An extremely rare 1886 Lucian Burleigh two-color chromolithograph bird's-view of Beacon, Dutchess County, New York, using its historical name, Matteawan. The view looks southeasterly on Beacon from an imaginary high point over the Hudson River. Coverage extends roughly from modern day Chestnut Street to Mountain Lane. Mount Beacon, for which the city was renamed, rises prominently in background, its vertical elevation exaggerated considerably. Local iconic buildings, many of which still stands such as the Warren S. Dibble Opera House.
Matteawan or Beacon?
The area round Beacon, New York was first settled by Europeans in 1709 as Matteawan and Fishkill Landing. Mattaewan - as shown here, hugged the slopes of Mount Beacon, while Fishkill landing, on the Hudson, was more of a port. The two grew into one another and were formally merged in 1903, adopting the new name 'Beacon'. The joint town was renamed Beacon after the historic use of fires nearby Mount Beacon, the highest peak in the region, to warn George Washington of British troop movements during the American Revolutionary War (1776 - 1783). When this map was produced, in the 1880s, Beacon was known as the 'The Hat Making Capital of the US' with nearly 50 hat factories operating simultaneously. Today Beacon is known as a charming rural town with a vibrant local art scene.
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. While before the rise of lithography, the ability to own and display artwork in the home was largely limited to the extremely wealthy, 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 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.
Chromolithography is a color lithographic technique developed in the mid-19th century. The process involved using multiple lithographic stones, one for each color, to yield a rich composite effect. Oftentimes, the process would start with a black basecoat upon which subsequent colors were layered. Some chromolithographs used 30 or more separate lithographic stones to achieve the desired product. Chromolithograph color could also be effectively blended for even more dramatic results. The process became extremely popular in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, when it emerged as the dominate method of color printing. The vivid color chromolithography produced made it exceptionally effective for advertising and propaganda imagery.
Publication History and Census
This map was drawn, engraved, and published in Troy, New York, by Lucien R. Burleigh. Examples are scare, but we note an examples in the collections of the Library of Congress and at the Huntington Library. Reps cites an additional example at the New York Historical Society. No market history.
Lucian Rinaldo Burleigh (February 6, 1853 – July 30, 1923) was an American lithographer and view maker active in the latter part of the 19th century. Burleigh was born in Plainfield, Connecticut and studied civil engineering at Worcester County Free Institute of Industrial Science (Worcester Polytechnic). There he studied under George E. Gladwin who specialized in field sketching. Burleigh became one of Gladwin's prized students and this no doubt influenced his choice to become a viewmaker. Burleigh's view work stands out for two reasons. One, most of his town views are drawn form a lower than usual point of view enabling him to take greater advantage of profile perspectives. Two, his views do not integrate people or animals – most late 19th century American view artists added horses, people, carts, dogs, and even chickens to their views. Between the years of 1883 and 1885 Burleigh produced some 28 views of New York towns and cities. Most of these were published by either Beck and Pauli of Milwaukee or C. H. Voght of Cleveland. After 1886, Burleigh established his own Troy press and subsequent views were published in-house. Burleigh also worked as a lithographer for other view makers including J. J. Stoner and Albert Ruger, among many others. Burleigh contributed to the production of about 228 lithographic city views and personally drew about 120, marking him one of the most important and influential viewmakers of the 19th century. Learn More...
Good. Some toning. Minor tear, top center, extending to the map's border - stabilized and repaired on verso. Light soiling - more apparent on verso.
LC Panoramic maps (2nd ed.), 585. Library of Congress, G3804.B4A3 1886 .B81. Reps, John, Views and Viewmakers of Urban America (University of Missouri, Columbia, 1984), #2601.