Who We Are

This winter brings our fourth catalogue–delayed like so many other things this challenging year–once again containing twenty-five items with important stories to tell, stories that bring unique perspectives to the American experience at its broadest: from the theological dictionary assembled by a minister in colonial New England to the only surviving sermons of a missionary to the Cherokees; from the ledgers of a commission merchant in 1830s St. Louis to the manuscript by-laws of a Deadwood gold mining operation; from the letters of a Wyoming range rider at the peak of the territory’s cattle industry to the unique prospectus for Jamaica’s first railroad company, with an impressive lithographed and hand-colored map; from the earliest known photograph of an African American socialist during his formative years in Nebraska to a manuscript letter from Native America’s first canonized saint.  They all contribute to new ways of exploring the corners of American history.  Our name is what they have in common: they are primary sources, and they are largely uncharted.  Thanks again to everyone who has supported our first three efforts, and we hope that you enjoy browsing Catalogue 4.

We look forward to hearing from you.

Featured Content

Bryant-Kearny broadside


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.