A W Elson & Co

Belmont, Boston

The Value of AW Elson Prints

Many people have told me about A W Elson carbon prints that they own.  Most have asked for an indication of the value.   The prints are listed and some are illustrated on this page:

A W Elson  -  Questions

Print for Sale

I've not normally been in a position to comment on the value of prints, but now I see that one of the AW Elson prints "Spirit of '76" is currently being offered for sale on the Pot of Gold Antiques web site.  Please click on this link to read about the print and see a photograph of it.

Perhaps, one day, the web page above may vanish, so I've  reproduced the text below.


"Spirit Of '76"

Archibald Willard, A W Elson Carbon Print 

US$2,600  Reduced

Archibald Macneal Willard

"This is an incredibly rare opportunity to own a piece of American history! Archibald Macneal Willard (1836-1918) was a carriage painter From Bedford, Ohio. He fought in the civil war and started sketching battle scenes and soldiers. After the war he studied art in New York and was known for ironic works done with the intention of making fun of people who took themselves too seriously. A friend of his, J.F. Ryder, convinced him to do a painting to exhibit at the upcoming Philadelphia Exposition being held in 1876 to honor our nation's 100th birthday."

'Yankee Doodle'

"He started it in a humorous vein and when his Father took ill he changed his mind and made a patriotic work, using his Father as the model for the central figure representing heroism and two of his friends became models for the figures to the right. The young boy is a representation of our nation's patriotic future. He named the work "Yankee Doodle" and exhibited and sold prints and small cabinet photos of it at the expo. Later he renamed it "Spirit Of '76".  The original is displayed at Abbott Hall, Marble Head, Massachusetts and he made several original variations of it."

A W Elson

"This item was made by the A. W. Elson Company of Boston Massachusetts. Very little information is available about the company but my research indicates they started in 1890 and were one of the leading photogravure printers at the turn of the 1900's. They were reported to be the first in the U S to make blow up large size photographic carbon prints. In other words they were the first to make posters! Little did they realize how popular posters would become!"

Carbon Prints

"A carbon print is a photographic print produced by soaking a carbon tissue in a dilute sensitizing solution of potassium bichromate. The solution also consists of carbon, gelatin, and a coloring agent. The process was created in 1864 by Joseph Wilson Swan. Only a handful of people still know how to use this process. What is important about carbon printing is that is uses pigments instead of dyes. Pigments were used on the cave paintings at Lascaux, France, on the Egyptian Tomb Walls, on the paintings of the great masters, and on automobiles today."

Permanent Prints

"That is why this print looks so good after so long and will continue to do so for an indefinite period of time. When you look at the image parts of it look three dimensional because none of the original shading and hues have diminished. The "Spirit Of '76 has it's original matting with the embossed A W Elson seal at the bottom. It also has the original solid oak frame it came with. There are some scratches on the frame and a few rubs in the matting especially one by the left of the young boy as seen in the photo."

Reproduction and Packaging

"I tried taking pictures in different lights to show how it really looks. The back is covered and taped and has a wire hangar and all seem to be old. The overall dimensions are 38 1/2" by 49" by 3/4" deep. I have a professional packing business on standby to build a shipping box around the picture after it sells. I don't want to have it boxed now in case there are any questions I may have to answer. The box will cost over 100.00 and will be included in the price. If you are nearby Colorado and want to pick it up I will deduct the cost of the box from the sale price. Since it won't be boxed until after the sale I will have to determine actual shipping charges after the sale."


"Insurance will be required on the full sale price. I would prefer to sell this via money order, or cashier check to avoid Pay Pal fees for the consignor. Feel free to ask questions ! I check my email frequently. Thank you so much! Roses... P S Sorry, no dealer discount on this one because I have it already marked as low as the consignor will go.  Thank you."


Pot of Gold Antiques web site, Colorado, USA:  February 7, 2008.

-  Paragraph headings added by Peter Stubbs:  February 7, 2008.


Further Comments

Rose Spicer of 'Pot of Gold Antiques' adds:

"There really is no other company in the U.S. that made a comparable product at that time.  I also feel that the subject matter of the one I have for sale has great appeal due to it's famous patriotic image.

My digital photos of course don't do it justice.  When you stand in front of it, it feels ALIVE !"

Rose Spicer:  February 6, 2008


A W Elson  -  Questions

Carbon Printing