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California Cornerstones
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California Cornerstones is a selection of images from various collections in The Bancroft Library. The images have been organized by provenance; that is, they have been grouped around the individual or corporate body that created or collected the materials. Most come from collections of photographs, such as the William C. Barry Collection or the Frank B. Rodolph Collection. Some come from collections made up primarily of textual records. These, like the Henry J. Kaiser papers or the Sierra Club records, are large collections that include, in addition to photographs, materials such as correspondence, reports, minutes of meetings, diaries, and published pamphlets. A number of the oldest images have been reproduced from illustrations in published books, such as Georg von Langsdorff's Observations on a journey around the world, an account of an exploring expedition that visited the California coast in 1806. One particularly important source has been the Robert Honeyman Collection, an extensive group that includes paintings, drawings, prints, and photographs, most of which relate to the history of California in the 18th and 19th centuries.
Following are short biographies of photographers, artists and corporate bodies responsible for the images in California Cornerstones. Born in Ireland, [he] was brought to Kentucky age 11, and as a young man became a shorthand reporter for the U.S. Senate. His love of travel soon took him to a wide range of places and occupations, out of which came his diverse writings. His first major voyage, aboard a whaler in the Indian Ocean, resulted in Etchings of a Whaling Cruise (1846), influenced by Two Years Before the Mast. He next got an appointment in the Revenue Service, which took him to California on a voyage around the Horn and in time provided part of the material for Crusoe's Island... with Sketches of Adventures in California and Washoe (1864).Ludovik Choris was born in the Ukraine, the child of German and Russian parents. He was educated in Moscow, and by age twenty had already become an experienced traveler in the Caucasus Mountains where he worked as artist-naturalist for Marshall von Biederstein, a German botanist. During the same year, 1815, Choris embarked on a new adventure when, as he later wrote, "the brig Rurik commanded by Captain Otto von Kotzebue, sailed from St. Petersburg for a voyage of discovery around the world. At scarcely twenty years of age, I went as draftsman with this expedition, the expenses of which were covered by Count Romanzoff, Chancellor of the Russian Empire... During the course of this voyage, which lasted three years, all the objects which struck my youthful imagination and my eyes were gathered and drawn by me, sometimes with the leisure permitted by an extended sojourn, sometimes with the rapidity made necessary by a short appearance." These drawings and studies were later arranged and mounted to serve as models for finished paintings and illustrations. His first set of illustrations, prepared for Kotzebue's report on the voyage of the Rurik, Entdeckungs-reise in Südsee, prepared for publication after their return to Europe in 1817, were disappointing in quality. Choris's unfamiliarity with the intaglio techniques of engraving, etching, and acquatint produced rather stiff and unattractive results, but after his move to Paris he continued his art studies. Having mastered the technique of lithography, a much more appropriate medium for the expression of his style, Choris prepared and published his Voyage pittoresque autour du monde in fascicles (1820). As he wrote later, "I reproduced, for the most part, characteristic portraits of the peoples visited by the Rurik, including their habitations, arms, musical instruments, and ornaments; and a few landscapes that I had drawn." The beauty and artistic quality of this work made it an immediate success, and in 1822 it was re-published in book form by Firmin Didot at Paris. The lithographic plates designed by Choris and printed by Langlum were supplied with or without added color, and The Bancroft Library is fortunate to own good examples of the volume in both states.One of the very best [of Yosemite's photographers of] the pioneer era was George Fiske. After a brief stint in Sacramento as a banker, the former resident of Amherst, New Hampshire, took up residence in San Francisco as a photographer in 1864. During the next two decades he perfected his art, and in 1879-1880 he became the first photographer to live in the spectacular Yosemite Valley through the winter season. With his 5-by-8-inch and 11-by-14-inch cameras, he produced a fine series of "winter wonderland" albumen photographs.Genthe was born to a sophisticated academic household in Berlin. Although his first love was painting, the family's economic difficulties forced him to a plan a university career. He pursued classical literary studies in Germany and France, publishing a dictionary of German slang and writing a thesis on philology. He eventually found work as the tutor to the son of a German baron and a California heiress, and in this capacity he came to San Francisco in 1895. Deciding to stay on the Pacific Coast, he taught himself photography and created a noteworthy series of images of Chinatown (1896-1906).Born Alice Iola Schnatterly in New Geneva, Pennsylvania, Mrs. Hare married James W. Hare in 1877. She had four sons, the oldest of whom, John, became a photographer working for various San Francisco newspapers. Her family moved to Santa Clara, California, in 1895, and then to Winton in Merced County in 1911. She spent her last few years in Berkeley, where she died.A firm of San Francisco lithographers that flourished in the 1850s, made up of Charles Conrad Kuchel (1820-ca.1865) and Emil Dresel. They were best known for their series "Kuchel & Dresel's California Views," a group of lithographs depicting the state's towns and cities. These usually included smaller views of individual buildings or farms arrayed around the border of the main image. Many of these were printed by the firm of Britton & Rey.Lange was born in New Jersey in 1895. In New York she worked for photographer Arnold Genthe and studied under Clarence H. White. She came to California in 1918 and set up a portrait photography studio in San Francisco, eventually marrying the painter Maynard Dixon. Outside of her portrait studio, Lange specialized in social documentary photography, with the goal of social reform through portrayal of human hardship. Her early work includes photographs of San Francisco's Unemployed Exchange Association, documenting the state of urban laborers during the Great Depression. She is best know for her Depression-era work for the Farm Security Administration, which included now-famous images of migrant laborers and farm families. These images were published in An American Exodus (1940) a work she produced with her second husband, the agricultural economist and social reformer Paul Schuster Taylor. During World War II she photographed the internment of Japanese-Americans by the War Relocation Authority. In each of these major documentary projects, Lange's sympathetic, candid, and revealing portraits are emotional expressions of the human side of historical events.Born in Wöllstein, Germany, Langsdorff studied in Göttingen with the anthropologist and naturalist Johann Blumenbach, receiving a medical degree there in 1797. After a journey through Portugal he accompanied Nikolai Petrovich Rezanov on the Russian expedition to Japan and Alaska in 1806.Born Edward James Muggeridge in Kingston-upon-Thames, England, Muybridge came to the U.S. in the early 1850s and opened a bookstore in San Francisco in 1855. After being seriously injured in a fall from a stagecoach, he returned to England, where he turned to photography. He came back to San Francisco in the late 1860s and did photographic work for the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey.Born in Germany, Nahl came from a family of prominent artists and craftsmen in Kassel. After moving to Paris in 1846, Nahl's family went to New York in 1849 and to California in 1850. En route through the Isthmus of Panama, Nahl sketched the scenes he saw along the way, one of which he used later for the painting "Incident on the Chagres."Born in Brittany, Narjot studied painting in Paris and came to San Francisco via Cape Horn in 1849. Although he devoted himself to prospecting for gold, he continued to paint. He went to Mexico with a mining expedition in 1852, and there he met and married his wife in 1860. Returning to San Francisco in 1865 he set up a studio on Clay Street and began to paint professionally. His best known works were his illustrations for Albert S. Evans's A La California : sketches of life in the golden state (1873), his "New Year's Festival in Chinatown," and a painting titled "The sacrifice of a Druid priestess."Rodolph was a commercial photographer active in Oakland during the 1870s and 1880s. Born in Wisconsin, he and his family travelled overland to California in 1850. They settled first in Placerville and later operated a ranch on Cache Creek. Moving to Oakland in 1869, Rodolph attended business college and opened a stationary store on Broadway in partnership with his father. The store also sold school books and sheet music, and in the 1880s Rodolph began doing printing work as well. Many of his photographs were taken on his extensive travels throughout California.Born in New Bedford, Massachusetts, Taber went to sea when he was fifteen and worked on whaling ships in the North Pacific. He came to California in the gold rush and, after brief careers in shipping, mining, and farming, returned to New Bedford and became a dentist. He soon turned to photography, however, opening a gallery in Syracuse, New York, and finally going back to California in 1864 at the inducement of the photographers Bradley and Rulofson. He worked for them until 1871, when he opened his own gallery on Montgomery Street. His highly successful business was well-known for portraiture and a vast stock of California and Western views --many of which were the unacknowledged works of other photographers. His career ended in 1906 when his entire collection of glass plates, view negatives and portraits on glass were destroyed in the San Francisco earthquake and fire.A pioneering California photographer, Vance came from a prominent family in Maine and opened his first studio in Boston at age 19. He came to California via Cape Horn in 1851, and in San Francisco he established a successful portrait gallery. Later that year he recorded two of the city's devastating fires, and these and other images he brought to New York City for an exhibition titled "Views in California." Back in San Francisco, Vance set up an elaborate two-story gallery and studio at Montgomery and Sacramento Streets. In 1858 and 1859 he sent his partner Charles Weed into the field to document mining scenes on the American River and the scenery of Yosemite. It was through Vance that Carleton E. Watkins received his first training.Throughout his long and eventful life Carleton Watkins created a massive photographic record of California and the western U.S. He was born in Oneonta, New York, and there, in his youth, he met Collis P. Huntington, then a tin peddler. The two came to California during the Gold Rush and continued a life-long friendship that survived their divergent fortunes.
Copyright has not been assigned to The Bancroft Library. All requests for permission to publish photographs must be submitted in writing to the Curator of Pictorial Collections. Permission for publication is given on behalf of The Bancroft Library as the owner of the physical items and is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which must also be obtained by the reader.
Collection is available for use.