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Auction 12: The Zamorano 80 Collection of Daniel G. Volkmann Jr.

Lot 76

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Item 76. Upham’s Notes of a Voyage to California—“Provides much information about the early history of Sacramento, the territorial pioneers, and early California journalism for which there are no other sources” (Howell).

76. UPHAM, Samuel C[urtis] (1819-1885). Notes of a Voyage to California via Cape Horn, Together with Scenes in El Dorado, in the Years 1849-’50. With an Appendix Containing Reminiscences of Pioneer Journalism in California.... Philadelphia: Published by the Author, 1878. xxii [23]-594 pp., engraved frontispiece portraits of Sutter and Upham, numerous plates (portraits and plates included in pagination), text illustrations. 8vo, original maroon gilt-pictorial pebbled cloth, beveled edges, extra-gilt decoration on upper and lower covers, a.e.g. Spine a bit light and front hinge slightly weak, otherwise very fine—a desirable copy in the extra-gilt binding. From the library of collector Thomas Wayne Norris, with his bookplate illustrating Mission Carmel in its state prior to restoration (Talbot, Historic California in Bookplates, pp. 196, illustrated).
First edition. Cowan I, pp. 235-36. Cowan II, p. 652. Hill, p. 303. Holliday 1115. Howell 50, California 888: “Provides much information about the early history of Sacramento, the territorial pioneers, and early California journalism for which there are no other sources.” Howes U23. Huntington Library, Zamorano 80...Exhibition of Famous and Notorious California Classics 76. Kurutz, The California Gold Rush 647. Norris 4045 (this copy). Rocq 12656. Wheat, Books of the California Gold Rush 215. Zamorano 80 #76. The author notes that the illustrations were engraved by David Scattergood and C. H. Reed from original artwork, daguerreotypes, photographs, and the books of Soulé (q.v.) and Letts. ($400-800)


According to Upham, these reminiscences “have been written amid the hurly-burly of a busy mercantile life, from notes taken at the time the incidents treated of transpired.” Despite being a recollection, his narrative is rich with information and written in a sprightly and entertaining way.
Leaving a lucrative position in a counting house in Philadelphia, Upham “resigned the quill for ‘the pick and the spade’” and set sail on the brig Osceola on January 15, 1849, shipped around Cape Horn, and reached San Francisco on August 5. Upham devoted a major portion of his book to the long voyage. After experiencing a jumping San Francisco, the gold seeker headed for the diggings on the Calaveras River. Poor health, however, forced him back to Stockton and then San Francisco, where he survived by selling pickles and pipes before becoming a courier for the Pacific News. In the spring of 1850, Upham relocated in Sacramento, and with five others started the Sacramento Transcript, one of California’s first newspapers. The journalist provided a superior description of Sacramento City, witnessing the first great fire, the first election under state law, and, in August, the famed Squatter Riots in which the sheriff was killed and the mayor wounded. He wrote in vivid terms of Captain Sutter and his fort, a banquet at Sutter’s Hock Farm, a concert given by the celebrated French composer Henri Herz, and the first minstrel performance in town. Upham liberally reproduced articles from his newspaper to supplement his narrative. In the fall, he sold out his interests in the Transcript for $10,000 and returned to Philadelphia via the Isthmus of Panama on the steamship Columbus. Upham included an extensive appendix covering such topics as the history of pioneer journalism in California, celebration of Admission Day, a reception for John C. Frémont, and the dedication of the Lick Monument at Fredericksburg, Pennsylvania.
The California State Library has a prospectus dated November 8, 1878, and a publisher’s “dummy” for this important reminiscence. Sold by subscription in an edition of 600 copies, the author charged $3.00 for cloth and $5.00 for Turkey morocco with full gilt. The San Francisco Alta California for December 16, 1878, carried an announcement of Upham’s book. In a note about the engravings Upham wrote: “The illustrations in this volume are from Original Sketches, Daguerreotypes, Photographs, the ‘Annals of San Francisco,’ and ‘California Illustrated’ [by J. M. Letts].” Arno Press (New York, 1973) reprinted Upham’s work.

——Gary F. Kurutz

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