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1874 George H. Ellsbury View of Minneapolis

Minneapolis, Minn. - Main View

1874 George H. Ellsbury View of Minneapolis


The second earliest view of Minneapolis.



Minneapolis, Minn.
  1874 (dated)     17.5 x 29.5 in (44.45 x 74.93 cm)


A stunning 1874 chromolithograph view of Minneapolis by George H. Ellsbury and Vernon Green. This image is the second earliest specific printed view of Minneapolis, following only the Hageboeck view of 1872. The view looks westwards over the Mississippi River towards Minneapolis. The large building in the foreground sporting an angelic wind vane is the observation tower of the Winslow House Hotel, which in the year this view was issued became the founding structure of Macalester College. The original span of Hennepin Avenue Bridge, the first permanent bridge over the Mississippi River, can be seen crossing the river from Nicollet Island. Eighty-five additional structures are noted beneath the view, including churches, mills, factories, municipal buildings, and hotels.
The view is somewhat non-traditional for the period, reflecting Ellsbury's unusual approach. Rather than take a bird's-eye perspective, as was then common, Ellsbury preferred to draw his views from a slightly elevated perspective, producing long panoramic foregrounds with distinctive elements, including, as with the present view, breakwaters, industrial activity, piers, and more. The whole presents the impression of a city on the rise, as Minneapolis of 1874 most assuredly was.
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.
Publication History
This view was drawn by George H. Ellsbury and Vernon Green, both then of Minneapolis. It was lithographed and printed in Chicago by Charles Shober, then of the Chicago Lithographing Company. This map / view was both separately issued and included in the deluxe edition of A. T. Andreas' An illustrated historical atlas of the State of Minnesota. All examples are rare.


George H. Ellsbury (November 29,1840 - September 3, 1900) was a Minneapolis, Minnesota based sketch and view artist active in the second half of the 19th century. Ellsbury was born in Skaneateles, New York, in 1814. His family moved to St. Charles, Minnesota in 1857. In 1862, when the American Civil War broke out, he enlisted with the 7th Minnesota Volunteers and saw action on the southern front, eventually attaining the rank of colonel. During the war, he drew a number of battle and camp scenes for Harper's Weekly. After the war, he participated in the General Alfred Sully and General Henry Hasting Sibley Expeditions (1863 – 1864) to the Dakotas and published many of his drawings from the expedition in Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper. Around 1866, returning to Winona County, Minnesota, he was elected as the County Register of Deeds and married Julia Curtis (1827 – 1926). Also, around this time he completed his historic perspective views of Winona, St. Paul, and Minneapolis. Ellsbury later moved to Cass County, Dakota, where he founded Tower City and was part of the fledgling Dakota Southern Railroad Company. In 1888, he moved to Centralia, Washington as a land agent. There he started the Tacoma, Olympia and Chehalis Valley Railroad Company, the Tower Lumber and Manufacturing Company, and Florence Coal Mines. Following a long period of heart and kidney disorders, he died in Centralia on September 3 of 1900. He was given a masonic funeral rite and interred at Washington Lawn Cemetery. Ellsbury was survived by his wife, two sons, and two daughters. Learn More...

Vernon Green (fl. c. 1860 - 1880) was a Minneapolis based viewmaker and artist active in the late 19th century. Green published views of Minneapolis, St. Paul, Winona with George H. Ellsbury. Learn More...

Charles Shober (February 1831 - c. 1900) was a German-American lithographer and painter. Shober was born in Germany and immigrated to the United States in 1854. He established himself in Philadelphia, at 17 Minor Street, where fellow lithographers and map engravers George Worley and Benjamin Mathias, also worked. His first lithograph in America appeared in an 1855 issue of The Horticulturist. In 1857, he partnered with Charles Reen to establish 'Reen and Shober' at 5 South Sixth Street, Philadelphia. The partners relocated their business to Chicago (106 Lake Street) in 1859. Reen left the firm in 1859 and Charles took a new partner, August Roth, printing under the imprint of 'Charles Shober'. They met with considerable success, until 1871, when like many Chicago businesses, the Great Fire laid them low. After the fire, he took over management and partial ownership of the Chicago Lithographic Company, which had been founded some years earlier by Louis Kurtz and Edward Carqueville. Kurtz's interest in the firm was acquired by Shober and it was renamed 'Charles Shober and Company'. Sometime after 1876, the firm's name changed to 'Shober Lithograph Company', and then in 1877, to 'Shober and Carqueville Lithograph Company'. Despite infighting, the firm prospered, printing views, posters, maps, trade cards, and sheet music. In 1887, after a prolonged dispute with Carqueville, Shober left the firm. He traveled briefly then took a position as president of the Chicago Bank Note Company. Shober's son died in a tragic suicide in 1896, after which, Shober seems to have vanished from professional life. He appears in the Chicago directory as late as 1900. Learn More...


Very good. Minor restoration.


Rumsey 3034.024. Reps, John, Views and Viewmakers of Urban America (University of Missouri, Columbia, 1984), #1923. Ristow, W., American Maps and Mapmakers:  Commercial Cartography in the Nineteenth Century, p. 433-437.