San Francisco View at the Height of the Gold Rush

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35. [BIRD’S-EYE VIEW: SAN FRANCISCO]. BRITTON & REY [Joseph Britton & Jacques Joseph Rey]. San Francisco Upper California, [below border, at lower right] Lith. Britton & Rey. [San Francisco, 1852 or after]. Lithograph letter sheet view of city and harbor, grey wove paper, border to border: 13 x 40.6 cm; image with text below: 14.5 x 40.6 cm; overall sheet size: 15 x 46 cm. Printed across a double sheet, with blank area below trimmed off. Scattered light browning and a few closed tears to blank margins. Very good.

     Variant of Baird 252, title without “In November 1851” and comma after “California.” Our copy matches the copies at the Library of Congress and the Huntington Library, both of which are on whole sheets. Not in Reps. The image is a view of San Francisco from Nob Hill east to the Bay. Telegraph Hill is to the left and a Methodist church is depicted in the center foreground. This was a very popular view, and copies are found with the Quirot imprint (Clifford Sale 258 & Streeter Sale 2678), as well as closely related reworkings (e.g., Baird 239). The Britton & Rey variant is more difficult to find than the Quirot imprint.

     Palmquist, Pioneer Photographers of the Far West, pp. 124-125 (Britton) & pp. 454-455 (Rey):

The San Francisco lithography firm of Britton and Rey produced a prodigious body of early California town views... News of the Gold Rush lured [Britton] to California in 1849 with the George Gordon party via the Nicaragua route.... After a brief and unsuccessful career in mining, Britton settled in San Francisco, where he may have been active in the lithographic trade as early as 1851. In 1852, he briefly owned a lithographic shop in partnership with C.J. Pollard on Merchant Street. Later that year Britton entered into partnership with Jacques Joseph Rey. The Britton and Rey studio, which was apparently located in the former lithographic shop of Justh and Quirot at the corner of Montgomery and Commercial Streets, set the standard for excellence in west coast lithographic art in the 1850s.... Although many of Britton and Rey’s lithographed town views do not have a credit line for the delineator, photographs probably served as a basis for a good portion of the scenes.... Early on, Britton and Rey earned a reputation for consistently excellent workmanship.

     Hart, Companion to California, p. 52:

Britton and Rey, firm of lithographers in San Francisco (1852-1902), the oldest west of the Rocky Mts., also engaged in printing, engraving, and decoration. The senior partner, Joseph Britton (1820-1901), was a Yorkshireman who went to California in 1849. His brother-in-law, Jacques Joseph Rey (1820-1892), an Alsatian, joined him in other businesses, including some financing of the dirigible of Frederick Marriott. Britton was also active as a Supervisor in San Francisco on the People’s party ticket and as a financier of Hallidie’s first cable car line.

Baird in his long article in California on Stone (pp. 62-89) on Britton & Rey comments that the partnership of Britton and Rey “accounts for some of the most notable lithography done in California from the first to the last of our story.”


Sold. Hammer: $750.00; Price Realized: $918.75.

Auction 23 Abstracts

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