Bandbox And Lid, Grand Canal, ca. 1840
Block-printed paper on pasteboard support. Gift of Mrs. James O. Green. 1913-12-9-a,b.
What is this?
Box has yellow field with brown, blue and green printing representing a canal in a landscape. Top does not belong with box. Printed in browns, with a tempietto.
Why is this important?
Bandboxes were quite popular during the first half of the 19th century and were used for the storage and transport of men's collar bands, hats, and as general carry-alls. While some bandbox exteriors were covered with wallpaper, most were wrapped with papers made specifically for coverings bandboxes. These papers frequently contained landscape, hunt or mythological scenes. During the 1830s-40s many paeprs were printed with scenes commemorating historic events. They could be rather crudely printed in just a few colors and often show a naiveté found in art.
The box illustrates a scene along the Erie or "Grand Canal" between Albany and Buffalo, New York, begun in 1817. The scene is apparently based on a "View of the Aqueduct Bridge at Little Falls" included in Cadwallader D. Golden's "Memoir Prepared for the Celebration of the Completion of the New York Canals", New York, 1825. The Aqueduct Bridge raised the canal 30 feet over the river to allow uninterrupted transportation. The green pigment used for the trees and grass was covered with varnish to help stabilize the fugitive color and prevent fading from exposure to light.
The Erie Canal was the engineering marvel of its day. It created a water route from the Atlantic Ocean to the Great Lakes, facilitating transportation and bringing produce from the West to the docks of New York. First proposed in 1807, construction on the canal began ten years later. The canal opened on October 26, 1825.