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A.E. Mathews' Pencil Sketches of Colorado


Alfred Edward Mathews. Pencil Sketches of Colorado, Its Cities, Principal Towns and Mountain Scenery. New York: A.E. Mathews, 1866. Complete portfolio of twenty-three prints, with thirty-six scenes. Tinted lithographs by Julius Bien, New York. Each 13 x 19. Plates removed from binding, conserved and matted, and stored in two custom-made solander boxes. All prints with full margins and in excellent condition, except as noted. Binding and text intact, though one text sheet (two sides) supplied in facsimile. Ex-collection of Governor John Evans, second Territorial Governor of Colorado, by descent through the Evans Investment Company. Refs: Howes: M413, Streeter: 4:2171, Graff: 2709. Denver.

A.E. Mathews (1831-1874) was born in England, but came to the United States at an early age and ended up being raised in Ohio. He worked as a typesetter, itinerant bookseller, and school teacher, with a predilection for landscape sketching. During the Civil War, Mathews served in the Union Army with Ohio troops for three years, making topographical maps and views. He also produced a number of excellent first hand images of scenes behind the front which were issued by the Cincinnati firm of Ehrgott & Forbriger. After the war, Mathews moved to Denver, arriving in November 1865, where he produced a number of portfolios of views of the Rocky Mountains, Colorado and Montana, including his important 1866 Pencil Sketches of Colorado.

Prior to 1858, the only residents in what would become the territory of Colorado in 1861, were Indians or trappers in temporary encampments. The discovery of gold near the confluence of Cherry Creek and the Platte River in 1858 dramatically changed all this, with tens of thousands of prospectors, miners and other settlers coming into the region the following year. When rich veins of gold were discovered at "Gregory's Diggings" in May 1859, the "Pike's Peak Gold Rush" went into full flood. Booming mining towns sprouted in the front range along Clear Creek and elsewhere, while the foothill towns of Denver and Golden grew as entrepôts for the miners and new settlers.

By the time Mathews arrived in Denver, the nascent territory had become a thriving mining region. In less than a decade, Colorado had been transformed from a sparsely settled backwater to a dynamic economic powerhouse. In 1866, the towns, such as Denver, Central City and Black Hawk, were exciting communities, with a veneer of civilization only somewhat covering over the raw frontier hotchpotch of gambling dens, saloons, and brothels.

Mathews' Pencil Sketches captures this transient and foundational moment in the history of Colorado. He had a keen eye and considerable skill-likely aided by a camera lucida-so his images are accurate, detailed and filled with a sense of the time and place that is remarkable. The variety of the views is comprehensive, showing scenes of mining and processing, the landscape, and town, especially Denver with the three street scenes of particular note.

This very rare set is the first printed series of views of Colorado and among the earliest of any showing the post-Civil War American west. It was originally owned by John Evans, the second governor of the Colorado Territory. Appointed by Abraham Lincoln in 1862. His involvement in the Sand Creek Massacre led to his forced resignation in 1865, but he remained an influential businessman and railroad supporter. This set passed down to the Evans Investment Firm and then into private hands.

For the portfolio, $55,000

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©The Philadelphia Print Shop, Ltd. Last updated June 30, 2013