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Old And Sold Antiques Digest Article

Kitten Prints

Although colored lithographs of playful kittens, published by Currier & Ives and their contemporaries, have been pretty much ignored by those who write about nineteenth-century prints, there is a sizeable group of people who prize them.

The majority of these kitten prints are small folio but there are some of medium size and one or two in the large folio. There are at least four reasons why people buy these prints: they like cats; they think the prints are nice for children's rooms; they consider them colorful and pleasing decorations in themselves; and lastly, they find in them nostalgic appeal-"just like a print in grandmother's house." These prints are relatively inexpensive. Most of them can be acquired, unframed, for less than twenty-five dollars. The few rarities can run as high as one hundred dollars.

Most kitten prints are either sentimental or playful. A few, like "Good Old Rover and Kittie" or "Good Fido and Naughty Kitty," combine dogs and cats. One, entitled "The Playmates," shows three girls, a canary, and a kitten. Another, "The Cats-Paw," shows a cat, kitten, and a monkey. The majority depict the cat alone, preferably in the kitten stage and in action.

Today the three prints most often seen and most popular are: "My Little White Kitties Learning Their ABC" (playing with alphabet blocks) ; "My Little White Kitties Playing Dominoes"; and "My Little White Kitties Playing Ball," the last dated 1870, which is unusual. Most of the kitten prints are undated. These "White Kittie" prints were published by Currier & Ives who produced over fifty kitten and cat prints during their long career. One of the rarest, entitled "Kitty" and bearing the imprint of N. Currier, is a vignette of a gray kitten with a doll in a basket in the background. It was probably published shortly before the name of the firm was changed in 1857 to Currier & Ives. Kitten prints seldom bear the name of the artist. One exception is a large folio entitled "Kitty's Breakfast" signed by L. Maurer, another Currier B Ives artist especially known for his horse prints.

This firm and other American lithographers adapted many of their kitten prints from those of European origin, especially of English and German provenance. "The Playful Family" was published by the Kelloggs of Hartford, Connecticut, from a European original. It is undated, as is a later one with the same title and similar poses published by Currier Z5 Ives.

The Hartford firm was composed of three brothers-Daniel, Edmund B., and Elijah C. Kellogg. Daniel first worked alone from 1833 to 1842 and, in 1843, was joined by his two brothers. Until 1852 their imprint was "E. B. & E. C. Kellogg. 136 Main St., Hartford, Conn." They also had two branch offices, named at the left and right of the print illustrated: "Kellogg & Thayer, 144 Fulton St., N. Y." and "D. Needham, 223 Main St., Buffalo." Their prints, mostly in the small folio, had a wide sale, the volume even approaching that of Currier & Ives.

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