Item #6038 The Mammoth Trees of California…Presented to Subscribers of the Cincinnati Weekly Times. G. K. Stillman, engraver.

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Stillman, G. K., engraver.

The Mammoth Trees of California…Presented to Subscribers of the Cincinnati Weekly Times.

Cincinnati: Cincinnati Weekly Times, [circa 1869]. Multi-color wood engraving, 17.75” x 24.5” plus margins. CONDITION: Very good, a couple faint damp stains at lower left margin, recently reenforced with thicker paper on verso.

A color-printed wood engraving depicting California’s Mammoth Trees, distributed by the Cincinnati Weekly Times to its subscribers as a premium.

Published at a time when the wonders of the American West were still objects of international disbelief and fascination, this engraving shows the Mammoth Tree Hotel nestled among—and dwarfed by—the giant sequoias of Calaveras County. Visitors mill about and marvel at the enormous trees, as well as stumps and fallen trunks, all of which are identified by name in a key in the title margin. At the center of the image stands The Big Tree—or rather, its stump—which had a circumference of 98 feet and, before it was felled in 1853, reached a height of 303 feet. It is shown here without the “canopy of canvas and cedar boughs” that was soon built to shelter the revelers who used it as dance floor and performance stage (Bishop and Cunningham). Behind and to the left of The Big Tree stands The Mother of the Forest, the second largest tree in the grove, covered in the scaffolding that, in 1853, was used to strip her bark. (The pieces were then re-assembled and exhibited in San Francisco, New York, and Europe.) Two fallen trees—The Father of the Forest and The Horseback Ride—had been completely hollowed, so that visitors might walk, or ride, through the entire length of the trunk. Eventually, the felling and exhibition of the giant sequoias led to public outcry, but it would not be until 1951—almost a century after their “discovery” by white people, and just over sixty years after the establishment of Yosemite National Park, immediately to the southeast—that both the South and the North Calaveras Groves came under protection as Calaveras Big Trees state park. 

On at least one of its promotional broadsides, issued in 1869, the Cincinnati Weekly Times advertised the print as “A very handsome, colored picture, twenty-one by twenty-seven inches in size, which thousands of our patrons have said is worth at least half the subscription price of the Weekly Times.” According to the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, this print was first issued to the subscribers of the Cincinnati Weekly Times in 1867, but was popular enough to remain in print into the 1870s. It is based on an 1860 chromolithograph by Middleton, Strobridge & Co. and published by A. J. Campbell, also in Cincinnati.

George K. Stillman (1821–1891) was a Massachusetts-born artist best known for his wood engravings. He lived most of his adult life in Cincinnati, and during the final months of the Civil War served in the 137th Ohio Volunteer Infantry.

REFERENCES: Bishop, Frances E., Judith Cunningham (Marvin). “Big Trees, Early Years,” at CalaverasHistory online; Currey & Kruska, Bibliography of Yosemite, 246; “The Mammoth Trees of California,” MFABoston online.

Item #6038

Price: $1,250.00

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