What it Costs to Survey Land in California & the West

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67. [CALIFORNIA SURVEYING]. EWING, Charles G. Charles G. Ewing, Optician, Importer of Mathematical and Philosophical Instruments, Sole Agent for Mathushek Pianos, No. 111 Montgomery Street, San Francisco. Price List, May 16th, 1874. [San Francisco, 1874] Printed combination price list and circular letter, dated San Francisco, May 16, 1874, advertising his services and the availability from him of surveyor’s instruments made by W. & L.E. Gurley of Troy, New York. Small folio (32.5 x 14.5 cm) on pink paper. Creased where formerly folded, light stain at one fold, otherwise fine. With ink manuscript note on lower blank portion, “Dear Sir, The usual style of Transits sold to surveyors have Vertical Circle, with Level under Telescope, same as No. 12 in this list, price being $179 in Currency. Respy Chas G. Ewing June 3/74” [original emphasis]. Numbers 12 and 15 on the price list are highlighted by ink notation.

     Founded in 1845, the firm of brothers William and Lewis E. Gurley came into being in 1852, after the original partner left the firm. By innovative manufacturing concepts and techniques, they were able to produce high-quality instruments at reasonable prices. Despite being sold several times over the years, the firm is still in business. At the time of this circular, they were one of the more prominent instrument makers in the U.S. The price list has just over forty items, including surveying compasses, transits, accessories, and other surveying instruments. Those items would have been vital commodities in California at this time since the state was rapidly expanding and the need for surveyors was high. Some of the items are not exactly cheap, however, costing several hundred dollars, although most equipment is more modestly priced. In his circular letter, Ewing announces that he is the Gurleys’ sole agent for California, Oregon, Nevada, and the Territories, and that the prices of the instruments are being offered at “a great reduction on previous prices charged.” Payment is accepted, however, only in gold coin. The price list includes some instruments that must be ordered from the factory since Ewing does not keep them in stock. Ewing also announces that he can repair instruments, as well. Little is known about Ewing except what can be gleaned from city directories, etc. He and his wife were listed in the social registers.

     An excellent example of a rare survival documenting equipment necessary to service the growing state and the demand for land.


Auction 23 Abstracts

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