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Preparing for Market

In the middle decades of the nineteenth century, people in cities obtained fresh produce, dairy products, and meat at markets that occurred several times a week in a centralized location. Vegetables often came from market gardens, worked at the outskirts of cities by immigrants who used cold frames and other growing practices, and horse manure from the city, to grow produce on small plots of high-rent land.

Louis Maurer’s image of an Anglo-American farmer and his family getting ready to bring their goods to town plays on the urban fantasy that a farm is always an idyllic place of ample space and abundance.

Louis Maurer, Preparing for Market, 1856. Hand-colored lithograph, (22 5/8 x 31 1/8 in). Published by N. Currier, New York.
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Two details from Louis Maurer's, Preparing for Market, 1856. Hand-colored lithograph, (22 5/8 x 31 1/8 in). Published by N. Currier, New York.
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The lithograph’s publisher, famed New York firm Currier and Ives, emphasized this idealization in their catalogues. In 1860, they printed: “The time is early morning, in summer …. On the right, a boy is holding the nigh horse, a bright bay, whose appearance and condition are creditable to his owner. The farmer stands in the wagon, taking from his buxom dame a basket of eggs, which she is handing up to him …. Nearby are baskets of vegetables, and bunches of carrots, beets, and garden stuff, ready for market, and a goodly number of fowls, turkeys, ducks, and chickens, promenade the dooryard.” In 1862 they claimed: “This is one of those agreeable domestic scenes which are sure to please everybody who loves (and who doesn’t[?]) the attractive features of an American farmhouse.”

Maurer, one of Currier and Ives’s regular artists, considered Preparing for Market his best image for the firm. The hand-colored print must have been popular with their audience as well, for they still advertised its sales six years after its initial publication by Nathaniel Currier.


 

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