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American urban views

[ Non-urban views of the United States ]
Other view pages: [ Location Index | Subject Index | Artists ]


Views of cities have long been popular, with perspective and bird's eye views issued of European urban centers as early as the fifteenth century. Among the earliest prints of the New World were urban views and as American communities were established in what is today the United States, prints of them were published both in Europe and America. By the nineteenth century, such views were in great demand and were issued of cities, big and small, across the country. These prints showed both general views of the cities and also views of specific buildings. Before 1800, many of the urban views were sold to people who had never visited the location depicted, so many were inaccurate, but as the nineteenth century progressed, most of the American urban views were sold to local citizens, putting a premium on accuracy. Thus it is, that many American views provide us with remarkably detailed and accurate images of our urban centers from over a century ago.

Ogilby: St. Martin
John Ogilby. "De Stadt St. Martin." London: J. Ogilby, 1671. 11 x 14 (neat lines) plus margins. Engraving on laid paper Hand colored. Very good condition.

An early image of the island of Saint Martin in the West Indies. This thirty eight square mile colony shared by France and Holland produced sugar at the time of this picture. Action in this print shows a Dutch fleet attacking the Spanish fort.

This print was issued in John Ogilby's America in 1671. Ogilby (1600-1676), one of the more colorful figures associated with cartography, started life as a dancing master and finished as the King's Cosmographer and Geographic Printer. In the course of an eventful life he built a theater in Dublin, became the Deputy Master of Revels in Ireland, translated various Greek and Latin works and built a book publishing business. In the process he twice lost all he possessed, first in a shipwreck during the Civil Wars and then in the Great Fire of London. Even this disaster he turned to advantage by being appointed to a Commission of Survey following the fire. He turned to printing again and in a few short years organized a survey of all the main post roads in the country and published the first practical road atlas. In 1671, Ogilby issued his volume on America, which included many maps and views of North and South America, including this striking engraving. $375

Bowles after Heap: East Perspective of Philadelphia
Carington Bowles after George Heap. "An East Perspective View of the City of Philadelphia, in the Province of Pensylvania, in North America, taken from the Jersey Shore." London: Bowles, [1778]-ca. 1790. 9 1/2 x 16 1/4. Engraving. Original gouache hand coloring. Deak: 101; Snyder, state between first 100 and 100A. The date "1 Jany 1778" and the singular reference "at his Map & Print Warehouse" remain, but the number "38" to the left of the title is removed. Age browning and a few stains. Old scrapes have rubbed areas of the sky in upper right quadrant. Cut close on top margin, sides and bottom are complete but as usual not expansive. A fine example with antique tones. Framed to archival standards.

This is considered the finest and most decorative of the reissues of Heap's "East Prospect" of Philadelphia, and this ambitious and delicate eighteenth-century print is one of the most desirable early profiles of the city. In 1752, in response to an expressed desire by Thomas Penn to have a perspective view of Philadelphia from the east, George Heap, the author of the view of the State House contained in the Scull and Heap map, made a drawing of the Philadelphia waterfront from the New Jersey shore. This drawing was acquired by Penn, who subsequently had two engravings made from it, a large one in 1754 and a smaller version in 1756, the latter with the addition of views of the State House and the Battery and a city plan. Five years later, a copy of the smaller version was published in the London Magazine, with the two views inserted in the upper corners. Heap's was the first view published of Philadelphia, and it shows the city as a bustling river port of some importance and sophistication. A mile of the Philadelphia waterfront, from present-day South Street to Vine Street, is depicted in considerable detail. It shows the major buildings, a number with stately steeples, standing along streets already giving evidence of Philadelphia's impressively organized grid plan. In the foreground lies Windmill Island, and the river is congested with vessels of all types.

The creator of this print was London print maker, Carington Bowles, who was able to acquire the large, unwieldy original drawing made by George Heap in 1752, directly from which he made the engraving. Bowles described this print in a 1790 sales catalogue as one of a collection of 271 prints "designed to be used in the Diagnal Mirror, an Optical Pillar machine, or peep show." This was one of the vue d'optique or perspective views showing the cities of the world, prints that were very popular in the late eighteenth century. These prints were produced for a viewing machine that was used both in private and by peddlers in the streets of Europe. The hand color, necessitated by the optical show, is also noteworthy, the tones being more vivid and brilliant than on other, similar views of the period. The intended use of the print necessitated a standard size, and thus Bowles faced some space limitations in rendering the scene. $14,000
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Views from Cincinnati in 1841. Cincinnati: Charles Cist, 1841. Engravings by Doolittle & Munson. Ca. 3 1/2 x 5 1/4. Very good condition.

Charles Cist's Cincinnati in 1841. Its Early Annals and Future Prospects was an important early account of the Queen City of the mid-west at a time when it was growing rapidly. Included in it are some early engravings showing buildings of note.

New Orleans
J.W. Hill. "New Orleans From the Lower Cotton Press. 1852." From The Ladies' Repository: A Monthly Periodical, Devoted To Literature and Religion. Cincinnati: March, 1854. Octavo. Steel engraving by W. Wellstood. Very good condition.

An unusual and scarce steel engraving from The Ladies' Repository. This mid-nineteenth century periodical was produced in Cincinnati by members of the Methodist Church. It was a magazine "Devoted To Literature and Religion," containing articles, poetry, fiction, and notes of interest to its readers. One of its most interesting aspects was the inclusion of steel engravings. Many had a religious or "genre" theme, but others were topographical views of different parts of the United States. This magazine had a limited circulation and so these prints are quite a bit more scarce than most steel engravings of the period. Some of the views are based on images by W.H. Bartlett, but others are taken either from some of the large folio views of the period or are drawn first hand for The Ladies' Repository. Whatever their source, these are among the most interesting and hard-to-find American views of the middle of last century. This view is a fine example from the magazine, based on a large view issued by the Smith Brothers of New York City. $150
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Queen: Allentown, PA
James Queen after ambrotypes by H.P. Osborn. "Allentown, Pa." Ca. 1855. Tinted lithograph with hand color, by P.S. Duval & Son. 5 3/4 x 14 3/4. With old folds. Some wear along folds, but otherwise, very good condition. Framed.

A very rare, separately issued print of Allentown, "Situated on the Lehigh River at the junction of the East Pennsylvania and Lehigh Valley Rail Roads." Allentown was laid out in 1762 by William Allen, chief justice of Pennsylvania, and was first known as Northampton. It was renamed Allentown in 1838 and is the seat of Lehigh County. The print was drawn by Philadelphia artist James Fuller Queen based on an ambrotypes by H.P. Osborn. The prosperous city is shown from a field with cows and a horse grazing in the foreground. A railroad bridge is shown at right. $675

West RockSpacerEast Rock
Pair of prints by George H. Durrie. [East Rock/West Rock, New Haven, CT.] New York: G.H. Durrie, 1853. Three tone lithographs by Sarony & Co. 13 7/8 x 20 5/8. Imprint fully present, but titles trimmed off at bottom. Else, very good condition. Rare.

A pair of lovely views of East Rock and West Rock in New Haven. The scenes were drawn by the great New England painter, George H. Durrie, best known for his work with Currier & Ives. The landscapes show impressive, accurate detail, but still exhibit the charm for which Durrie is famous, each containing vignettes of daily life in New England. $2,600

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©The Philadelphia Print Shop, Ltd. Last updated November 16, 2018