The lithographic process of printing art, prints, and posters from a specially prepared stone was discovered by accident in Munich in 1796 and was introduced to the United States by Pendleton thirty years later. Nathaniel Currier was apprenticed to this first American lithographer at about the age of eighteen. Currier went into the printing business for himself in 1834 and a few years later saw the possibilities of using lithographed pictures for the news media.
His first three important prints recorded fires, the third showing the 1840 fire on the steamboat Lexington. However, it was not until 1857, when Currier took James Ives as a partner, that the real flood of over 5,000 prints began and the coverage was extended to include news, sports, transportation, patriotic, juvenile, landscape, and genre subject art, prints and posters. Three new prints appeared each week until about 1875 when the appearance of illustrated magazines and news photos by daguerreotype put the partners out of business.
Based upon original drawings, watercolors, and oil paintings, the folios of art, prints and posters reached a level of excellence far beyond that of any of the firm's competitors. Carefully applied color, fine drawing, solid composition, and lively, interesting subjects distinguished these Currier and Ives productions.