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History of the Atlantic Cable & Undersea Communications
from the first submarine cable of 1850 to the worldwide fiber optic network

John C. Riker

John C. Riker - Maker of the Atlantic Cable Album

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The American Antiquarian Society’s name authority files have the following information on Riker, taken from contemporary New York business directories:

John C. Riker - Publisher, Binder, Bookseller, New York, NY

Date Address
1827 81 Cliff St.
1828-1829 11 Spruce St.
1830-1832 17 Ann St.
1833-1843 15 Ann St.
1844-1855 129 Fulton St.
1856-1857 315 Broadway
1858-1859 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 off.”

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".

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1837 Album

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Another 1837 Album

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Title page of album on left

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1847 Album


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1854 Album

CAlbum01.jpg (127539 bytes) Christian Album, undated, no address.   The earliest inscription in the album is dated September 1844. CAlbum02.jpg (98521 bytes)
1844Album01.jpg (135545 bytes) The Floral Album, dated 1844, 129 Fulton St. address. 1844Album02.jpg (103333 bytes)
1841Album01.jpg (30132 bytes) Another Floral Album, dated 1841 1841Album02.jpg (20024 bytes)
It’s 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.
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This “Love 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 Album above.
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 & Ives.

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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.

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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.

1844 book

Christ Our Example


Caroline Fry

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New York:
Published by J.C. Riker,
129 Fulton Street.

This book is clothbound and a little smaller than the albums, measuring 7½" x 4½".

1851 book:

Herbert Tracy, or the Trials of Mercantile Life, and the Morality of Trade


A “Counting-House Man.”

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New York, John C. Riker
129 Fulton St.

J.F. Trow, Printer,
49 Ann-street

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]

Last revised: 16 July, 2022

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