1856 Sturtevant and Bufford View of Vineyard Haven, Martha's Vineyard

View of the Village of Holmes' Hole, Marthas Vineyard, Mass. 1856. - Main View

1856 Sturtevant and Bufford View of Vineyard Haven, Martha's Vineyard


Vineyard Haven at the height of its Whaling Boom.


View of the Village of Holmes' Hole, Marthas Vineyard, Mass. 1856.
  1856 (dated)     17 x 28 in (43.18 x 71.12 cm)


This is a striking 1856 bird's-eye view of Vineyard Haven, Martha's Vineyard, by William H. Sturtevant and J. H. Bufford. It depicts Vineyard Haven when it was emerging as a center of whaling and a stop on the Underground Railroad.
A Closer Look
The view looks on Vineyard Haven from the sandspit to the east that separates the harbor from Lagoon Pond. It presents a simple but prosperous town with a busy sheltered harbor. In the foreground a steam ferry brings passengers from the mainland. Travelers on foot and horseback ply the roads. A carter, with an empty wagon, makes his way to the docks. In the midground, a crowd and a carriage wait at the dock - tourists?
Vineyard Haven / Holmes Hole
Holmes Hole is the former name of Vineyard Haven. The name 'Holmes Hole' was applied to the site in 1602 by English explorer Bartholomew Gosnold (1571 - 1607), after one of his crew members, Gabriel Holmes. It was first settled by English colonists in 1669 and incorporated in 1671. When this view was issued, in the mid-19th century, Vineyard Haven was emerging as a center of shipbuilding, whaling, shipping, and commerce. Also, around this time, the town became associated with the abolitionist movement, with Frederick Douglass residing there in 1856. In 1871, it was renamed Vineyard Haven in 1871 as part of a larger effort to standardize Martha's Vineyard place names. Much of Vineyard Haven as seen here was destroyed in the Great Fire of 1883, which consumed some 72 buildings and 40-acres of land around Main Street. The Methodist Church, here depicted as the high point at center, burnt to the ground in 1922. Today, Vineyard Haven is a popular destination for tourists, offering quaint shops, restaurants, and scenic views of the island's beautiful coastline.
American Bird's-Eye City Views
The Bird's-Eye view industry 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, but 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 highpoints. 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 artform, 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 by William Henry Sturtevant, a Congregational minister living in then Holmes' Hole. It was lithographed and published by J. H. Bufford. Scarce. Reps locates examples at the Dukes County Historical Society, Boston Athenaeum, and the New York Historical Society. No market history for other examples.


William Henry Sturtevant (1823 - December 19, 1897) was a Congregational minister, political activist, and artist based in Massachusetts. Sturtevant was born in Barnstable and studied for the ministry in New Bedford. He was ordained Minister of the Holmes' Hole (Vineyard Haven, Martha's Vineyard) Congregational Church in 1852. The church was generally in decline and so Sturtevant was dismissed from the position in 1856. He relocated to South Dennis in the same year, taking a position in the Congregational Church there, where he remained until 1860. Afterwards, he returned to Martha's Vineyard, where he became the minister of a church in West Tisbury. He remained in this position until 1877, when some sort of upheaving in the church forced him out. Sturtevant moved to Tiverton, Rhode Island, where he remained as pastor of the Pawtuxet Congregational Church until his death in 1890. 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. A few minor verso reinforcements to margins.


Reps, John, Views and Viewmakers of Urban America (University of Missouri, Columbia, 1984), #1654. OCLC 191909173.