Some of the finest examples of prints produced by the lithography firm of Currier & Ives will be on view at the Museum of Fine Arts from July 19, 2007 through January 6, 2008 in the special exhibition Currier & Ives' Greatest Hits.
Currier & Ives got its start in 1835, when Nathaniel Currier created a sensation with his print illustrating the great fire that swept through New York City's business district. In only four days, he printed thousands of copies, attempting to satisfy public demand. The firm went on to produce more than 8,000 different images of scenes of American life before it closed in 1907. In 1932, a small group of collectors and experts were assembled and polled as to their choice of the "Best 50" Currier & Ives prints. Beginning in January of 1933, The New York Sun reproduced the prints, one each night for fifty issues. Although the newspaper printed extra editions, they still sold out. The newspaper series and a companion exhibition of the prints sparked tremendous public interest in Currier & Ives, and about a year later the same procedure was followed to determine the "Best 50" small folio prints. In 1988, the American Historical Print Collector's Society (AHPCS) board decided to revisit Currier & Ives and have the national membership of AHPCS select a "New Best 50." The objective was not to replace the original list but to develop a new one to reflect the collecting environment of the late 1980s. The criteria used in the selection process for both the new and old "Best 50" lists were identical. They included subject matter, composition, and the importance and rarity of the print. The "New Best 50" list was completed in 1990, and the prints were exhibited at the Milwaukee Art Museum. Currier & Ives' Greatest Hits features prints from the permanent collection of the Springfield Museum of Fine Arts (gifted to the Museum by Lenore B. and Sidney A. Alpert and supplemented by Museum Acquisition Funds) that appear on either the new or old "Best 50" list, as well as some prints that appear on both lists. The prints are arranged thematically and include winter scenes, fire fighting, hunting and fishing scenes, family life, women's fashions, railroad images, historic moments and more.