I recently bought a Victorian trade card lot that contained a newspaper clipping in which the following question was asked, “Is my Prang trade card from the 1876 Centennial celebration a worthwhile item?” I was pleasantly surprised the seller included this as information on Victorian trade cards, much less their lithographers, is sometimes very hard to find. I decided to do an internet search to see what I could find out about Louis Prang.
Louis Prang, From Defiance to St. Nicholas
Louis Prang was an American publisher who learned colour printing and business management from his father, a calico manufacturer. When the Prussian government banned him for participating in the 1848 uprisings, he came to the USA. Sounds like Louis wanted more than what his father taught him.
Louis Prang used what his father taught him in his business, L. Prang & Co. From 1860 to 1897, he built a reputation based on colour printing; particularly large, technically brilliant chromolithographic reproductions of oil and watercolor paintings. For example, Louis Prang supplied the plates for Clement C. Moore’s “A Visit from St Nicholas”. What a cool piece of trivia.
The Corruption of Public Taste
Louis Prang was applauded for his aim to provide good, affordable art to the masses. However, this also got him in hot water. He ended up being charged with corrupting public taste by closing the gap between original art, and the inferior substitute (the chromolithographic reproductions). Humm. Why applaud Louis Prang, then turn around and charge him with corrupting public taste?
The Prang Trade Card Question Answered
(Note the trade card pricing tip at the end of the newspaper clip.)
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You can find more great Victorian trade cards at Remember When Vintage Postcards.