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PRANG, Louis (1824-1909)

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prangPRANG, Louis (1824-1909) was born in Breslau of a French Huguenot father and German mother, and learned to dye print calico in his father's shop.  After traveling as a journeyman in Europe, he went to the United States in 1850, a refugee of the revolutionary period.  He came well trained as a lithographer and settled in Boston, where he started as a wood-engraver.  He also became a lithographer, color-printer and publisher. Soon after the Civil War he began printing chromo lithographs; and during the 1870's he began to issue color reproductions of famous paintings.

He was a writer on many subjects.  He wrote the "Prang Method of Art Instruction" and the "Prang Standards of Color."  He is remembered for "Prang's Natural History Series," published in 1873, and "Prang's Aids for Objective Teaching," which appeared in 1877, and both had a marked effect on the teaching of art throughout the United States.  In 1882, the pioneer of American lithographing organized the Prang Educational Company to publish drawing books for schools, and Prang's water colors remained standard classroom equipment for many years.  Sylvester Koehler, the son of a Leipzig artist, who was brought to the United States as a twelve-year old boy in 1849, became technical manager of Prang and Company in 1868, one of the founders of the American Art Review, and curator of the Boston Museum of Fine Arts.

prangcard3He was involved in politics.  In 1860, the Massachusetts legislature, under the influence of the Knownothings, proposed, and finally passed, the "two year amendment," depriving naturalized citizens of the right to vote or hold office until two years after the completion of their citizenship.  Many Republican legislators supported this discrimination against the foreign-born.  The Germans deeply resented such a challenge to their dignity as adopted citizens of the United States.  The Boston Germans met in Turner Hall, led by Charles Heinzen, Prang and Adolf Douai, who urged their listeners to support only that party which "does not measure civil rights by place of birth, or human rights by color of skin."

He is acknowledged as the creator of the Christmas card.  Although such cards were prepared for sale probably as early as the 1840's, it was not until about 1862 that the custom of sending them to friends and relatives became common.  He promoted the greeting card movement in America in 1856 and produced cards at his lithograph shop in Boston every year after that date.  He can thus be blamed for the fact that each Christmas we have the tedious job of writing hundreds of Christmas greetings to our relatives and friends.

Bibliography:

Faust, Albert Bernhardt. The German Element in the United States II. Cambridge: Houghton Mufflin Co, 1909.
Wandel, Joseph.  The German Dimension of American History. Chicago: Nelson-Hall, 1979.
America through the eyes of German Immigrant Painters. Boston: Goethe Institute Boston, 1976.
Wittke, Carl.  Refugees of Revolution.  The German Forty-Eighters in America .  Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1952.

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