Readers may appreciate seeing this vibrantly colored advertisement for a Geiser Peerless steam engine. A Victorian teenager may have glued this work of art in a scrapbook. Fortunately, neither the glue nor the acid content of the page that held the print affected the original tints, which remain as vivid as the day they were created. This piece must have been kept in a dark place for a long time because it has suffered none of the ravages that ultraviolet light brings to such illustrations. I have digitally restored areas of the background that were trimmed away, but I have not changed the brilliance of the inks whatsoever.
The ad is a chromolithograph, created by a printing process that came to America from Europe in the 1840s. Each oil-based color was applied separately to its own plate, most likely made of zinc, which was pressed onto a master plate. Perfect alignment (called registration) of the colors demanded considerable skill. When all colors had been transferred to the master plate, bringing a sheet of paper into contact with the master produced the print.
The rich, velvety hues of the Geiser ad show why Victorians loved chromolithography. The engine in the original print measures approximately fourteen inches across. If anyone has the full ad of which I have only the part reproduced here, I would be thrilled to view it.
Contact historian Robert T. Rhode at 990 W. Lower Springboro Road, Springboro, OH 45066; e-mail: