Catalog Archive
Auction 168, Lot 222

"[Lot of 4] Los Angeles [and] Mission of San Diego [and] Mission and Plain of San Fernando [and] View of Benecia from the West", Koppel, Charles

Subject: California

Period: 1856 (circa)

Publication: Survey for Routes for a Pacific Railroad Reports

Color: Hand Color

9.3 x 6.5 inches
23.6 x 16.5 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."

A nice set of four tinted lithographs created for Robert S. Williamson's report of his explorations in California for potential railroad routes. The lot includes:

A. Los Angeles. This is the first printed depiction of Los Angeles. The plaza is on the left with the San Gabriel Mountains in the background. At the right foreground on the hill is the former Mexican jail. Our Lady of the Angels church is at center.

B. Mission of San Diego. This charming scene of San Diego is one of the earliest printed views of the mission. The mission was the location of San Diego's first military post and it was occupied by the Army from 1847 to 1857.

C. Mission and Plain of San Fernando. This is the first depiction of the San Fernando Valley, the now urban northwest area of Los Angeles. This lovely scene shows the walled mission in left center, 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.

D. View of Benecia from the West. A very early view of this small community in the North Bay with the Carquinez Strait in the background. Benecia was founded in 1847 and served as the state capitol in 1853-54.


Condition: B+

Overall clean and bright with some minor foxing that is more pronounced on the San Fernando view.

Estimate: $300 - $375

Sold for: $375

Closed on 6/6/2018