Worldwide Attention for Very Unusual California Auction

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Sale of Unique California Historical Artifacts Draws Worldwide Attention from Auckland to Oslow

Santa Ana, CA 1894

It might be a little odd that original, California engravings for Capistrano or Sacramento might end up on display in Oslow, Perth, Auckland or Kiev..... but time will tell and at auction it's anyone's bet!

It is perhaps the most unusual and unique auction in recent memory. Priceless, historic artifacts from California's storied past that look like they belong in a museum rather than for sale to the highest bidder on an auction website. It is understandable why people from Los Angeles, San Francisco, Riverside, San Bernardino and Sacramento are interested, these artifacts directly relate to their areas. More puzzling are the inquiries from South Africa, Finland, Sweden, Australia, New Zealand and other countries around the world.

In 1879, the US Congress passed a law that established a division under the Department of the Interior to create area maps in the United States — “snapshots in time”. Completing these early maps for each geographical area was an herculean task that involved extensive field surveys, mapping, and finally, careful hand etching onto copper plates in a reverse intaglio method. The result: stunning master copper engraving plates capable of reproducing early California maps. Later the technology changed and they sat buried away in a US Government warehouse long forgotten for decades. In 2015 with little fanfare, the US Government decided to dispose of these historic treasures. Some went to government agencies and museums to display, the rest were sold.

The 83 California Plate sets acquired from the government can be reviewed online at: BenBensonCollection.com. In the first auction lot listing, for example, you will see “Santa Ana-1894” that covers the coastal areas around contemporary Newport Beach. If you look closely at the zoom photo of the paper map, you see a fledgling Newport Beach with a single railroad track and only a handful of buildings along the shoreline.

Each set of plates was titled to commemorate a then-prominent feature or place. Some titles are familiar today while others are long forgotten. The names of the engraving sets (usually 2 or 3 plates per set) are: Acton, Adobe, Alder Creek, Banner Hill, Beartrap Canyon, Bell, Bidwell Bar, Black Butte, Boneyard Canyon, Bouquet Reservoir, Buena Vista Lake, Byron, Camp Baldy, Camp Bonita, Camp Rincon, Capistrano, Casa Desierte, Chico, Cima Mesa, Claremont, Coalinga, Covina, Davisville, Del Sur, Downieville, Dry Canyon, El Rico Ranch, Elsinore, Esperanza School, Fairmont, Goleta, Gorman, Grass Valley, Halls Flat, Harrington, Hi Vista, Hollister, Hueneme, Humphreys, Joshua, Kaiser, Kernville, La Cresenta, La Verne, Lang, Little Buttes, Little Rock, Little Tujunga, Llano, Manzana, Metz, Mokelumne, Mouth of Cantua Creek, Mt. Gleason, Mt. Lowe, Mt. Wilson, Oban, Ortigalita, Palmdale, Pearland, Piedras Blancas, Pozo, Quail, Randsburg, Ravenna, Red Mountain, Redrock Mountain, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Juan Bautista, Santa Ana, Santa Susana, Sierraville, Swarthout, Sylmar, Tierra Loma School, Trail Canyon, Triunfo Pass, Tujunga, Valyermo, Waterman Mountain, White Mountain, and Wilsona.

It might be a little odd that original, California engravings for Capistrano or Sacramento might end up on display in Oslow, Perth, Auckland or Kiev..... but time will tell and at auction it's anyone's bet!

The online auction for these engravings is going on now and ends on March 14, 2018, at 6pm (PST). For more information, see the website at: BenBensonCollection.com or email at: amy[at]mapengravings[dot]com

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Ben Benson
@MapEngravings
since: 02/2018
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