George Dubois Family Collection

trade cardThis collection of just over 1,000 objects was acquired by the American Antiquarian Society in 1998. It contains a visual record of the work of the lithographic printmaker George Dubois (c.1810-1888) and his descendants. George was born in France and, after serving as an artist in the military there, went to Germany to learn lithography. In 1849, at the age of 39, he immigrated with his wife and children to the United States and worked briefly in Philadelphia, before settling in the Boston area.

In the beginning, George worked for established printers, including Benjamin W. Thayer, S.W. Chandler & Brother, and John H. Bufford. Members of the Dubois family, including George's brothers who had joined him from Europe, and his oldest sons also gained experience with some of these companies, and additionally worked for Louis Prang, who ran the largest chromolithographic firm in the area.

In 1859, the family settled in Fall River, Massachusetts, a center of the booming textile industry. In 1866, George and his sons started their own company in Fall River, which was called H.W. Dubois & Co. The firm went through various changes as the uncles and sons joined and dissolved various partnerships, eventually becoming the Fall River Lithography Co., and finally the Dubois Lithographic Co., which closed in 1892.

The George Dubois Family Collection includes over 200 drawings and watercolors done by various members of the Dubois family, including work by George and his son Oscar (b. 1843). Many of these are preparatory drawings for lithographic designs and remind us of the drawing talent required for the lithographic process. George loved to draw horses and the human figure. Oscar studied the natural sciences and was particularly adept at rendering images of plants, insects and animals. A typescript family memoir which accompanies the collection describes George's art studio with its easels and canvases. Oscar's study at home is also described as full of books and papers and was off limits to the children. The drawings and watercolors are included on the box list of the entire collection, which also serves as an inventory.

Over the course of their operation, the Dubois firms produced a large amount of job work, or ephemera, including labels for thread, trade cards, and fruit boxes. Examples of all of this work are found in the collection, including a sample book filled with hundreds of these tiny, often forgotten, parts of a printer's oeuvre.

Separately-issued lithographs by members of the Dubois family, sometimes working for others, are also featured in the collection, and include portraits, genre scenes, and views intended to be framed and displayed in the home. Records for these lithographs can be accessed in the AAS General Catalog by entering Dubois, George in the Basic Search/Name Browse form.

The largest portion of the collection is the proof collection, which includes over 300 chromolithographed sheets. Often unfinished and uncropped, these objects contain printer and color notes in the margins and offer valuable insight into the details of the chromolithographic process as it operated in the late 19th century. Large numbers of floral proofs, religious subjects and genre scenes fill the collection, indicating the popularity of these subjects to the general public. Proofs for other publishers, such as Prang, also appear in the collection, hinting at the relationship between the small Dubois business and the much larger Prang firm.

The George Dubois Family Collection was preserved with funds made available through the Richard A. Heald Foundation.

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