About The Peters Collection
About the Peters Collection
About Harry T. Peters
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ABOUT THE PETERS COLLECTION

The 'America on Stone' Collection comprises 1,686 prints acquired by Harry T. Peters (1881-1948), a wealthy New York coal merchant and sportsman, in the course of his research on 19th-century lithography. His first book, Currier & Ives, Printmakers to the American People (1929), covered the country's best-known firm, but Peters also gathered prints representing the work of other lithographers, and he published America on Stone: the Other Printmakers to the American People in 1931.The collection donated to the Smithsonian in 1960 includes examples of the prints and printmakers identified in that book.

Detail of a Currier & Ives print

Most of the prints are lithographs—designs drawn and inked on, and printed from stone—hence the name 'America on Stone.' Some are engravings printed from metal plates or wood blocks, or posters printed from type. These media offered imagery affordable to many Americans. Peters acquired prints by a number of lithographers, but he did not own works by every firm named in the book, and the collection does not represent every print that passed through his hands. There are a few Currier & Ives prints among the "other" lithographs at the Smithsonian, even though most of Peters' Currier & Ives collection is now at the Museum of the City of New York.

Many prints in the Peters collection feature horses and sporting subjects

The prints offer direct pictorial evidence of subjects and treatments used for advertising, illustration, home or business decoration, and "moral improvement" or instruction. The prints could be crude and simple or tasteful and worldly, commissioned for a specific purpose or printed for a wide audience. Sarcastic political caricatures and sentimental courtship scenes represent only two facets of the complex imagery found in the collection. Many prints feature horses and sporting subjects that were widely popular in the 19th century and with Peters and his social set. While distinctly one man's gathering, the collection is broadly representative of works produced and enjoyed in their day, and as such they present a vivid impression of 19th-century life.

Some prints in the Peters Collection reflect 19th-century attitudes about race and ethnicity

Some prints in the Peters Collection, particularly the comic prints and political caricatures, reflect 19th-century attitudes about race and ethnicity. These prints contain language and imagery that today are viewed as stereotypes and considered offensive. However, they are part of an accurate historical record necessary to understand the complexity of the American past.