The Color Explosion

> Art Books > The Color Explosion


The Color Explosion: Nineteenth-Century American Lithography


Written by Jay T. Last


Hard Cover


316 Pages


Full Color


© 2005 Hillcrest Press, Inc.

Lithography was invented in Germany about 1795 and quickly spread throughout Europe. It was brought to America, beginning about 1820, by a stream of talented immigrants. First used mainly for black-and-white book illustrations, sheet music, and prints, lithography became a more versatile process when color techniques were developed in the 1840s.


As America became interconnected by canals, railroads, and telegraph lines, distant markets developed for American products, and lithography began to be used for colorful advertisements and labels. In the second half of the century the production of lithographs became a highly mechanized low-cost high-volume process, supplying a wide variety of images for American commerce and culture.


This book discusses the European roots of lithography and its commercial and technical development in America, focusing on the companies that produced the lithographic work. Many of them quickly went in and out of business, or were reorganized with new management. About sixty of the main company family trees are treated in detail, with illustrations of their work. Over eight hundred additional firms are also discussed, noting the dates they were in business, their key personnel, and their lithographic focus.


Applications of American lithography are dealt with and illustrated, including book illustrations, sheet music covers, historical and contemporary prints, maps and city views, advertising cards and posters, circus and theatrical posters, and box and container labels. An overview of the technical and business aspect of lithography is given, with emphasis on color lithographic processes and production.