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October 26, 2007

Kuchel & Dresel’s California Bird’s-Eye Views
Outstanding Examples of Lithographic Art from On-the-Spot Drawings during the Gold Rush, Printed in San Francisco

18. [BIRD’S-EYE VIEW]. KUCHEL, [Charles Conrad] & [Emil] Dresel (artists) & [Joseph Britton & Jacques Joseph Rey] (lithographers). Coloma, 1857. El Dorado County, California. First discovery of Gold in Cal. was made at this place early in February 1848 by Jas. Marshall & P. L. Wimmer, in the Tailrace of Sutters Saw mill, situated at the extreme lower end of the Town. The Mill was torn down in 1856. [symbol, cross in small circle, with hook at top] Place where Sutters mill stood. [above image] Kuchel & Dresels California Views. [below image] Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1857 by Kuchel & Dresel in the Clerks Office of the U.S. District Court for the Northn District of Cal. N.p., n.d. [San Francisco, ca. 1857]. Lithograph on buff-toned ground, original applied white highlights. Image only: 20.3 x 37 cm. Image including title and caption above: 27 x 37 cm. Overall sheet size: 42 x 63.3 cm. Portion of blank margin (approximately 1 to 1.8 cm) around image slightly darkened, overall browning, a few light creases (one in lower portion of image area). Very good. Professionally conserved. Provenance: Henry M. Newhall (1825-1882), rancher and railroad promoter. See Hart, Companion to California.

            Early view of Coloma. Reps, Views and Viewmakers of Urban America #75 (the version with vignettes is Reps #74). Within Reps’ sequence of Coloma views, this is the third listed, although in fact, according to Reps’s text, it is the first Kuchel & Dresel version. Baird (California Pictorial Letter Sheets) lists three lettersheet views of Coloma: #37 (undated wood engraving); #286 (undated wood engraving). Peters lists the version with twenty views surrounding central image (California on Stone, pp. 142-144). Watson, California in the Fifties, notes to Plate 4 (Coloma), image only. Not in Greenwood, California Imprints 1833-1862.

Watson (California in the Fifties, text accompanying Plate 4, Coloma) writes:

What happened at Coloma on January 24, 1848, changed the whole course of history. From that day on, the words ‘California’ and ‘Gold’ were indissolubly linked, while from every quarter of the globe men raced to join in the human avalanche we know as the Gold Rush. The year before Johann August Sutter, lord of New Helvetia and pioneer settler in the wilderness of the Sacramento valley where he had established himself in August, 1839, had entered into a partnership with millwright James Wilson Marshall for the purpose of building a sawmill on the south fork of the American river in order to supply lumber for his numerous undertakings. In the late fall of 1847 Marshall with his fellow workers reached the chosen location and began operations. The mill rose on the spot indicated by the sign in Kuchel & Dresel’s lithograph, and by the end of January neared completion. Marshall had difficulty with the millrace. In order to enlarge it, he allowed the water of the river to flow through it during the night, shutting it off each morning so that the Indians employed by him could throw out the loosened boulders. Examining the result of his deepening method on the morning of January 24, 1848, he noticed glittering particles in the ditch and clambered down into it to find out what they were. This was the discovery that soon brought gold-mad miners of every nationality to the spot, built the town of Coloma and sent thousands into foothills of the Sierra to find new diggings, create new settlements and open California’s golden era.

            The settlement of Coloma rapidly grew up around Sutter’s Mill, which by the time of this lithograph had already been demolished. Despite a brief period of prosperity and growth, the town finally faded away to become a ghost town. The only remnants of it are now incorporated into Marshall Gold Discovery State Historic Park. ($10,000-20,000)

Sold. Hammer: $10,000.00; Price Realized: $11,750.00

Auction 21 Abstracts

Click images or links labeled Enlarge to enlarge. Links labeled Zoom open zoomable images.

Note: Images made prior to restoration; new images to be posted after restoration.


Symbol marking the former location of Sutter's Mill.

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