Catalog Archive
Auction 164, Lot 241

First Depiction of the San Fernando Valley

"Mission and Plain of San Fernando", U.S. Railroad Surveys

Subject: San Fernando, California

Period: 1856 (published)

Publication: Survey for Routes for a Pacific Railroad Reports

Color: Hand Color

9 x 5.8 inches
22.9 x 14.7 cm

During the 1850s, the U.S. government sponsored an extensive series of expeditions designed to gather information on the vast new territories that had been acquired in western North America. The discovery of gold in California further stimulated westward traffic and heightened the need for a faster and more convenient way to bring the far-flung parts of the country together. In 1853 Congress commissioned the Army's Topographic Bureau to conduct a series of surveys to find a suitable route for a transcontinental railroad. There were six major expeditions; five of them covered the area between the Great Plains and west coast, and the sixth explored the coastal states of California and Oregon. All of these expeditions were accompanied by naturalists and artists to document the landscape, flora and fauna along the route. The reports, maps and lithographs were published in the 13 volume report "Explorations and Surveys to ascertain the most practicable and economical route for a Railroad from the Mississippi river to the Pacific Ocean."

This tinted lithograph is the first depiction of the San Fernando Valley (The Valley), the now urban northwest area of Los Angeles. The scene shows the walled mission, a rider on a horse, some cattle, and a native harvesting prickly pear fruit in the foreground. The San Gabriel Mountains are shown in the background.


Condition: B+

Minor foxing primarily in the blank margins.

Estimate: $100 - $130


Closed on 9/13/2017