The California Pioneers : A Song

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Art on California Sheet Music

  • Lithography San Francisco: Quirot & Co., Drouaillet, B. F. Butler, Nahl Brothers, Britton & Rey, G. T. Brown & Co., Crocker & Co.
  • Woodcut anon, H.B.
  • Photography San Francisco: Bradley & Rulofson, Bushnell Photography.
  • Decorative use of Type and Ornaments
  • Processes Alfred Bierstadt
The first sheet music published in California (1852) was the song "The California Pioneers" who were depicted rather idealistically by lithographers Quirot & Co. in fur-trimmed garments with leather hats and backpacks and a handsome steed.
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Cover of 'La Force et le Courage'Britton & Rey were responsible for some of the most impressive chromolithography printed on sheet music in 19th-century San Francisco. Both the front and back covers of "Knight Templar's Grand Entree March" included local scenes, with as many as eleven in a sort of collage of postcard-like scenes. The music was written and published for the Triennial Conclave of the Knights Templar in San Francisco in 1883; the wrapper, in white, pink, or green, still remains on many copies, with details of the program. Britton and Rey created a number of lithograph covers for Les Dames Francaises de San Francisco. A drawing of "Le Maitre d'ecole alsacienne: Chant patriotique" appears on the cover of the music by local composer L. T. Planel (1872). "Hymne a la France" commemorates those who died for their country in 1870-1871, again by Planel, words by Des Farges (1872), lithograph by Britton & Rey, drawn by E. Narjot. A dramatic scene of revolutionary fervor is portrayed in "La Force et le courage" ([1870-1880]). For a performance by soprano Sylvie Braitman, click on the speaker for sound or on the film projector for a video.
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A dramatic portrait of General Ulysses S. Grant on horseback with some of his troops decorates "Grant Military March" (1879, upon Grant's arrival in California). Transfer of photographs to the lithographic stone was a specialty of Britton & Rey, preserving portraits of many 19th-century Californians. A portrait of Bandmaster Antonio Arrighini (leader of the "young Italians" in the Green Mountain Band) graces the cover of "March of the Green Mountain Miners."

In 1856 the Frenchman Drouaillet created a lithograph of society life in San Francisco for the cover of a set of dances gathered under the title "Flowers of California," written by L. T. Planel and choreographed "as danced at Mr. Hazard's Dancing Academy." Since the pieces are dedicated to Miss Zoe Hazard, she is likely the model for the young girl on the cover.

B. F. Butler (1795-1858) set up his shop early in San Francisco as a painter of houses, signs, etc., but made his name by his lithography of maps and artwork by such artists as the Nahl Brothers. In 1852 he printed a sheet music cover for "San Francisco Quadrilles" that saved for us contemporary views of a gold mine and the San Francisco Bay.

In 1899 Crocker & Co. created a charming lithograph of the back of a weeping young woman with a giant bow below her wasp waist to illustrate the title "Looking Backward or The Waltz of Broken Love."

A somber portrait of Gen. E. R. S. Canby was done by "Jennings, Printer" in 1873 on the "Funeral March" by Oswald Wilder.

Woodcut of horseThe technique of woodcut was used in the 1850s to create a striking portrait of a member of the San Francisco Minstrels, Charly Backus, on "My Mary Ann." Click here to hear My Mary Ann The large and detailed woodcut of a horse at left was done by "H.B." for the cover of the "Lucy March" by Joseph Gungl dedicated to the "Flyers of 1872."

Woodcut of San Francisco buildingBradley & Rulofson's photography business had done well enough by 1872 for them to build a handsome building and advertise it in a woodcut on the wrappers of "Knight Templar's Grand Entree March," distributed in white, pink, and green (at right). Theatergoers could purchase sheet music with actual photographs of singers in costume mounted on multicolor printed or lithographic frames. Occasionally even the individual photographer's name would be printed below the print, as that of "Max Bachert, Artist" below "The Great Vivian", posed with hand on tiger skin on "Moet and Chandon."
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One song was released with four alternate photographs of singer Emelie Melville, "Silver on Her Heels" in its bright green lithograph frame.
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Usually the firm's photographs are pasted into printed frames, black ("Fanchon Polka," "E Partita!"), red and blue ("I'm Happy When She's By"), red and gold ("Jack & I") and red ("Moet and Chandon"). The portrait of William Horace Lingard dressed as a woman on "I'm Not a Gossip" can be compared with his more manly attire on "Happy Daddy" (lithographic frames printed by Zincoy, 356 Clay St.). Often sheet music was available with or without the photograph, as in "Moet and Chandon" which was 40 cents with the portrait and 30 cents for printed text only, the latter redesigned and usually in one color.

The steel of type and steel engraving could also produce decorative results. A distinctive representation of the word "Life", the title of a song printed by Matthias Gray, must have been modern for its late nineteenth century date. Sherman & Clay printed an edition of "Gavotte Circus Renz" that uses both type ornaments and various styles of display types for a distinctive cover.