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October 26, 2007

Rare View of Modern-Day Arcata in the Gold Rush

21. [BIRD’S-EYE VIEW]. KUCHEL, [Charles Conrad] & [Emil] Dresel (artists) & [Joseph] Britton & [Jacques Joseph] Rey (lithographers). Union, Humboldt County, Cal. 1857. [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 N. Dist. of Cal. N.p., n.d. [San Francisco, ca. 1857]. Lithograph on buff-toned ground, original applied white highlights. Image only: 20.5 x 37.3 cm. Image including title and caption above: 26 x 37.3 cm. Overall sheet size: 37.5 x 64 cm. Image and sheet browned, dime-sized light spot at center, one tiny nick at center, a few light creases (one in image area). Very good. Professionally conserved. Provenance: Henry M. Newhall (1825-1882), rancher and railroad promoter. See Hart, Companion to California.

            Not in Reps (Views and Viewmakers of Urban America), although he lists two other Kuchel & Dresel views of Union (later renamed Arcata) with slightly different titles, one with vignettes and the other without (Reps #49 & #50). Reps #50 is illustrated in Reps, Cities on Stone, plate 8. However, neither of the views listed by Reps matches the dimensions of the present print, although the scenes appear to be identical. Peters lists Reps #50 (California on Stone, p. 145). Watson, California in the Fifties, Plate 37. Not in Greenwood (California Imprints 1833-1862). Baird (California Pictorial Letter Sheets) does not list any lettersheet views of Union, or of its successor Arcata. Watson (California in the Fifties) comments:

The founding of the towns on the extreme northern coast of California takes its inspiration, in almost every case, from the gold discovery by Major Pearson B. Reading on Trinity River in 1848. Everyone wanted to know where this river emptied into the Pacific, for if it debouched at Trinidad bay...a sea route to the mines would be opened.... To determine the truth or falsity of this, Josiah Gregg, the gifted author of Commerce of the Prairies, found that the Trinity river emptied into the Klamath and that it in turn poured its waters into the ocean many miles to the north... Gregg’s party camped on the site of the future town of Union, [and subsequently] Gregg died of exhaustion and exposure. The news of their discoveries brought about the settlement of the lands about Humboldt.... For three years between 1855 and 1858 Union harbored a young printer who set type.... His outstanding achievement, and his last, was a gruesome but vivid description of the massacre of Indians by the whites. This so angered the general public...that he was dismissed on the spot. The young writer, however, rose to fame, as Bret Harte.

            Founded by the Union Company early in 1850, Union was the first significant town on Humboldt Bay and prospered as a port serving the gold mines in the mountains to the east. In 1860 the name was changed to Arcata, which is its modern-day name. Today the place is known as a stop on the Hippie Trail, and many of its itinerant residents are spinoffs of the Grateful Dead. ($6,000-12,000)

Sold. Hammer: $6,000.00; Price Realized: $7,050.00

Auction 21 Abstracts

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