Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Orange County in 1842

The illustrations in today's post are the work of Edward Vischer (1809-1878). He drew them in 1876, based on his memories of visiting what is now Orange County in 1842. Obviously, they aren't perfectly accurate, but how many images of 1840s Orange County are you ever likely to see?
Vischer is known for the sketches he made of California in the 1860s and '70s. His most common subjects were the missions and scenes of nature. His early attempts to reproduce his drawings by lithography proved disappointing, which led to his becoming a pioneer in the area of photographically reproduced artwork. He published a number of well-known portfolios, including Pictorial of California Landscape (1870), and Missions of Upper California (1872).
At age nineteen, Vischer emigrated from Germany to Mexico, where he worked as a supercargo -- an officer aboard a merchant ship, charged with the commercial concerns of the voyage. In that capacity, he made many trips up the west coast of America and to Asia.
According to Palmquist and Kailbourn in Pioneer Photographers of the Far West, "In September 1842, Vischer sailed from Acapulco on the schooner California on a combination business and pleasure trip to Alta California, where he made a tour of Sausalito, Sonoma, San Rafael, and Monterey... Vischer concluded his circuit of California with visits to Santa Barbara, Los Angeles, and San Diego. Although he apparently did not sketch the missions and pueblos he visited in 1842, in later years he drew many of these scenes from memory."
It was on that 1842 trip that Vischer was introduced to and fell in love with California. But it wasn't until age fifty that Vischer truly devoted himself to sketching and painting. The image below shows Vischer around age 65, in 1874.


Doug said...

Chris, these are wonderful views of the mission complex. I have never seen these pictures before. Are these housed in the OC archives?

Chris Jepsen said...

We don't have these images at the O.C. Archives. They were sold in sets, so they can now be found in a number of collections. This particular set came from the Bancroft Library at UC Berkeley (via Online Archive of California). I did a little digital restoration work before posting them.