[Medway, Ma.? ca. 1850s]. Pencil sketch on heavy paper, with faint tempera highlights. Image measuring 7.5 x 11.5 inches on a sheet 8.25 x 13 inches. Light dust soiling and faint foxing. Evenly tanned. Very good. Item #1475
A skilled contemporary pencil sketch after a classic California Gold Rush pictorial letter sheet by San Francisco lithographers Britton & Ray depicting Jamestown and Woods Creek. The original letter sheet, published in 1853, utilized a work by English artist and civil engineer George Henry Goddard, who settled in Sacramento the previous year. It shows the town and stream from the south, with all in a relatively tranquil mode, as a horse-drawn carriage approaches a bridge on the road in the foreground. Jamestown, "The Gateway to the Mother Lode," was founded in 1848 and gold was discovered there relatively quickly thereafter, and the town continued to enjoy long periods of prosperity until the end of the 19th century due to its rail connections and quartz mining.
The present folk art iteration of the letter sheet is signed "H. Baker" in the lower right corner, and it seems likely that it was accomplished by a family member of another well-known California lithographer, George Holbrook Baker. Baker came to California during the Gold Rush from Medway, Massachusetts, settling in Sacramento around the same time as Goddard, and his work was also used by Britton & Rey and others in their productions. He certainly would have known his fellow artist and neighbor in Sacramento, and probably sent copies of pictorial letter sheets home to Massachusetts (where the present sketch turned up in a sale of some of Baker's other art and drawings) in order to keep them apprised of his work and well-being. Overall, this copy is a decent imitation by its recipient, and well demonstrates the popularity, use, and extended life of the letter sheet genre, in this case as it relates to California and the Gold Rush.