It might be the classic carol “Sleigh Ride” that reminds us of the famed prints and engravings created by Nathaniel Currier and James Merritt Ives — famously known as Currier & Ives — but it is their work that explains why these men earned a place in history. Their timeless images of horses, landscapes, historic scenes and, most memorably, winter “stories,” have a special place in our hearts, especially at Christmas. All Currier & Ives images came from original sketches that were printed in a unique process Currier had been perfecting from the time he was a 15-year-old apprentice at Pendleton’s Lithography in Boston, one of the first American lithography firms.
What is not so readily known is that many Currier & Ives images were inspired by Currier’s time in Amesbury, where he kept a vacation home on Lions Mouth Road. According to Harry T. Peters’ book, “Currier & Ives: Printmakers to the American People,” Currier was often visited at Lions Mouth by the poet John Greenleaf Whittier. Currier kept horses at his Amesbury home, and was very fond of them. Peters writes that one of the firm’s most well-known prints, “The Road — Summer” (1853), features Currier’s brother, Charles, driving horses in Amesbury. Another, “The Road — Winter” (1853), a favorite of Currier’s, shows him enjoying a sleigh ride with his wife on the grounds of Lions Mouth. Currier spent a good deal of time in Amesbury following his retirement in 1880. He died there on Nov. 20, 1888.