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Artists, Known and Unknown

Thanksgiving day at the Dunlap House, Thursday, November 29, 1883


The Bohn collection contains a number of menus that feature the work of the J.H.Bufford & Sons, a major chromolithography firm from 1840-1890. Meggs’ History of Graphic Design (1992) notes that the hallmark of Bufford designs was “meticulous and convincing tonal drawing.”

Arlington, menu, Sunday, August 19, 1883

L. Prang and Co. , one of the most famous of the American chromolithographers of the nineteenth century, was well known for the colorful Victorian ephemera scraps his firm designed featuring flowers, butterflies, birds, children, and animals. The Bohn Collection features at least two menus designed by his firm. It is possible that there are others, but as Prang’s firm rarely identified its work in advertisements, many of his menu designs likely remain unidentified.

It was indeed typical of the time (particularly in America) that the talented artists who created the original designs that were then traced onto the stones by craftsmen to produce the images in chromolithographs were unknown.  The names of these artists are for the most part lost to history, as in most cases, the lithography or printing firm was credited on the work as opposed to the graphic artists or craftsmen. In Paris, however, it was known that artists such as Toulouse-Lautrec or Renoir illustrated some menus in the late nineteenth century.