Lithograph, "The Darktown Fire Brigade: Hook and Ladder Gymnastics" (3)

Lithograph, "The Darktown Fire Brigade: Hook and Ladder Gymnastics" (3)

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In 1857, Nathaniel Currier and James Merritt Ives became business partners and set out to produce popular, affordable decorative prints for American consumers. In the 1880s, Currier & Ives produced the "Darktown Comics" series of color lithographs, which would become one of their best-selling lines. Each of these depicted African Americans as racist caricatures and ugly stereotypes, and presented scenes where the humor, such as it was, derived from their buffoonish antics and "putting on airs.” These color lithographs were primarily created by John Cameron (1828-1906) and Thomas Worth (1834-1917), two artists employed by Currier & Ives. They drew on a broad visual vocabulary of anti-black racist tropes that had developed over the 19th century, derogatory signifiers that would have been understood and shared by their popular audience, who created a demand for similar imagery in numerous other commercial and decorative objects of the time. Cameron and Worth often set hapless black figures in traditionally white roles, such as firefighting, and the ridiculous failures they depicted helped to reinforce entrenched racial and social hierarchies, as well as to perpetuate the notions of heroism and leadership as white male prerogatives in the period after Reconstruction. When Currier & Ives shut down operations in 1907, New York City printer Joseph Koehler purchased the lithographic stones of the "Darktown Comics" series from the firm and produced restrikes under his own name for several more years.
This color lithograph – “Saved!” – depicts a fire company attempting to rescue people from a burning house. Firefighters point hoses at the fire, but their streams fall short. A woman jumps into a ragged blanket held by two firefighters, while another is carried out the door. A firefighter squirts a third figure, still inside, with the fire hose, while four others pump their old-fashioned hand engine in the background. This version is an original lithograph produced by Currier & Ives.
Currently not on view
Object Name
date made
ca 1887
Currier & Ives
Physical Description
lithograph (overall material)
overall: 15 in x 17 in; 38.1 cm x 43.18 cm
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
Credit Line
Gift of CIGNA Museum and Art Collection
See more items in
Cultural and Community Life: Fire Fighting and Law Enforcement
Data Source
National Museum of American History
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