J. Caspar 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, Wild 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 came out in five monthly numbers of four views each in 1838, and when the twenty scenes were completed they were sold in a bound volume, which the public was told would "form an object of attraction for every centre table or for the ladies' album."
This was the third general series of views of Philadelphia to be issued, and the first using the process of lithography. In the 1830s, the citizens of Philadelphia were in the midst of a great building boom, with many beautiful public and private buildings appearing around the city, designed in the Gothic and Classical styles by such architects as William Strickland, John Haviland, and T.U. Walter. Wild's portfolio is perhaps the finest contemporary document of Philadelphia's new appearance, for all but three of his twenty views were of recently constructed buildings. This is a series of prints that are among the most pleasing Philadelphia images, providing an charming look at Philadelphia in the first half of the nineteenth century.
This series of prints went through four different editions. After the original issue, Wild decided to leave town and sold his share to his partner, J.B. Chevalier, who reissued the set as sole publisher also in 1838. That same year, J.T. Bowen, who had just moved to Philadelphia to complete the work on the McKenney & Hall Indian portfolio, acquired the rights to the set and issued an edition with himself as publisher. Within a decade, Bowen had reissued the set, though now removing Wild's name as both artist and lithographer. All the editions are of comparable quality and were likely issued both colored and uncolored, except the last edition for which Bowen noted they were "beautifully colored."
2nd) Published in Philadelphia by J.B. Chevalier, 1838. Lithographs by J.C. Wild. Chine appliqué.
3rd) Published in Philadelphia by J.T. Bowen, 1838. Printed on single stock.
4th) Published in Philadelphia by J.T. Bowen, 1840-48. Wild's name removed and "lithographed by J.T. Bowen" added. "Beautifully colored."
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