Poster Mania! Leisure, Romance and Adventure in 1890s America

May 24, 2013 — Sept. 2, 2013

Graphic for:

Edward Penfield created his first art poster 120 years ago to announce the April 1893 issue of Harper’s monthly magazine. Magazine and book publishers rushed to follow Harper’s lead producing a flood of bold and dazzling placards to announce their latest offerings. These artful, witty, often humorous graphic images inspired the poster mania that gripped the nation in the mid-1890s. The eager public clamored to collect, trade, display and critique the dramatic, ever changing designs. Artists became famous overnight for their personal styles, and they competed in poster competitions. One of America’s most popular artists of the early twentieth century—Maxfield Parrish—first emerged as an award winning poster designer and is represented in the exhibition by several works, including two he did for the state of New Hampshire.

Posters captivated the booming urban middle class and their interest in leisure activities like reading, bicycling, golf and sailing. Competing publishers and their fashion conscious designers helped introduce the public to the avant-garde European art styles of the day. Posters by Edward Penfield and Will Carqueville reflected the influence of French post-impressionists in their use of areas of bold, contrasting color. The sinuous lines and elaborate patterns of designs by Will Bradley and Louis John Rhead were inspired by the trendy new styles of French art nouveau and English arts and crafts. Female artists like Ethel Read and Blanche McManus struck a chord with the rapidly growing population of women readers. Even paintings by artists like Frederick Remington and Everett Shinn were reproduced as posters.

This selection of more than 90 posters from the Currier’s collection includes some of the most popular and sought after posters from the 1890s. Many are from the collection of Manchester resident Orien Dodge, who gave the Currier Museum 280 original posters in 1943.

Exhibition Support

The Currier’s presentation of Poster Mania is supported by the Robert and Lucille Davison Estates and their Heirs.


To learn more about this exhibition and time period view our resource guide

Images: Maxfield Parrish, New Hampshire - Land of Scenic Splendor, 1936, lithograph, 29 x 20 1/2 in. Currier Museum of Art, Manchester, NH. Museum Purchase: Rosmond deKalb Fund.
William H. Bradley, The Chap-Book, Thanksgiving Number, 1895, lithograph, 20 1/2 x 14 in. Currier Museum of Art, Manchester, NH. Gift of Orien B. Dodge.
W., Klondike - March Century, 1898, lithograph, 19 1/4 x 14 in. Currier Museum of Art, Manchester, NH. Gift of Orien B. Dodge.
Blanch McManus, The True Mother Goose, 1895, lithograph, 20 3/4 x 14 1/2 in. Currier Museum of Art, Manchester, NH.