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California Lettersheets from the Robert B. Honeyman, Jr. Collection of Early Californian and Western American Pictorial Material, 1850-1869
BANC PIC 1963.002:1-194  
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Collection Details
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  • Collection Summary
  • Information for Researchers
  • Administrative Information
  • Scope and Content
  • Background

  • Collection Summary

    Collection Title: California Lettersheets from the Robert B. Honeyman, Jr. Collection of Early Californian and Western American Pictorial Material
    Date: 1850-1869
    Collection Number: BANC PIC 1963.002:1-194
    Collector: Honeyman, Robert B.
    Extent: 194 lettersheets; various sizes 192 digital objects
    Repository: The Bancroft Library.
    University of California, Berkeley
    Berkeley, CA 94720-6000
    Phone: (510) 642-6481
    Fax: (510) 642-7589
    Email: bancref@library.berkeley.edu
    URL: http://bancroft.berkeley.edu/
    Languages Represented: Collection materials are in English

    Information for Researchers


    Restricted originals. Use viewing prints only, available at Reference Desk. Use of originals only by permission of the Curator of Pictorial Collections, The Bancroft Library.

    Publication Rights

    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.
    Copyright restrictions also apply to digital representations of the original materials. Use of digital files is restricted to research and educational purposes.

    Preferred Citation

    [Identification of item], California lettersheets from the Robert B. Honeyman, Jr. collection of early Californian and Western American pictorial material, 1850-1869, BANC PIC 1963.002:1-194, The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley

    Digital Representations Available

    Digital representations of selected original pictorial materials are available in the list of materials below. Digital image files were prepared from selected Library originals by the Library Photographic Service. Library originals were copied onto 35mm color transparency film; the film was scanned and transferred to Kodak Photo CD (by Custom Process); and the Photo CD files were color-corrected and saved in JFIF (JPEG) format for use as viewing files.

    Related Collections

    Title: California Lettersheets,
    Identifier/Call Number: BANC PIC 19xx.097--A
    Title: California Pictorial Lettersheets from the Collection of Henry H. Clifford,
    Identifier/Call Number: BANC PIC 1995.016--B

    Administrative Information

    Acquisition Information

    The Robert B. Honeyman, Jr. collection was purchased in 1964.

    Scope and Content

    This portion of the Robert B. Honeyman collection consists of 194 pictorial lettersheets produced between the years 1850 and 1869, the bulk dating from the 1850s. A variety of places, events, and topics are depicted. City and landscapes, Gold Rush scenes, and events of the day (fires, hangings, executions, etc.) are most commonly pictured. Scenes and events in San Francisco predominate. Other places featured include Sacramento, Marysville, Sutter's Mill, Yreka, and other California towns. The medium of the bulk of the illustrations are wood engravings or lithographs, featuring the work of the likes of Britton & Rey, the Nahl Brothers, George Baker, Kuchel & Dresel, and others.


    The Robert B. Honeyman Jr. Collection of Early Californian and Western American Pictorial Material comprises more than 2000 items assembled by this private collector through the early 1960s. Honeyman and his agents (notably Warren Howell of John Howell Books in San Francisco) assembled the collection which was housed for years in a private museum at Honeyman's Rancho Los Cerritos near Mission San Juan Capistrano. The collection was purchased by The Bancroft Library in 1964. Honeyman's collection primarily emphasizes the pictorial interpretation of the West, but also includes a variety of printed materials, ephemera, and manuscript material. Pictorial material includes fine oil paintings, watercolors, drawings, lithographs, engravings, etchings, maps, charts, lettersheets, and other formats. All illustrate early California and the Old West, the majority dating before 1900.
    The collection includes the earliest surviving drawings of any scene in California done during the visits of Alejandro Malaspina's expedition in 1791 and 1792. Other early voyages and explorations of California include Captain Vancouver's expedition in 1792 or 1794, Nikolai Rezanov's expedition in 1806, and Otto von Kotezebue's expedition in 1816.
    Many well-known painters of the West are represented in the collection, as noted by Susana Bryant Dakin in a brochure produced by The Friends of The Bancroft Library in 1963 to aid in fundraising for the purchase of the collection:
    Well-known painters of the West... are represented by oils and watercolors and drawings in the collection. Charles Christian Nahl may be considered the most important resident artist of the early American period in California history. Besides a sketch-book, dated 1853 and 1854, Mr. Honeyman managed to acquire five Nahl oils, including the beautiful and exciting Incident on the Chagres River. A watercolor by Charles Russell, The War Party, is small but prime quality. Alexander Edouart's Blessing of the Enrequita Mine, New Almaden, in the Year 1859 is a superb documentary of an important mining activity. There is a magnificent oil painting of Mokelumne Hill by A. D. O. Browere; and impressive scenes by the French artist E. E. Narjot de Francheville, an early arrival on the West Coast, attracted by news of gold.
    On and on--the viewer becomes entranced by the brushwork and romantic concepts, no less than literal renderings of the primitive scene, by such as Albert Bierstadt, Augusto Ferran, Alfred Jacob Miller, Jules Tavernier, William B. McMurtrie, Charles Wimar, Joseph Lee, Thomas Hill, William Keith--along with others who attracted public attention for the first time in a Honeyman exhibition...
    Much of the artwork is described in Joseph Armstrong Baird's Catalogue of Original Paintings, Drawings, and Watercolors in the Robert B. Honeyman, Jr. Collection (1968). Books in the collection have been cataloged by the library in the call number range F591.H72.A--Z. Manuscript materials have been cataloged and classified separately with the provenance noted and traced (under the catalog entry, Honeyman, Robert B.; Robert B. Honeyman, Jr. Collection).
    (Sources: Dakin, Susana Bryant. The Honeyman Collection of Early Californian and Western American Pictorial Material : a Project of The Friends of the Bancroft Library . Berkeley, Calif. : The Bancroft Library, 1963.
    Mills, Paul. "Collection of Robert B. Honeyman, Jr." In California Pictorial 1800-1900; an Exhibition of Two Parts: the Collection of Robert B. Honeyman, Jr. and Paintings by William Keith . Santa Barbara, Calif. : Santa Barbara Museum of Art, 1962.)