Bird's Eye Views: Historic Lithographs of North American Cities

Overview

As new towns and cities spread across the American frontier in the nineteenth century, itinerant artists soon followed, documenting these growing urban centers by drawing aerial perspectives, also known as bird's eye views. Commissioned by land speculators, local businesses, civic organizations, and individual citizens, these renderings fostered both civic pride and local commerce. The use of color lithography, a recent invention popularized by such prominent publishers as Currier & Ives, allowed the ...
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Overview

As new towns and cities spread across the American frontier in the nineteenth century, itinerant artists soon followed, documenting these growing urban centers by drawing aerial perspectives, also known as bird's eye views. Commissioned by land speculators, local businesses, civic organizations, and individual citizens, these renderings fostered both civic pride and local commerce. The use of color lithography, a recent invention popularized by such prominent publishers as Currier & Ives, allowed the inexpensive reproduction of the highest-quality drawings, so that a bird's eye view was within the financial budget of even the smallest towns. These extraordinarily detailed lithographs eventually numbered in the thousands and now serve as a rich pictorial record of North America as it stood a century ago.
This sequel to our highly acclaimed title An Atlas of Rare City Maps collects over 100 views dating between 1835 and 1902, showing the streets, buildings, churches, bridges, waterways, and surrounding countryside of North American towns, ranging from burgeoning metropolitan centers to small logging towns and mining camps. Baltimore, Brooklyn, Denver, Indianapolis, Memphis, Montreal, New Orleans, Pittsburgh, Seattle, Syracuse, and Washington are just a few of the cities presented in this collection. The exquisite color and fine detail of these bird's eye views have been reproduced in all their original glory; also included is an introduction by John W. Reps providing a background on the artistic process and on urban development in the nineteenth century.
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Editorial Reviews

Los Angeles Times
The 115 panoramic bird's eye lithographs in this volume span the continent from Halifax and Montreal to Yerba Buena and Los Angeles. For the innumerable readers who have reason to care how such cities as Davenport, Iowa, or Lexington, Ky., or Hannibal, Mo., or Phoenix in the Arizona Territory looked in their formative years, this book will be a delight. For historians and others interested in how American cities developed, these illustrations, with their clusters of courthouses, banks, hospitals, churches, schools, general stores, theaters and railroad depots forming a central core and their as-yet undeveloped streets laid out in grids and planted with elms awaiting the future, will be an essential reference. Congratulations to Mr. Reps and his publisher for making this fine volume available. I hope they are planning a sequel.
The New Yorker
Before the advent of aerial photography, and before American and Canadian cities grew to titanic size, intrepid nineteenth-century lithographers created richly colored "bird's eye views" of towns and cities. Typically drawn from imaginary vantage points, these sumptuous panoramas were must-haves for the well-appointed Victorian parlor. Among them are Chicago, before and after the Great Fire, San Francisco, before and after the Quake; and Oklahoma City, then months old and already a sprawling grid on an otherwise empty plain.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781568981468
  • Publisher: Princeton Architectural Press
  • Publication date: 10/28/1998
  • Pages: 116
  • Product dimensions: 12.75 (w) x 15.00 (h) x 0.75 (d)

Meet the Author

John W. Reps is professor emeritus of city and regional planning at Cornell University. He is a renowned authority on the history of American urban planning and has written numerous books on the topic, including The Making of Urban America, Cities of the A
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