This is an 1866 Edwin Whitefield view of Boston Common and the Public Garden. It represents one of the finest views of the Common to appear in the mid-19th century.
A Closer Look
Looking east over the area from a point above Arlington Street, the Public Garden and its Duck Pond dominate the foreground. Bostonians populate the Public Garden's bucolic paths. The dome of the Massachusetts State House appears on the left in the background. The Park Street Church's white steeple soars above Boston Common's trees near center, with Old North Church recognizable to the right.
The Boston Common, more commonly the 'Common', is the oldest city park in the United States. It occupies some 50 acres of land in central Boston bounded by Tremont Street, Park Street, Beacon Street, Charles Street, and Boylston Street. The common land predates the founding of Boston and was originally owned by European settler William Blaxton (1595 - 1675). For years Blaxton lived there alone, before inviting the settlers of nearby Charlestown, which were suffering from a water shortage, to relocate to the Shawmut Peninsula. Charlestown founder Isaac Johnson and his settlers promptly relocated. One of Johnson's last acts before his death was to rename the new settlement 'Boston'. As Boston grew, the need for public lands was quickly recognized. Governor John Winthrop (1587/88 - 1649) purchased the former Blaxton land through a one-time tax on Boston residents amounting to 6 shillings (around $50 adjusted) per citizen. This land became a town commons open to public grazing and now forms the bulk of Boston Common.
American Bird's-Eye City Views
The tradition of the bird's-eye city view emerged in the United States in the middle part of the 19th century and coincided with the commercial development of lithographic printing. Before the rise of lithography, the ability to own and display artwork in the home was largely limited to the extremely wealthy. The advent of lithographic printing made it possible for everyone to own visually striking artwork. A robust trade developed in portraits of political leaders, allegorical and religious images, and city views.
City views were being produced in the United States as early as the 1830s, but the genre exploded after the American Civil War (1861 - 1865). Bridging the gap between maps and pictures, most 19th-century American bird's-eye views presented cities to the public from high vantage points. Some were imagined, but others were drawn from hot-air balloons or nearby hills. The presentation, combining high elevation, commercial interest, and new printing technology, created a uniquely American art form, as described by historian Donald Karshan,
Some print connoisseurs believe that it was only with the advent of the full-blown city-view lithograph that American printmaking reached its first plateau of originality, making a historical contribution to the graphic arts. They cite the differences between the European city-view prints and the expansive American version that reflects a new land and a new attitude toward the land.
The vogue for bird's-eye city views lasted from about 1845 to 1920, during which period some 2,400 cities were thus portrayed, some multiple times. Although views were produced in many urban centers, the nexus of view production in the United States was Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The major American viewmakers were Stoner, Wellge, Bailey, Fowler, Hill, Ruger, Koch, Burleigh, Norris, and Morse, among others.
Publication History and Census
This view was drawn and copyrighted by Edwin Whitefield, lithographed by J. H. Bufford, and published by P. R. Stewart and Company in 1866. We note three cataloged examples in OCLC: the American Antiquarian Society, the State Library of Massachusetts, and the Boston Athenaeum.
Edwin Whitefield Pennie (September 22, 1816 - December 26, 1892) was an English-American landscape painter active in the middle part of the 19th century. Whitefield was born in East Lulworth, England, the son of a Dorset schoolmaster. He emigrated to America, probably Canada, in 1835, leaving his first wife (Maria) and son in England. Some speculate that the move may been motivated by unwanted pressure from his family to embrace onerous medical or legal work. He taught school in Canada, and there married again, taking a second wife, Kate, who was probably one of his students. Seeking to develop as an artist, he moved to the United States around 1837 or 1838, establishing himself as an itinerant traveler/artist/journalist. He travelled up and down the Hudson, creating views of various American cities along the river, doing commission work, and selling lithographs of his work by subscription. This turned into a series of views of North American cities, of which there were at least 37, possibly more. Among the cities in his portfolio are views of Brooklyn, Toronto, Quebec City, Montreal, Ithaca, Jamestown, Poughkeepsie, Williamsburg (Brooklyn), Niagara, Philadelphia, Salem, Albany, and Boston, among many others. He separated from Kate, his Canadian wife, in 1853. Whitefield moved to Minnesota in 1856, settling in Kandotta with a new wife, Lillian, to engaged in land speculation. He had some success there, where Whitefield township, established in 1870, was named after him. Nearby Lake Lillian is named after his third American wife. He briefly lived in Chicago around 1861, before moving to Reading, Massachusetts in 1863 to paint the historic homes of New England, a project that he obsessed over until 1889, when the three-volume Homes of our Forefathers was finally published. In addition to his views, Whitefield is said to have published maps (we have not identified any), playing cards, and patented the Notosericum embroidery stamping technique. Whitefield returned to England in 1888, but returned to Massachusetts in 1892, settling in Roslindale, then in Dedham, where he died. More by this mapmaker...
John Henry Bufford (July 27, 1810 - October 8, 1870) was a Boston based lithographer and printer. Bufford was born in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. He apprenticed as an artist and lithographer at Pendleton Lithography (1825 - 1836) of Boston. In 1835 he relocated to New York where he took independent commissions from George Endicott and Nathaniel Currier, among others. Returning to his hometown of Boston in 1839, he took a position of chief artist with the firm of Benjamin W. Thayer, heir to Pendleton Lithography. He probably married Thayer's sister, Anna Melora Tufts Thayer (1808-1878). Bufford has been highly criticized as an engraver, with one historian, David Tatham, stating he had 'a mediocre sort of craftsmanship at best' and 'no very special skills as an original artist.' We, however, find no justification for this harsh criticism. Instead Bufford gravitated toward business and management. By 1844 Thayer's shop was renamed J. H. Bufford and Company. The firm specialized in decorative sheet music, panoramic views, illustrations for books, retractions of paintings, and commercial printing. Bufford is credited with being one of the first employers and mentors of the important artist and engraver Winslow Homer. Bufford died in 1870, passing on the business to his sons Frank G. Bufford and John Henry Bufford Jr. These young men, operating under the imprint of 'J.H. Bufford's Sons, Manufacturing Publishers of Novelties in Fine Arts', expanded the firm with offices in New York and Chicago. A possibly related lithographic printing firm named Bufford Chandler was incorporated in Boston in 1893. It later relocated to Concord, New Hampshire but closed in 1925 when its state business charter was repealed. Learn More...
Very good. Expert stabilization and repair to several closed tears.
Reps 1374. OCLC 309710391, 1011096915, 191909080.