delineated by Chas F Thomas
of Taunton Mass.
Manf.g Co. Taunton Mass.
"The locomotive industry emerged in mid-nineteenth-century America with the development and rapid expansion of the railroad network. As the number of locomotive manufacturers increased, the industry became intensely competitive, and builders vied with one another to capture the attention of railroad companies, officials, and agents. The first locomotive builders’ prints were created in the late 1830s and ‘40s in response to this industry competition. These lithographic portraits of locomotives were soon considered to be essential to the manufacturers’ promotion of their machines. Locomotive builders’ prints differed from ordinary advertising prints or landscape views with picturesque trains. Instead, they were a unique type of print, a hybrid designed both to attract potential customers and to provide accurate technical information about locomotive engines and cars. [..]
With the introduction of chromolithography in the 1840s and ‘50s, locomotive manufacturers began commissioning color prints of their engines. Early American locomotives were often painted and colorfully decorated; chromolithographic locomotive builders’ prints offer a rare insight into the decorative designs, finishes, and materials favored by manufacturers. The use of color in the 1850s ushered in what has been called the golden age of the locomotive builders’ prints. Larger in scale than the prints of the 1830s and early 1840s, they were composed of bold, opaque colors with glittering bronze and metallic powders. As locomotive manufacturers competed for the customer’s eye, lithographic artists began portraying locomotives in landscapes often with reference to the factories in which they were built. [..]
These lavish prints were much prized by locomotive manufacturers. [..] The November 8, 1856 issue of the Railroad Advocate stated that these prints were the “appropriate adornments for the offices of every variety of business connected with railroads; they are consulted by master mechanics and locomotive buyers; they are the master-pieces in the parlors of many engineers of good taste. . . .” The time and money invested in producing locomotive builders’ prints indicates that they were not typical advertising ephemera. In fact, they were clearly designed as framing prints to be hung in railroad offices and depots, hotels, saloons, and parlors where they might seduce not only prospective buyers but the general traveling public as well."
[Excerpts from a web article by Catharina Slautterback, Curator of Prints & Photographs, Boston Athenæum]
- The Locomotive Builders' Prints Collection is online at The Boston Athenæum [Digital Collection home-site)
- Boston and Albany Railroad Company and South Station (cyanotype photograph collection at The Boston Athenæum)
- Previously: Locomotive Drawings and, more broadly, machines.
- This post first appeared on the BibliOdyssey website.