Last year, after 20 years of focused collecting in a very specific slice of Americana, we issued our first catalogue, and we want to thank all of our new friends, clients, and colleagues who made it a success–successful enough, at any rate, for there to be a Catalogue 2. Like Catalogue 1, our second contains twenty-five items with important stories to tell, stories that range widely across the American experience: from the risk book of a London underwriter during the War of 1812 to the only military encounter between the United States and Texas, from an unrecorded broadside that captures the birth of San Francisco to a revolution in women’s fashion; from an iconic view of Harvard University to the diary of a young teacher in Reconstruction-era Nashville; and from the poignant words of a young African American cadet unjustly dismissed from West Point to the plainspoken narrative of an elderly woman writing of her captivity as a child. Whether manuscript diaries, ledgers, and letters, printed pamphlets and broadsides, photographs, or even a children’s spelling book, they all contribute new ways of seeing and thinking about the broader currents of American history. Our name is what they have in common. They are primary sources, and they are largely uncharted. This fall, like last, we offer a new catalogue with twenty-five unexpected items, fresh to the trade. So thanks again to everyone who supported our first effort, and we hope that you enjoy browsing Catalogue 2. We look forward to hearing from you.
THE FIRST SAN FRANCISCO IMPRINT
It is no hyperbole to say that 1847 was the year of San Francisco’s birth. Certainly, Spain had founded Presidio de San Francisco in 1776, placing it at the tip of the eponymous peninsula to provide the Crown a claim both to the Bay of San Francisco and to the broader territory of Alta California. In the 1830s, an Englishman named William Richardson built the first civilian house beyond the presidio and began to lay out the streets of a new town, Yerba Buena, so named for an aromatic herb that grew to abundance in the area.
But in 1847–less than a year after the Bear Flag Revolt that turned California from a district of Mexico to a territory of the United Sates–the town obtained its first paper, the California Star, which debuted on January 9. On January 30, the first American alcalde (or mayor) of Yerba Buena, Lt. Washington Allon Bartlett, issued an ordinance that officially changed the town’s name to San Francisco. Then on March 10, Brigadier General and Governor of California, Stephen W. Kearny, broke established protocols and granted the renamed pueblo all legal rights to its beach and water lots. Just one week later, the next American alcalde, Edwin Bryant, announced that the town would auction all of those lots to the highest bidder, an act that ultimately proved as pivotal as any in San Francisco’s early years. Incredibly, this unique and previously unknown broadside–issued by the town’s first printer, Samuel Brannan, from the press of the California Star–captures each of these momentous events.
We might even describe it as San Francisco’s birth certificate.
For more details, see Item 9 in Catalogue 2.
[California–San Francisco]: [Edwin Bryant]: GREAT SALE / OF VALUABLE REAL ESTATE / IN THE TOWN OF SAN FRANCISCO, / UPPER CALIFORNIA . California Star Office, Printer, San Francisco, March 16, 1847. Letterpress broadside, signed in type by Edwin Bryant as Alcalde and Chief Magistrate, Town and District of San Francisco. 7 x 10 3/4 in. (18 x 27 cm). Evenly tanned, old folds, lightly wrinkled, penciled numbers on verso; overall still in fine condition. In a protective cloth box with marbled boards and labels.