History news: Antique posters and
California History acquires vintage California travel posters
The California State Library’s California History Section recently acquired an extraordinary collection of seven full-color 1920’s Southern Pacific Railroad advertising posters inviting visitors to the Golden State.
During the prosperous 1920’s, tourists traveled stylishly in trains that provided every luxury. To attract snowbound and humidity-plagued pleasure seekers from the eastern United States, and to establish once remote California as an easily accessible tourist destination, Southern Pacific hired talented commercial artists and graphic designers to produce posters glorifying California’s scenic wonders. The artists’ posters now with the CSL are superb examples of this commercial art which flourished during the golden 1920’s.
In the roaring twenties, Yosemite National Park was California’s most famous tourist destination. One new CSL gem from 1925 advertises the great granite chasm as a place to “commune with Nature in her grandest Palaces” while “Roughing It De Luxe.” With Yosemite Falls as a background, artist Philip Little depicts three hikers feeding a smiling bear, an advertising image unheard of today.
In another poster by noted California landscape artist Maurice Logan, four nattily attired golfers enjoy the enchanting setting of the links at the Hotel Del Monte and Monterey Peninsula. Another Logan poster shows a group of sightseers soaking up the beguiling scenery on Lake Tahoe’s shores. Logan was a prominent member of the Society of Six, a group of artists who espoused bright colors, a sense of region, and an Impressionist style. The new Logan pieces join the CSL’s existing collection of Logan’s posters as well as many travel brochures that he illustrated for the railroad and tourist bureaus.
The CSL’s other latest posters also feature alluring California settings such as Mt. Tamalpais and Muir Woods, California beaches, and the delightful Paso Robles Inn in San Luis Obispo. But one new CSL poster stands out because it relies heavily on words to lure visitors. The language-rich, “The New Sunset Ltd on the Sunset Route,” touts the California version of the Orient Express by listing the many amenities passengers will find on luxury trips from the Crescent City of New Orleans to San Diego, Los Angeles and San Francisco. Printed in 1924, the work features a gorgeous Spanish mission style train station at sunset with text about the luxury train’s club and observation car, ladies’ lounge, safe, steel sleeping cars, valets, barbers, and maids. Interestingly, the Southern Pacific poster proudly proclaims that the New Sunset Ltd causes “No Smoke, No Cinders, No Dust.”
Today, though they were printed by the thousands, vintage California posters rarely become available. Tacked or pasted to walls, many advertising posters were trashed when out of date and, consequently, few survive in good condition. In fact, compared with posters promoting tourist travel to Europe, vintage California travel and event posters are extraordinarily rare. The CSL’s new additions will be digitized and made available for viewing on the CSL’s online Picture Catalog. In short order, reproductions will be available for sale via the CSL Foundation’s electronic store, Zazzle.com.
These 1920’s Southern Pacific Railroad posters build upon the California History Section’s already outstanding collection of historic posters whose subjects range from the 1933 California State Fair to the 1897 Los Angeles Fiesta to the opening of the Yolo Causeway in 1916. A recent two-part keepsake published by The Book Club of California on California travel posters reproduced a number of examples from the CSL collection. Visitors can see many of these items via the CSL Picture Catalog or the online exhibit on the CSL Foundation’s web site at www.cslfdn.org.
The Stolen Child returns to California State Library after over 130 years
Sometime in the 1860’s John Galt’s 1833 novel, The Stolen Child, left the California State Library. One hundred and thirty-eight years later, the book has returned in good condition thanks to the generosity of antiquarian bookseller Stuart Bennett of Mill Valley.
Bennett contacted California State Library Curator of Special Collections Gary Kurutz inquiring if Bennett could sell the book since its front paste-down endpaper included a California State Library bookplate. Kurutz says, “I went to our online catalog but did not find The Stolen Child. I thought it might have been deaccessioned long ago but many other titles by the Scottish author were still in the collection including his Life of Lord Byron. I next checked our 1871 book catalog and it was not listed. I could only conclude that it either been purloined or borrowed and forgotten. Informed of this, Mr. Bennett kindly offered to send The Stolen Child back to the California State Library where it happily arrived in late April.”
Kurutz reports, “The little octavo’s bookplate includes two interesting pieces of information. The Stolen Child was purchased for a robust price of $1.12 and received into the collection on March 29, 1861. At the time, the CSL had embarked on an aggressive acquisition program to build a well-rounded research library including many rare books such as the Nuremberg Chronicle (1493) and Audubon’s Birds of America (the famous four-volume elephant folio). Accessions not only included historical and scientific works but also belle-lettres.”
says, “Mr. Bennett is to be commended for alerting
the library and returning its ‘stolen child.’ If
only the book’s covers could talk – its long,
unexplained journey would no longer be a mystery.”