C. Riker - Maker of the Atlantic Cable Album
The American Antiquarian Society’s name
authority files have the following information on Riker, taken from contemporary New York
John C. Riker - Publisher, Binder,
Bookseller, New York, NY
||81 Cliff St.
||11 Spruce St.
||17 Ann St.
||15 Ann St.
||129 Fulton St.
||24 Frankfort St.
Note: Listed as publisher in 1856-1857; listed as
binder in 1858-1859.
The Atlantic Cable album was produced late in Riker’s career, as he
is believed to have died in 1859. According to S.J. Wolfe, cataloguer at the AAS,
this album does not match the binding style of any of Riker’s earlier books in the
collection of the Society, so it seems likely that Eugene Ely, the publisher whose label appears on the inside front cover of all known copies, ordered a special run of albums from Riker then added the cable section to the front cover.
Here are some additional comments from Ms. Wolfe,
who has cataloged over a hundred albums at the AAS, many of them by John Riker:
“I can imagine it was a challenge to make that binding, but
Riker was a superb craftsman.
“I wish we did know more about how albums were put together. I
fantasize Riker had a pile of white and colored papers, piles of metal engraved cuts and
just grabbed handsful of the things until he thought he had a big enough pile, added a
title page then made up a binding. He may have even had several bindings made up ahead of
time and just stuffed them.
“Albums were popular Christmas and New Years’ gifts, so he may
have had some on hand at that time already made up. Otherwise he probably made them to
order. Someone stopped into his shop and said “I’d like to buy an album” and
picked it up when Riker was done with it.
“Some albums in our collection are obviously unique,
custom-made items. Others can be very very similar but I have not found two exactly alike.
The placement of plates varies, the colored papers vary, something is always just a little
Thanks to S.J. Wolfe for supplying
the information for this note on John Riker and his albums. The Society’s catalog has detailed
records on each of the albums in its collection.
Some of Riker’s business papers (1835-1857) are in the Historic Manuscripts collection of the Queens (NY) Public Library.
Below are images of some earlier Riker albums. The albums
are all leatherbound, and measure approximately 7¾" x 6".
Another 1837 Album
Title page of album on
||Christian Album, undated,
no address. The earliest inscription in the album
is dated September 1844.
||The Floral Album, dated
1844, 129 Fulton St. address.
||Another Floral Album,
interesting to see how Riker combines the dies used to gold
stamp the album covers. For example, the cover of
the 1847 album above uses the wreath from the Christian
Album and the border from the 1844 Floral Album.
and the Flowers” album is undated, but has Riker’s Fulton
St. address on the title page, dating it between1844 and 1855.
The spine decoration is identical to that on the 1844 Floral
The title page has Cupid as Love and is marked “Lith.
of F & S Palmer, 34 Ann St., N.Y.”
The album also contains five other Palmer lithographs entitled:
“Lilac - First Emotion of Love”
“Tulip - Declaration of Affection”
“Camelia - My Heart Bleeds for You”
“Scabius - Marygold - Unfortunate Attachment - Grief”
“Narcissus - Delusive Hope”
Frances Flora Bond (Fanny) Palmer (1812-1876)
was one of the premier artists and stone lithographers of
the period and later produced many images for Currier &
|My copy of this
album has no title page, but a site visitor reports that it is a “Gems From Flora” album by J.C. Riker, with the 129 Fulton St. address The paper has more of
a laid appearance than that used in other Riker albums.
The leather binding bears the word “Keepsake”
as part of the elaborate gold and polychrome decoration
of the front cover.
This album (c.1834/35)
has J.C. Riker, New-York, on its title page, and the front
cover is gilt-stamped Bathsheba B. Barlow. The covers have
an impressed chain border surrounded by a gilt design of grape
vines, leaves, and grapes (see detail above). The rear is
gilt-stamped Napoleon B. Dakyne, and there is a gilt-stamped
1 at the base of the spine, which may refer to a standard
album number, as a few of the other albums have various, but
different numbers, e.g. 12, 18, and 21 (or 24).
Images of this album are courtesy of Steve Beare, who has written an article on Samuel Dodd, a bookbinders’ tool maker who supplied the stamps used for embossing the covers of some of Riker’s albums.
Riker also published books, both leatherbound and clothbound.
Christ Our Example
Published by J.C. Riker,
129 Fulton Street.
This book is clothbound
and a little smaller than the albums, measuring 7½"
Herbert Tracy, or the
Trials of Mercantile Life, and the Morality of Trade
New York, John C. Riker
129 Fulton St.
J.F. Trow, Printer,
The book is clothbound
and measures 7½" x 4½".
If you have any additional information on John C. Riker,
or on the Atlantic Cable album, please contact me at [email protected]