1866 Mathews View of Denver, Colorado

Denver, City of the Plains.

1866 Mathews View of Denver, Colorado


Important early view of Denver Colorado by Alfred Edward Mathews.


Denver, City of the Plains.
  1866 (dated)    10.5 x 16.5 in (26.67 x 41.91 cm)


An important and rare 1866 bird's-eye view of Denver, Colorado by Alfred Edward Mathews. The view includes the entire then separate towns of Auraria and Denver as seen from a hill about one mile east of the South Platte River looking west towards modern day downtown. Although the South Platte itself is not obvious, we can recognize it from the narrow band of development on both sides of the river. The tall building at center is probably the Methodist Church constructed in 1864 at 14th Street and Lawrence. A road extends from the foreground into the center of the city and is consistent with modern day 15th or 16th Street. Shooting an arrow along this road into the background leads, some 60 miles distant, directly to Longs Peak. Pikes Peak may be on the far left, but we are not 100% confident in our identification. The bluff in the foreground from which the view was drawn, is most likely somewhere in the vicinity of the modern day capital building.

This view was issued to accompany Mathew's famous book, Pencil Sketches of Colorado. This work featured some of the most important and realistic early illustrations of Colorado life. The preset view is based on Mathew's own pencil sketch and was engraved and printed in 1866 by New York lithographer Julius Bien. A great rarity. The OCLC identifies only a single example of the individual view.


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Julius (Julien) Bien (1826 - 1909) was an American lithographer and engraver based in New York City. Bien was born in Naumburg, Germany. He was educated at the Academy of Fine Arts in Cassell and at Stadel's Institute in Frankfurt. Following the suppression of the anti-autocratic German Revolutions of 1848, Bien, who participated in the pan-German movement, found himself out of favor in his home country and joined the mass German immigration to the United States. Around 1850 Bien established the New York Lithographing, Engraving & Printing Company in New York that focused on the emergent chromo-lithograph process - a method of printing color using lithographic plates. His work drew the attention of the U.S. Government Printing Office which contracted him to produce countless government maps and surveys, including the Pacific Railroad Surveys, the census, numerous coast surveys, and various maps relating to the American Civil War. Bien also issued several atlases both privately and in conjunction with a relation, Joseph Bien. At the height of his career Bien was elected president of the American Lithographers Association.


Mathews, A. E., Pencil Sketches of Colorado, its Cities, Principal Towns and Mountain Scenery, (New York) 1866.    


Good. Adhesive around outer margins professionally removed. There was also some adhesive between the title and the copyright notice, which has left minor damage. Some matte burn. Backed on archival tissue. In most institutional examples of this view still in the book, the foreground is yellow/brown and the background has a bluish tint. The present example has a pinkish cast in the foreground which may be a result of a printing quark or exposure to acid, sunlight, and extended early framing. Otherwise, a very nice example of a very rare view.


Reps, John, Views and Viewmakrs of Urban America (University of Missour, Columbia, 1984), #482. OCLC 318571622. Stokes P.1865-G-71. The Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs: Print Collection, The New York Public Library.,(1866) Denver, city of the plains.