Boston Public Library

Louis Prang & Company Chromolithographs

Crown of New England
Detail from: Crown of New England
Boston Public Library’s Louis Prang & Company collection includes more than 1,500 chromolithographs, dozens of sample books of greeting cards, and related documents produced by the firm between its establishment in Boston in 1860 and its merger with the Taber Art Company in 1897. Acquired through a gift from Louis Prang in 1899 and the bequest of his widow in 1921, the library’s collection is one of two sole sources of information about Prang lithographs.

The focus of Louis Prang & Company was the printing of lithographs. In 1864, Prang traveled to Germany and became familiar with chromolithography, a technique by which lithographs, originally invented as a black and white medium, could be printed in color. Prang brought this colorful innovation to America, hiring experienced German printers to join his Boston firm, establishing his company as one of the major publishers of chromolithographs in the United States.

The published chromolithographs -- the subjects of which included landscapes, still lifes, and scenes from everyday life -- were printed reproductions of paintings by well-known American artists, including Benjamin Champney, Albert Bierstadt, Eastman Johnson, Alfred Thompson Bricher, and Arthur Fitzwilliam Tait. The prints made the work of those 19th century American painters more accessible to a broader audience. Prang also commissioned artists to create original works of art for reproduction.

In addition, the Prang firm has been called the inventor of the American greeting card, beginning with Christmas, then New Year’s, Easter, and birthdays cards. Clients could consult sample albums such as those included in Boston Public Library’s collection and choose the cards they wished to purchase. Prang & Company’s production of greeting cards offered a source of employment for women artists. Many women artists were hired to design the cards, including Fidelia Bridges, Ellen Thayer Fisher, and Virginia Granberry.

Created in the years following the American Civil War, the Prang & Company collection does reflect the political and social biases that were still prevalent. Some of the works published by the firm are considered offensive by today’s standards due to their depictions of racial, ethnic, classist, and gender stereotypes. For further information, please see the Digital Commonwealth Statement on Offensive and Harmful Content. If you have questions or comments about images, language, or other content you consider harmful, or if you have questions or comments about our policies, please contact us at

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