St. N.Y. ( Please check out the bottom of this blog for information about F & S Palmer Lithographs it is very interesting. ) So that is the theme of the album itself. On the inside front page it says "Presented to Mary by Willie. In large letters at the top of the page someone wrote in nice looking penmanship "Elmira" as in Elmira New York in which this album was started. As you will see other cities are mentioned and are from around the same area. The names that are in here can be traced through the marriage and deaths notices that appear. The names and dates of the events and where they took place is a genealogists delight. Take note of the names and places because it is possible that some of you could be related. If your last name is listed in the album and your family is from upper state New York or other places mentioned, who knows you might find your relatives. It has happen more than you think.
Since this is Marys album I will at times be referring to her as our Mary. She almost seems to be family since I have been reading so much about her and her family. Maybe you will follow her here on this blog and feel the same way.
Mary who's maiden name is Carter, and I believe that Willie who presented her this album is her nephew. She married Claudius M. Smith in the year 1854 and became Mary Smith. Didn' t they have any unusual last names back then to make looking them up easier. At least the first name Claudius is helpful to keep track of the name. I will be adding more information in the next blog as I get time. It is taking a lot of time looking up certain information before I type it on here. The time lines will be jumping around as I add interesting tid bits because that is the way it is in the album and I can't keep track of them.
Here is the information that you might find interesting about F & S Palmer Lithographers mentioned above. If you feel like it and get a chance Google the name F & S Palmer Lithographers. Check out what Alibris has some of the lithographs listed for. It blew my mind.
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 gentlemen's gentlemen.
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:
winding country roads
and country scenes
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."
If you got this far, you have learned about F & S Palmer and now have some knowledge to use if you ever come across their lithographs. Knowlege is power.