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Louis Prang and Co.

Active in:

  • Boston, Massachusetts

Biography

Louis Prang was born in Breslau (now called Wroclaw, a part of Poland) and as a young man worked in his father's calico-printing business. Forced to leave Germany during the 1848 Revolution, he found employment at printing companies in New York and Boston. Then in 1856 he formed a partnership with a Boston lithographic printer, Julius Mayer. In 1860 Prang bought out Mayer and prospered during the Civil War, making maps of battles, scenes of military life, and portraits of Union Army officers.

He went on to publish album cards, greeting cards, games, series on birds and flowers, and toy books, in addition to fulfilling his dream of fine-art publishing, reproducing the works of well-known artists such as Winslow Homer, Eastman Johnson, Alfred T. Bricher, and Thomas Hill. Prang's chromolithographic process—reproduction in oil colors—brought color-printed advertising into common use and pictures of old New England into a wide range of American homes. He set high standards for his reproductions, insisting on color and textural quality that duplicated the original image. He was able to achieve those standards with technology not previously used in the industry. Even before the perfection of the chromolithograph, Prang's lithographs of New England towns made from 1855 to 1865 had helped satisfy a demand for art in the home and had made New England a more popular destination for tourists.

William H. Truettner and Roger B. Stein, editors, with contributions by Dona Brown, Thomas Andrew Denenberg, Judith K. Maxwell, Stephen Nissenbaum, Bruce Robertson, Roger B. Stein, and William H. Truettner Picturing Old New England: Image and Memory (Washington, D.C.; New Haven, Conn; and London: National Museum of American Art with Yale University Press, 1999)