Return to Mount Shasta as a Visual Resource page

Mount Shasta as a Visual Resource

Early Illustrators:
1850s-1870s

Return to Mount Shasta home page

The first artists to be at Mount Shasta were those brought by the government sponsored expeditions of the 1840s and early 1850s. Once it was known that passage through the upper Sacramento and Pitt River areas could be accomplished, (though it was not necessarily safe, especially after the Indian response to the change in land ownership grew more desperate), then it was only a matter of time until independent artists, engaged in commercial enterprises, would find their way to the mountain.

It should be noted that at this time, from the late 1850s to the mid-1870s, photography was rarely used for book, magazine, or newspaper illustration, chiefly because printing press technology was not sufficiently developed to print photographs, and also because the camera and its related equipment were unwieldy and expensive. Thus the first widely dispersed pictures of Mount Shasta for the public were woodblock engraving, steel engravings, and lithographs. These in turn were copied from drawings done by paid artists on location assignments for the publishing companies and newspapers.

Hutchings' California Magazine

In July of 1856 James Mason Hutchings began publication of the first illustrated magazine produced in California. It was called Hutchings' California Magazine, and it was decidedly oriented toward California's natural history and scenery. Yosemite, Mount Shasta, the Big Trees, the California Condor, and other wonders of the state were given their first wide exposure to the public through this important periodical. Hutchings' resolute desire was to avoid any political side taking, and to promote the appreciation and progress of all of California.77 His venture lasted five years, with nearly three thousand pages published. In 1861 he sold his magazine to the publishers of the California Mountaineer.

Even before Hutchings began his magazine he attained prominence by publishing lithographs, such as the earliest art renditions of Yosemite. Later, in the 1870s, his books were to make him one of the most known personalities of his time in California, especially known as a longtime promoter of Yosemite and as a controversial critic and rival of John Muir.

In the May 1857 issue of his magazine Hutchings presented an account of a solo ascent of Mount Shasta (by Israel S. Diehl). Accompanying the story is a woodblock engraving of the mountain as seen from the Northwest; the artist is unknown. Hutchings occasionally employed the early method of daguerreotype photography, which left an impression on metal plates. These plates were then copied onto wood by the hired engravers and then published. More often than not, however, Hutchings used the sketches of artists, notably those of Thomas Ayres, Charles and Arthur Nahl, and Harrison Eastman78; it is possible the view of Shasta is by one of these men.

In any event, Hutchings himself was impressed by Mount Shasta:

This is one of those glorious and awe-inspiring scenes which greet the traveler's eye and fill his mind with wondering admiration, as he journeys among the bold and beautiful mountains of our own California. One almost wishes to kneel in worship as he gazes at the magnificent, snow-covered head and pine girded base of this 'monarch of mountains'; and even as you ascend the valley of the Sacramento, Mount Shasta appears to you like a huge hill of snow just beyond the purple hills of the horizon; and it is a constant land-mark upon which to look, and which one unconsciously feels himself constrained to notice, as something even more remarkable and inviting than the green and flower-covered valley beside him.79

Certainly Hutchings' poetic rapture of the Shasta experience was strong enough to prod adventurous tourists to make the journey themselves. Any voyager to the giant peak was sure to be rewarded for the effort it took to reach the base of the mountain, and an effort it was, for the railroad to Mount Shasta was still a full thirty years away from completion. Whether on horseback, or on foot, or by stage when it ran, all had to go through dangerous Indian country and rugged terrain.

Thomas Almond Ayres (1816-1858)

Ayres was employed by Hutchings for several years, and many issues of the magazine contain Ayres drawings. But like many of the Forty-Niner artists who had given up the pursuit of gold, Ayres worked for several firms. In 1858, Ayre's illustration of Mount Shasta, drawn from Cottonwood Creek near Redding, was published by Frank Leslies' Illustrated Newspaper.

Mount Shasta at the Headwaters of the Sacramento Valley near Cotton Wood Creek, California.  Courtesy of the Mount Shasta Collection.
Mount Shasta at the Headwaters of the Sacramento Valley near Cotton Wood Creek, California.
From: Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper. Jan. 30, 1858.
Courtesy College of the Siskiyous Library Mount Shasta Collection.

First published drawing of Yosemite by Thomas Ayres courtesy of AskArt. Ayres has achieved lasting recognition for being the first artist ever to draw pictures of Yosemite, in 1855. Hutchings published large posters size lithographs of Ayres' Yosemite views in 1855 and 1856, which helped begin the world wide appeal of the great valley, and the first issue in 1857 of Hutchings' California Magazine carried Yosemite views. It would be futile to try to compare Yosemite and Mount Shasta as equals, although they do rank as California's most magnificent landmarks. Yosemite is of course one of the world's true wonders. Note, however, that Mount Shasta was well known, on maps and otherwise, a full ten to fifteen years before Yosemite was even discovered by the non-native Californians.

Aaron Stein (1853-1900)

A famous commercial illustration of Mount Shasta was published by the firm of Britton and Rey around 1860. It was a 'broadside', i.e. poster, made for the Overland Mail Company. A six horse stagecoach, replete with a dozen passengers, rides swiftly in front of the east side of massive Mount Shasta, though the mountain goes unnamed. (For most of the 1850s and 1860s many travelers by stage going north or south would use a route up the Pit River to Fall River and then west to Mount Shasta or northwest to Yreka.) It is a very imposing and colorful picture, just the kind of thing to attract business. It had an antecedent, though, for in 1853 a similar, neartly identical foreground scene, without Mount Shasta in the background, was published for the California Stage Company, this picture is often attributed to William Keith, who was a young artist-engraver in San Francisco (notice the Keith signature in the lower right-hand corner). This earlier company was owned by the same men, Barlow & Sanderson, who owned the Overland Mail Co. in 1860.80 The 1860 broadside is attributed to the artist Aaron Stein, though if the given date of his birth is correct, he could not have done this picture.

California and Oregon Stage Company 
 attributed to Aaron Stein from the Honeyman Collection of Early Californian and Western Pictorial Material via the California Digital Library.
California and Oregon Stage Company attributed to Aaron Stein.
From the Honeyman Collection of Early Californian and Western Pictorial Material via the California Digital Library.

The advertisement was apparently a big success, for the same picture was used again in slightly different form by Britton & Rey in 1872 for the California & Oregon Stage Company. And a Saint Louis printer made the same picture into an advertisement lithograph for the Overland Mail Company's Denver line (they changed the name of Mount Shasta to Uncompahgre Mountain, but no one knew the difference) sometime in the early 1870s.81 The Denver broadside notwithstanding, these stagecoach broadsides were seen by thousands of people throughout California, and elsewhere. The pictures must have done much to place Mount Shasta and its scenic grandeur in the public eye.

Joseph Lamson (1825- ?)

Another of the artists whose work was published by Hutchings was Joseph Lamson. Titles of some unpublished drawings, such as Strawberry Valley, Scenes at Scott's Bar, and Simmon's House near Trinity Center, all indicate that he worked in Siskiyou County.82 He also worked on sketches at the request of individuals, such as home owners and mine owners, these being people who wanted to have a keepsake symbolizing their pride of ownership. In 1856 he wrote in his journal about his beginnings as an artist:

Hitherto my attempts have been mere experiments, which have proved to be tolerably successful in winning the approbation of my employes, and I am induced to continue the business though deeply sensible of my entire ignorance of the art of drawing. Necessity compels me to exertion, and my attempts at other kinds of business having failed, I resolved to give this a trial. An ardent love of the beautiful in nature and some slight taste for drawing...though almost wholly uncultivated...and a desire to visit some of the beautiful and picturesque localities in California super added to the hope of acquiring a little gold, were the great inducements that tempted me to try this, to me, new and untried. I was further encouraged to attempt that as a regular business by the good offices of a kind friend. ...and now, with the intention of wandering wherever interest or curiosity might lead me, I packed up a few articles of wearing apparel and some drawing materials and set out on my tour, which might as circumstances favored or discouraged, continue for months or terminate in a week.83

Eugene Camerer (1830-1898)

In 1858 the San Francisco company of Küchel & Dresel produced a fine lithograph of a Mount Shasta scene.84 It was a lithograph of a Mount Shasta sketch by a German artist, Eugene Camerer, who lived in California from 1852 to 1962. Camerer had been trained at the Academy of Wurtenburg in Germany and it was to Germany that he returned after his ten years sojourn in the land of California85. Nothing is known about Camerer's journey to Mount Shasta, but certainly his lithograph was fairly accurate and well executed work; it would have given the armchair traveler or adventurous traveler a fair idea of the mountain.

Shasta Butte and Shasta Valley, Siskiyou County by Eugene Camerer from the Honeyman Collection of Early Californian and Western Pictorial Material via the California Digital Library.
Shasta Butte and Shasta Valley, Siskiyou County.
Drawing by Eugene Camerer, Lithograph by Küchel & Dresel.
From the Honeyman Collection of Early Californian and Western Pictorial Material via the California Digital Library.

Charles Küchel (1820-1865) and Emil Dresel (1819-1869)

The San Francisco company of Küchel & Dresel was well known for its lithographs, such as the Mount Shasta scene by Camerer. Both Charles Küchel (1820-1865) and Emil Dresel (1819-1869) were German immigrants, and they founded their S.F. lithograph firm in 1853. They were old world craftsman, both as artists and printers. They concentrated on precise drawing and printing techniques, and are favorably compared with the best of their east coast counterparts as far as technique is concerned.86 They often used other firms, such as Britton and Rey, to do the actual printing, an act which enabled them to concentrate on doing the best art possible.

Shasta, Shasta County, Cal. drawn by Kuchel & Dresel ; print by Britton & Rey from Library of Congress American Memory Historical Collections.
Shasta, Shasta County, Cal.
Drawn by Küchel & Dresel; lithograph by Britton and Rey.
From the Library of Congress American Memory Historical Collections.

It is not always possible to tell who did the original sketches, Küchel, Dresel, or otherwise. Not all prints had signatures, and they employed other artists. Watercolor sketches by Dresel of the buildings at Scotts Bar are known, however.87

The phenomenon of the popularity of the lithograph, which was given its real first emphasis by Currier and Ives in the 1830s. is a whole study in itself. Most of the views published as lithographs during the latter 1800s were meant to be sold in large quantities, and often were printed on cheap paper; they did not keep well. These early California prints thus have become quite rare.88

Yreka, Siskiyou County, 1856 by Küchel & Dresel; lithograph by Britton and Rey. Courtesy of the Montagne Collection.
Yreka, Siskiyou County, 1856.
Drawn by Küchel & Dresel; lithograph by Britton and Rey.
Courtesy Montagne Collection.

Some of the lithographs were meant to appeal to the pride or other sentiment of the purchaser. Thus in California the pictures of mining camps and small towns were hopefully to be bought by the miners themselves, perhaps the views were meant to be sent back home as a 'see where I am now' kind of post card. Küchel and Dresel would further take advantage of this sentiment by placing a border composed of twenty or so small portraits of the hardware store, the bank, the market, and so on.89 Thus in addition to those who wanted the central picture, at least the owners of the individual buildings would want to buy a print. A few representative works of the Shasta region produced by Küchel and Dresel are: Weaverville, Siskiyou County, Ca.; Scotts bar and French Bar, Siskiyou County, Ca. and Jacksonville, Oregon.

Edward Vischer (1809-1878)

The self-trained artist Edward Vischer is one of the earliest born artists to have sketched a Mount Shasta scene. Born in Germany in 1809, he came to Mexico in 1828 as a business representative, and at some point became the American Consul in Acapulco. In 1842 he traveled to San Francisco for business, and moved there permanently in 1849, though in the interim he traveled to China, Europe, and the East Coast of the U.S. As a man with much experience, the pictures which he drew in later life often contained many wise observations of daily life and nature, details which he remembered from the pre-Gold Rush days and which he felt important to preserve in visual form. For this reason, his works are of great importance to historians of California.90

Shasta Peak and Shasta Butte.  From the hills east of Yreka.  Distance 30 miles.  Sketched October 20, 1867.  Courtesy Bancroft Library.
Shasta Peak and Shasta Butte from the hills east of Yreka. Distance 30 miles.
Sketched October 20, 1867.
Courtesy Bancroft Library.

By all accounts he was a prolific and meticulous artist of the highest caliber. He has been called the finest artist of his era in California. He was also one of the earliest artists to have an affection for the giant trees of the Sierra Nevada, and in 1862 published an illustrated book titled Mammoth Tree Grove. His major work, Pictorial of California contained 150 drawings, some of which were done by artists other than Vischer. But the only drawing of Mount Shasta, Shasta Peak and Shasta Butte from the Hills East of Yreka, was drawn by Vischer himself.

Robert Swain Gifford (1840-1905)

1891 photogravure of Robert Swain Gifford.  Source Unknown. The artist Robert Swain Gifford wrote and illustrated an eighteen page chapter about northern California, featuring Mount Shasta. It was done for a massive two volume book entitled Picturesque America, published in 1872. A landmark book in the history of American publishing, it was an immediate success and went through several editions. What was remarkable, aside from the 1200 pages and high quality steel and wood engravings by 'Eminent American Artists', was the editor's intent to show that "it is certain that no country has within its borders so many beautiful spots altogether unfamiliar to its own people."91 Stating that "Photographs, however accurate, lack the spirit and personal quality which the accomplished painter or draughtsman infuses in his work."92, the book was designed to bring American Nature, through the means of American Art, into the American home.

Mount Shasta by Robert Swain Gifford courtesy of the Montagne Collection
Engraving of Mount Shasta by Robert Swain Gifford.
From Picturesque America, later replaced by Smillie's engraving of Mount Shasta (see below).
Courtesy Montagne Collection.

Gifford's illustrations were of the Sacramento Canyon, Castle Crags, Mount Shasta, and, just over the Oregon border, Pilot Rock. His account describes traveling up the Sacramento River canyon and on to Sisson's hotel at Mount Shasta. The railroad had still not been completed to Mount Shasta in 1869, the year of his visit, and in fact was not completed to Mount Shasta until 1886. Whether he rode horse or stage is not known. He noted the grandeur of these places, the immense trees (over three hundred feet tall according to him93) and the colors of the fantastic Mount Shasta sunsets.

James David Smillie (1833-1909)

Mount Shasta by James Smillie from the Honeyman Collection of Early Californian and Western Pictorial Material via the California Digital Library
Mount Shasta by James Smillie.
From the Honeyman Collection of Early Californian and Western Pictorial Material via the California Digital Library.

Another well known artist to contribute a Mount Shasta sketch to Picturesque America was James David Smillie. He and his brother, George Smillie, were well known on the East Coast for their landscape paintings. The J.D. Smillie print of Mount Shasta was one of about fifty special steel engravings printed on extra heavy paper and bound with the rest of the book. These special prints are today often found separated from the book and displayed as works of art.

Smillie's view of Mount Shasta is from the east side of the mountain. In the foreground are two tepees, a group of adults and some horses. The scene is not necessarily a view of local Indians. The Indian tepees would be unusual for the Mount Shasta area, though they were used for time by some local Indians, as were horses. However, it is known that some of the government expeditions, the Fremont Expedition in particular, made use of small tepees for sleeping, and the people in the print, on close observation, could be a group of white settlers traveling with these small tepees.

Although Smillie had visited Mount Shasta, it seems that his engraving is based on a photograph taken in 1870 by Carleton E. Watkins, California's most famous early photographer94. It is likely that the drawing was copied from the photograph, with the tepees and people added in by the artist.

In 1872 the Smillie steel engraving and Gifford's illustrations became the first views of Mount Shasta to have a large distribution beyond the borders of California.

William Simpson (1823-1899)

Photograph of William Simpson Sketch of McCloud River Indian by William Simpson.  From: Harper's Weekly, July 21, 1888. Courtesy College of the Siskiyous Library William Simpson was an artist-correspondent for England's major newspapers. His best known picture might well be his 1850's illustration Charge of the Light Brigade drawn on location during the Crimean War. On seeing the picture, the Victorian poet Alfred Lord Tennyson found patriotic inspiration and composed his famous poem of the same title.

For the decades after the Crimean campaign Simpson was given tough journalistic war assaignments in such far away places Egypt and Abyssiniai, and he also covered uprisings closer to home, notably the Franco-German War and the Paris Commune revolution. He had the good fortune, journalistically speaking, to be in San Fransisco at the beginning (1873) of the Modoc Wars. After arrainging for travel papers with the Army officials, he journied to the Lava beds via Redding, Sisson's, and Yreka, all the time sketching.

On the way he met his first California Indian, who happened to be the chief of the McLeod95 Indians, and made a sketch of him. At Sisson's, Simpson drew a sketch of the log cabin in which he slept, though he was upset with its decaying condition, including a floor that he noted as not much different from the ground outside. The stagecoach ride itself he described in the following way: "by imagining yourself rolled down a hill inside a barrel you may form some idea of the amount of comfort to be enjoyed."96

He went on to Yreka and across to the Lava Beds, where the fight was continuing. His pictures of Mount Shasta and the Lava Beds, as well as dramatic portrayals of the protagonists of both sides, were printed in the London Illustrated News.97

Sisson's Cabin on Mount Shasta courtesy of the Montagne Collection
A Log Hut in California (Sisson's cabin near Mount Shasta) by William Simpson.
From: Illustrated London News, March 17, 1877.
Reproduced in Paul Hogart. Artists on Horseback. New York: Watson-Guptill, 1972.
Courtesy College of the Siskiyous Library Mount Shasta Collection.

Because Simpson was regarded as the most celebrated of the British special war correspondedents, his arrival at the scene of the Modoc Wars in Northern California was favorably anticipated by the United States Army leaders. They thought that this most honored of journalists would publically vindicate the inability of their thousand men and artillary to defeat the small band of Indian freedom fighters. Unfortunately, Simpson made no such concessions. His commentaries suggested that the whole thing was miserable tragedy. He finally stated that "The sense of justice in human nature must declare that these tribes have been cruelly wronged."98

Mount Shasta, Siskiyou County, California by William Simpson courtesy of the Mount Shasta Collection
Mount Shasta, Siskiyou County, California by William Simpson
From: The Illustrated London News, June 7, 1873.
Courtesy College of the Siskiyous Library Mount Shasta Collection.

Simpson remained in California for a brief time following the resolution of the Indian War. He made a visit to Yosemite with his old acquaintance Albert Bierstadt, and his response to the experience of the Valley was to write: "Eden itself could not have been more lovely."99

Thomas Moran (1837-1926)

Photograph of Thomas Moran from the National Park Service. The illustration Mt. Shasta and Mud Creek Canyon from the East, appeared in Scribners' Monthly magazine of December, 1873.100 The picture is signed with Moran's monogram, though it was his job at the time to use other peoples photographs and sketches as the basis for his engravings. It is unlikely that he was ever at Mount Shasta in 1872 or 1873, though he was in California in 1872.

Another illustration, Mount Shasta, from Castle Lake, signed by Moran, appeared twelve years later (1885), in the book Californian Pictures, written by Benjamin Parke Avery.101 In this case, Moran is noted as the artist who did the drawing from a sketch by H. R. Bloomer, and a third party did the actual engraving.

'Mt. Shasta and Mud Creek Canyon from the East' by Thomas Moran courtesy of COS Library Mount Shasta Collection.
Mt. Shasta and Mud Creek Canyon from the East by Thomas Moran.
From: Thomas Magee. Mount Shasta. In: Scribner's Monthly, May, 1883.
Courtesy College of the Siskiyous Library Mount Shasta Collection.

Mount Shasta is of course an awe-inspiring sight even if the worthy Thomas Moran was not a visitor. Still, it is interesting to keep a record of the mountain's important guests in order to gage the extent of Mount Shasta's 19th century reputation as a place of great beauty.

Henry Nappenbach (1862-1931)

'Nap' Nappenbach is the only known early California cartoonist to have used Mount Shasta in a satirical drawing. The Nappenbach's cartoon, Shasta, the Grand Old Mountain, Changes the Schedule on the Oregon Line was lithographed by the Schmidt lithograph company for the February 9, 1890 issue of the WASP, a weekly S.F. magazine of news and satire. The satirical qualities of the Mount Shasta scene, i.e. Railroad owner Charles F. Crocker's hat being blown off as he reads a copy of 'beautiful Snow', and the rest of the railroad men biding their time under a grinning mountain, was typical satire for the magazine. With writers like Ambrose Bierce (who also became its editor) , the magazine often took a critical eye to the pretensions of San Francisco leaders.

Though this particular Mount Shasta cartoon is relatively tame, one commentator has said of the WASP magazine, "What fun it must have been to live in a less litigious society & have these gross & malicious cartoons to contemplate weekly."102

'Shasta, the Grand Old Mountain, Changes the Schedule of the Oregon Line' by Henry Nappenbach courtesy of Turtle Bay Exploration Park.
'Shasta, the Grand Old Mountain, Changes the Schedule of the Oregon Line' by Henry Nappenbach
Courtesy Turtle Bay Exploration Park, Redding, California.

Nappenbach was a Munich trained German artist who was brought to the U.S. by the San Francisco based Schmidt Label and Lithograph Company. His satirical talents and draughtmanship for the WASP were appreciated by William Randolf Hearst. In 1893 Hearst hired away Nappenbach to work as a major cartoonist for the Hearst Newspapers. Nappenbach is also well known as an oil painter of San Francisco Chinatown scenes.103


[77] Olmstead. p XI.

[78] Ibid. A search through the issues reproduced in Olmstead's book turned up these artists. There were many others to be sure.

[79] Hutchings California Magazine, May, 1857 p. 482.

[80] Olmstead. Inside front Cover and inside back cover of the July 1968 American West magazine details the history of this poster.

[81] Ibid.

[82] Drawings in the collection of the California Historical Society.

[83] Notebook of J.Lamson in the collection of the California Historical Society.

[84] Watson.Watson. In 1936 this lithograph was reprinted in a fine press book of fifty scenes from California, all originally printed by Küchel and Drexel and others during the 1850s.

[85] Hughes. p. 78.

[86] Dinnean. p. 34.

[87] Stenzel. p. 145.

[88] White. p.74-75.

[89] Ibid. p. 92.

[90] Dinnean. p. 28.

[91] Bryant. p. iv.

[92] Ibid. p. iv.

[93] Ibid. p. iv.

[94] A complete set of Watkin's photographs of Mount Shasta is in the Photographic Library of the U.S.G.S. in Denver.

[95] Alexander McLeod, a trapper and expedition leader for the Hudson Bay Company, had explored and traveled over the eastern base of Mount Shasta several times beginning in the late 1820s. By 1858, settlers of the name McLeod lived in Squaw Valley at the southern foot of Mount Shasta. According to some authorities the early spelling of the town which sprang up there later was McLeod. However, in 1855 a family by the name of McCloud lived at the Soda Springs in the Sacramento River canyon. [95] Ross McCloud, head of the family, opened a mill in Strawberry Valley. Eventually, his successors ran the closely held McCloud mill in what is now named the town of McCloud. Thus in all probability there are two precedents to the name, with the McCloud name winning out and subsuming the lesser known name of McLeod. The fact that William Simpson, an Englishman, used the name of "McLeod Indians" as late as 1872, lends credence to the idea of a concurrent use of the two names in the early days of the region's settlement.

[96] Hogarth. p. 96.

[97] London Illustrated News, May 31, 1873, and other dates. Simpson drew in the area during March, April, and early May of 1873.

[98] Quoted in Hogarth. p. 89.

[99] Ibid. p. 92. Simpson's full statement was "Some places are celebrated for the beauty of their scenery, others for grandeur or wild and savage aspect. At the Yosemite, all these are found together, snow capped peaks, domes of rocks, high walls of granite; perpendicular cliffs and pinnacles, waterfalls unsurpassed; woods like primeval forest; and the greatest trees in the world, huge like giants before the flood. Eden itself could not have been more loveley."

[100] One thing to note about Scribners is that there was both a Scribners Magazine and a Scribners Monthly Magazine. Each published a December, 1873 issue.

[101] Avery. p. 122

[102] Bohling. p. 30.

[103] Hughes. p. 327.

 

Geology ~ Environment ~ Native Americans ~ Folklore ~ History ~ Art ~ Literature
Recreation ~ Maps ~ Mount Shasta Collection ~ Bibliography ~ Lesson Plans ~ About Project