Henry L. Stephens “Catamaran. Speel’s Owl.” [Charlotte Cushman, actress; Joseph Speel, Phila. Book binder] From The Comic Natural History of the Human Race.
Philadelphia: Samuel Robinson, 1851. Approx. 8 x 6 (image). Printed in colors by Rosenthal. Very good condition.
A print from a very interesting and amusing series showing well-known individuals and types of mid nineteenth century Philadelphians. These people are depicted in various animal forms, but with human heads, illustrating the individual’s occupation, personality, etc. Originally there were thirty- nine plates issued in eight parts, which would have been bound into a book once all the prints had been collected. The people lampooned in these illustrations came from various walks of life, and include politicians, artists, musicians, and businessmen. These images were printed by the Rosenthals, a very well known and respected Philadelphia printing family.
The Rosenthal family was originally from Poland and was composed of four brothers: Max, Louis, Simon and Morris. The first three were trained as lithographers in Europe. Max Rosenthal emigrated to America in the late 1840’s, and worked for P.S. Duval in Philadelphia. After working for several lithographic firms, Max and his brother Louis, who probably arrived in America before Max, set up their own business. Morris and Simon soon joined them in Philadelphia, and shortly thereafter branched out into a business of their own. Around 1875 Louis moved to Chicago, where he lived at the time of his death. Max retired from the business in 1884, and his son, Albert, took control of the company. This firm is mostly noted for their work in the development of chromolithography in the United States. They received numerous awards for the prints they produced. These prints are a wonderful example of early chromolithography, with great whimsical appeal.