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The Philadelphia Print Shop

Prints of Philadelphia

Views of Philadelphia have appeared in print ever since the eighteenth century,
and they present a fascinating graphic account of the history of the city.

[ William Birch | Cephas Childs | Joshua Shaw & John Hill | J.C. Wild ]
[ Centre Square Waterworks | Fairmount Waterworks | Centennial Exhibition | Colton Philadelphia advertisements ]
[ Philadelphia maps | Philadelphia Views Under $250 | Fine Art prints of Philadelphia ]
[ Rare books of Philadelphia | Philadelphia reference books ]

Other view pages
[ Location Index | Subject Index | Artists ]


Bowles after Heap: East Perspective of Philadelphia
Carington Bowles after George Heap. "An East Perspective View of the City of Philadelphia, in the Province of Pensylvania, in North America, taken from the Jersey Shore." London: Bowles, [1778]-ca. 1790. 9 1/2 x 16 1/4. Engraving. Original gouache hand coloring. Deak: 101; Snyder, state between first 100 and 100A. The date "1 Jany 1778" and the singular reference "at his Map & Print Warehouse" remain, but the number "38" to the left of the title is removed. Age browning and a few stains. Old scrapes have rubbed areas of the sky in upper right quadrant. Cut close on top margin, sides and bottom are complete but as usual not expansive. A fine example with antique tones. Framed to archival standards.

This is considered the finest and most decorative of the reissues of Heap's "East Prospect" of Philadelphia, and this ambitious and delicate eighteenth-century print is one of the most desirable early profiles of the city. In 1752, in response to an expressed desire by Thomas Penn to have a perspective view of Philadelphia from the east, George Heap, the author of the view of the State House contained in the Scull and Heap map, made a drawing of the Philadelphia waterfront from the New Jersey shore. This drawing was acquired by Penn, who subsequently had two engravings made from it, a large one in 1754 and a smaller version in 1756, the latter with the addition of views of the State House and the Battery and a city plan. Five years later, a copy of the smaller version was published in the London Magazine, with the two views inserted in the upper corners. Heap's was the first view published of Philadelphia, and it shows the city as a bustling river port of some importance and sophistication. A mile of the Philadelphia waterfront, from present-day South Street to Vine Street, is depicted in considerable detail. It shows the major buildings, a number with stately steeples, standing along streets already giving evidence of Philadelphia's impressively organized grid plan. In the foreground lies Windmill Island, and the river is congested with vessels of all types.

The creator of this print was London print maker, Carington Bowles, who was able to acquire the large, unwieldy original drawing made by George Heap in 1752, directly from which he made the engraving. Bowles described this print in a 1790 sales catalogue as one of a collection of 271 prints "designed to be used in the Diagnal Mirror, an Optical Pillar machine, or peep show." This was one of the vue d'optique or perspective views showing the cities of the world, prints that were very popular in the late eighteenth century. These prints were produced for a viewing machine that was used both in private and by peddlers in the streets of Europe. The hand color, necessitated by the optical show, is also noteworthy, the tones being more vivid and brilliant than on other, similar views of the period. The intended use of the print necessitated a standard size, and thus Bowles faced some space limitations in rendering the scene. $14,000

Joseph Vernet. "Vue du Port Philadelphie dans l'Amérique." Ca.1780. Credits read, "Vernet pinxit," and "Graveé d'après le Tableau de Vernet." Engraving. 7 x 8 3/4 (platemarks) plus margins. Laid paper. Strong impression. Excellent condition. Ref.: Snyder, City of Independence, p. 260, fig. 176. Cresswell, American Revolution, 583; Cresswell in Elton Hall's American Maritime Prints, p. 51. Framed.

In the 1750s Claude Joseph (dit Joseph) Vernet (1714-1789) painted a series of huge oils on canvas entitled Les Ports de France. The views were engraved by J. P. LeBas. Due to a growing interest in the North American cities participating in a revolution against England and an alliance with France in 1777, an unknown engraver took the original images, reversed them, and described them as images of American cities. This one states that it is Philadelphia, but in reality it is a view of a recognizable tower and windmill at the entrance of Marseille. Having never seen America, the artist was probably assuming that Philadelphia would resemble a European city. A strange but fascinating fictitious view. $750

Birch: 1st ed High Street Market
William Russell Birch. "High Street Market." From The City of Philadelphia, in the State of Pennsylvania North America. First edition. Philadelphia, 1798-1800. Ca. 11 x 13 3/8 Engraving. Full original hand color. Very good condition.

When issued in 1800, William Birch's prints of Philadelphia collectively formed the first series of views of any American city, and as such they are of great historical importance. The superior quality of the work is evidenced in the scope of its conception, the artistic excellence of the prints and their fine execution. The prints provide a unique visual record of Philadelphia at a time when it was the most important and cosmopolitan city in the Western Hemisphere, and for a time was the capital of the newly formed United States. Each print illustrates a scene, focusing on the sophistication of the inhabitants and the stateliness of the homes and public buildings. $3,000
GoGo to page with complete listing of Birch's views of Philadelphia

From John Pinkerton's A General Collection of the Best and Most Interesting Voyages and Travels. London: Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme & Brown, 1812. Quarto. Engraving by G. Cooke. Hand color. Very good condition.

Engravings by George Cooke, based on images by George Beck, who drew scenes for a number of prints issued by George Nightingale in the early nineteenth century. Staffordshire-born George Beck (1748-1812) lived in the United States after 1795, residing in Norfolk, Baltimore, Philadelphia and Lexington. Often called one of the great predecessors of the Hudson River School of art, Beck's landscapes so impressed George Washington that he purchased two of Beck's Potomac paintings for Mt. Vernon. George Cooke (1781-1834) was one of the finest and most prolific London engravers of his era.

These prints, reduced in scale by Cooke from prints owned by Nightingale, appeared in John Pinkerton's fascinating compendium of travel accounts, a work that included myriad appealing prints of sites in American and elsewhere.

George Cooke, after George Beck. "View on the River Schuylkill near Philadelphia." Uncolored.

During the early nineteenth century, this most elegant and idyllic view of the Schuylkill from what was at the time the separate village of East Falls was a popular one for contemplating the River, and Beck made the most of the location. Well-groomed pastures and tidy buildings are nestled into the protected valley, with the bluffs that hug the River rising into the distance. One of what are now the Fairmount Park houses can just be spotted on the farthest bluff. A road winds down a valley towards the river, along the banks of which are a tavern and another house. A rapid in the river is shown in the middle distance. A lovely and most interesting print. $425

Thomas Birch Philadelphia
Thomas Birch. "The City of Philadelphia in the State of Pennsylvania North America." Philadelphia: William H. Morgan, ca., 1820. 18 13/16 x 23 7/8. Engraving by Samuel Seymour. Second state. Full original hand color. Several expertly repaired tears; some chipping in lower margin. Otherwise, very good condition and generous margins. Rare. Ref: M.P. Snyder, "William Birch: His Philadelphia Views," in The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography. Vol. LXXIII; No. 3. Item 42b. Ref: G. G. Deak. Picturing America 1497-1899. Princeton, 1988. #241.

When issued in 1800, William Birch's prints of Philadelphia formed the first series of views of any American city. As the first comprehensive picture of an American city, illustrating its buildings and street life, this work is of great historical importance. The superior quality of the work is evidenced in its scope of conception, the artistic excellence of the prints, and their fine execution. The prints provide a unique visual record of Philadelphia at a time when it was the most important and sophisticated city in the western hemisphere, and for a time was the capital of the newly formed United States.

When William Russell Birch conceived the idea of engraving one of the subjects from his series of views in a larger size to stimulate interest in the series, his son Thomas executed the drawing. A companion print of New York City was published at the same time, for which he planned a series, but was never realized. The two large plates were offered "as elegant furniture for a drawing or setting room, which will serve as reference for amusement to the two volumes, when conversation or entertainment of more consequence should cease to be the subject of a party."

The large tree in the foreground is the Treaty Tree under which William Penn is said to have concluded his famous treaty with the Indians. The first state of this large engraving was issued in 1801 before the addition of the imprint of William Morgan and has some slight differences in the drawing.

Thomas Birch came to America with his father in 1794. Trained in drawing and engraving by his father, young Birch later established an independent reputation as a marine painter. It was for his dramatic portrayal of sea battles during the War of 1812 that he was particularly renowned. $15,000

Joshua Shaw. "View Near the Falls of the Schuylkill." From Picturesque Views of American Scenery. Philadelphia: M. Carey & Son, 1819-21. Aquatint with line etching by John Hill. Very good condition. Deák: 315; Fowble: 275; Fielding: 659.

A rare print from a very interesting series of American views that combine the work of some of the most talented Americans of the early nineteenth century. Joshua Shaw (ca. 1777-1860) was born and trained in England, where he exhibited at the Royal Academy. With a recommendation of his work from Benjamin West, Shaw emigrated to Philadelphia in 1817. He was enthralled by his new country, and as a result conceived the grand scheme of producing a folio of prints based on "correct delineations of some of the most prominent beauties of notable scenery." He planned to travel throughout the United States to make his drawings, and to issue the prints by subscription in six sets of six views each. This was the first systematic attempt to depict the American landscape, and it is a foundation work in the history of American color-plates. Only nineteen of the intended thirty-six prints were produced, for either Shaw ran out of energy, or the public did not sufficiently support the venture.

The aquatinting of the prints was done by John Hill (1770-1850), another Englishman who had just settled in Philadelphia. This was Hill's first major American commission, and the next year he moved to New York City where he further enhanced his reputation as the premier aquatinter in the country. The publisher of the series, Mathew Carey & Son, was no less illustrious, as perhaps the dominant American publisher of the first two decades of the nineteenth century, and the successor firms of Carey & Son, and then Carey & Lea continued to play an important part in the history of American maps, books and prints.

The prints from this series are rare and lovely; beautifully rendered, exquisitely aquatinted and finely colored. Scenes are mostly of the eastern seaboard; showing America when the country was primarily rural, and tending to focus on the inland waterways, which were the major routes of travel and sources of energy at the time. These prints provide us with a precious snapshot of our land in its nascent age, when it would still have been recognizable to the colonists of the previous century. It is interesting to note, however, that while most of the locations that Shaw recorded have lost their rural character, this print captures a view that is much like that we can find today. $1,600
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T Birch Fairmount Water Works
Thomas Birch. "View of the Dam and Water Works at Fair Mount, Philadelphia." Philadelphia: Edward Parker, 1824. 7 x 14 3/4. Engraving by R. Campbell. With centerfold as originally issued. Repaired tear in sky near centerfold with minor wear along centerfold. Else, very good condition.

Thomas Birch gained prominence as an artist when he worked with his father on the prints for The City of Philadelphia. But this was only the beginning of his career and his accomplishments. Continuing to work in Philadelphia until his death in 1851, he created a rich and varied group of images of the city and its watery surroundings, including this view of the Fairmount Waterworks. Though the Fairmount Waterworks began operation in 1812 to 1815, very few printed images appeared of the site before the system was converted from steam to water power between 1819 and 1822. With its impressive size, neoclassical appearance, and riverside setting, the waterworks soon became the most popular Philadelphia subject for local and visiting artists. This view by Thomas Birch first appeared in the Report of the Watering Committee (1823), and thus Birch focuses on the mill house and dam, the latter depicted stretching across the center of the print. The original engine house, built in 1812 and also designed by Graff, is shown at the extreme right. To the left is the canal lock by-passing the dam, built as part of the agreement the City made with the Schuylkill Navigation Company in order to obtain the rights to water power at Fairmount. The view is oriented to look up the Schuylkill towards Lemon Hill, which can be seen in the background. Birch shows the Schuylkill teeming with activity. Several fishermen try their luck from the shore and nearby rocks, and more fishermen fill two of the three row boats below the dam. Steaming into the entrance of the lock is a paddle wheeler, ferrying passengers to the upper part of the river. $650

Klinkowstrom: 3rd Street Philadelphia
Axel Leonhard Klinckowström. "Third Street i Philadelphia." From Atlas til Friherre Klinkowströms Bref om de Forenta Staterne. Stockholm: Tryckeriet, 1824. Aquatint by Carl Frederik Akrell. 4 3/4 x 7 (image) plus margins. Very good condition.

Baron Axel Leonhard Klinckowström (1775-1837) was a Swedish aristocrat who spent the years 1818 to 1820 in America as a representative of his government. He wrote a fascinating book about his travels in America, Bref om de Forente Staterne, published by C. Muller in Stockholm in 1824, which was accompanied by an atlas of maps and prints that included nineteen views of New York, Washington and Philadelphia. The prints were beautifully aquatinted by Akrell, and their high quality bespeaks a sophisticated intended audience. While his use of aquatint to copy well known engravings provided a lovely and finished interpretation of American prints, his original pictures of New York City are considered original prints after his own paintings (Deak Picturing America, #s 310 and 322).

Although some of his Philadelphia views are thought to have been copied from William and Thomas Birch, this view of the "Mr. Kensie" saddlery and coach-harness manufactory at 39 3rd Street is original to Klinckowström. (Lane & Cresswell, Prints of Philadelphia #57, Phillips, Maps and Views of Philadelphia, #392). "Kensie" is Edmund (or Edmond) Kinsey, a saddler whose business was at the northwest corner of 3rd and Chestnut Streets at this time period, and who was a leader in 1817 of the "Philadelphia Society for the Promotion of American Manufacturers." This four storied building served for retail and wholesale trade, warehousing, and manufacturing. It was unusual for a series of city views of this period to include an image of a commercial establishment. This is an early view of a business structure in Philadelphia. $475

Moyamensing Prison
J.C. Wild. "Moyamensing Prison." From Views of Philadelphia and its Vicinity. Philadelphia: J.C. Wild, 1838. 5 x 6 5/8. Lithograph. Original hand coloring. Trimmed to neatlines. Else, very good condition.

A lovely hand-colored view of the Moyamensing Prison that once stood in South Philadelphia by John Casper Wild. Wild was a Swiss artist who studied in Paris, and then came to Philadelphia around 1831. Soon after he moved to Cincinnati and then back to Philadelphia in 1837. At that time he formed a partnership with J.B. Chevalier to publish a series of small lithographs illustrating the city of Philadelphia. The intent was to sell the prints inexpensively, at a rate of 25 cents for two images, and this was done in part in conjunction with the Saturday Courier, which used the prints in its promotions. The prints were all issued in 1838, and when completed they were sold in a bound volume. The complete work consisted of twenty lovely scenes of Philadelphia and four additional larger prints that show the views from Independence Hall tower in the four cardinal directions. The project was not, however, a success for Wild, and in that year he left Philadelphia to move to the mid-west. The plates were reissued a number of times, including by J.T. Bowen over the next decade. Though he stayed only a short time in the city, Wild's twenty seven views of Philadelphia are amongst the most notable of the nineteenth century. $150
GoGo to page with listing of more of Wild's views of Philadelphia

"West." One of a set of four titled "Panorama of Philadelphia from the State House Steeple." Credits read, "Drawn from Nature & on Stone by J. C. Wild" and "Lith of Wild & Chevalier . . .." Philadelphia: Wild & Chevalier, 1838. Lithograph on chine applique. 8 1/4 x 12 3/4 (image) plus full margins. Time toning to sheet and conserved. Original hand color. Strong image.

From an excellent and scarce set of views of Philadelphia taken from the State House steeple. J. Caspar Wild, a Swiss artist who studied in Paris, came to Philadelphia around 1832. Soon after he moved to Cincinnati and then back to Philadelphia in 1837. At that time he formed a partnership with J.B. Chevalier to publish a series of small lithographs illustrating the city of Philadelphia. Once Wild had finished his twenty scenes about the city, he added four unusual, larger prints as a supplement to the series, showing the city from the high vantage point of the State House steeple.

The original steeple of the State House had been removed in 1781, and was reinstalled in 1828 under the direction of William Strickland. This print shows the view looking to the west. Before he emigrated to America, Wild had produced a similar set depicting Venice, and his was the first such 'panoramic' set of any American city. $725

After Benjamin West. "Wm. Penn's Treaty with the Indians when he Founded the Province of Pennsa. 1661." New York: N. Currier, 1838-56. Small folio: 8 1/8 x 12 1/2. Lithograph. Original hand color. Trimmed margins. Otherwise, very good condition. C:6697.

From 1834 to 1907 the firm of Nathaniel Currier, and then Currier and Ives, provided for the American people a pictorial history of their country's growth from an agricultural society to an industrialized one. For nearly three quarters of a century the firm provided "Colored Engravings for the People," becoming the visual raconteurs of 19th century America.

In 1834 Nathaniel Currier established the firm which produced colored pictures using a then-new process called lithography. Some of the finest artists of the day, including Louis Maurer, Thomas Worth, Arthur Fitzwilliam Tait, Frances Flora Bond Palmer, George H. Durrie, Napoleon Sarony, Charles Parsons and J.E. Butterworth were engages by the firm to produce a variety of images. First printed in black and white, prints were then colored with imported Austrian pigments, by German women employed by the firm. Ready for foreign and domestic distribution, the prints were sold at home and abroad, sold to shops, mailed through catalogues, and hawked by push-cart peddlers, whose carts were covered with images selling for a few pennies apiece.

The firm produced two types of prints-"rush" stock prints quickly made to provide information about newsworthy events, and "stock" prints depicting every conceivable subject relating to American life, such as city views, sports, games, home life, religion, entertainment, and so forth. These print had a profound effect on popular culture, reflecting and influencing the tastes, attitudes and perception of the world held by many Americans.

This lithograph used as its source the famous large painting by Benjamin West that has also been reproduced by printmakers in the 18th and 19th centuries. The original painting hangs at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in Philadelphia. $575

Carver: Advent PE Church
John E. Carver. "Advent Protestant Episcopal Church. Old York Road, Philadelphia." Philadelphia: J.E. Carver, 1845. 8 1/2 x 10 1/2. Lithograph by Wagner & McGuigan. Original hand color. Good margins. Minor blemishes. Otherwise, very good condition. Prints of Philadelphia: 155.

The many churches constructed in Philadelphia during the middle of the nineteenth century provided one of the major sources of work for the lithographic firms in the city, for the congregations would often commission prints of the new buildings. This brightly colored image shows the Advent Episcopal Church located on Old York Road Road at Buttonwood Street, near present day Sixth and Spring Garden Streets. It was lithographed by Wagner & McGuigan, a firm that became the city's largest the next decade. Interestingly, Thomas Wagner started his career drawing images of churches for Duval. $350

Kollner: Laurel Hill
Augustus Köllner. From Views of American Cities. New York & Paris: Goupil, Vibert & Co., 1848. 8 x 11 1/2. Lithograph by Isidore-Laurent Deroy. Printed by Cattier. Original hand color. Deak: 560.

Augustus Theodore Frederick Adam Köllner, born in Wurttenberg in 1812, worked as an artist, engraver and lithographer in Stuttgart and Paris before emigrating to America in 1839. Köllner settled in Washington where he continued as a professional draftsman and also began to make drawings of American scenery. In 1840 he moved to Philadelphia, meeting P.S. Duval, who hired Köllner to draw illustrations for Duval and Hoddy's U.S. Military Magazine. Köllner achieved considerable success in Philadelphia as a lithographic artist, producing a wide range of prints, including trade cards, labels, and illustrations. From his earliest days in the United States, Köllner traveled around the country making scenic drawings of his adopted land, including a number of views of Philadelphia. Goupil, Vibert & Co. arranged to publish a series of Köllner's views beginning in 1848. Despite Köllner's ability as a lithographer, the New York and Paris publisher had the prints both lithographed and printed in Paris. Fifty-four prints were made, including this and six other views of Philadelphia. These views illustrate Köllner's fluent artistic style. In a manner similar to Birch, Wild, and others, Köllner focused on Philadelphia's street life, providing a realistic immediacy and another delightful series of Philadelphia views.