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Images of Exploration, Discovery, and Early Settlement in the Pacific Northwest: Cities from a Bird's-Eye-View

Cities from a Bird's-Eye-View

Eli S. Glover, Henry Wellge, Augustus Koch, and others (1870-1910)

" the town are shown the street and houses, fences, gardens and shade trees, with the timber beyond, all beautifully plain, clear, and distinct..." (Seattle Post Intelligencer, July 15th 1884) [54]


A type of map commonly called bird's-eye-views because of their high perspective (as if seeing it literally from a bird's eye) inspired popular interest during the population boom of Pacific Northwest cities from 1870 to 1910. Unlike topographical maps, street maps, or coastal pilots, these bird's-eye-views were not mathematically precise, but instead offered aesthetic delight with the functional purpose of orienting viewers to the lay-of-the-land.

Artificially hovering high above water or hillside, the views presented an angular panorama of city development--streets, buildings, wharves, railway lines and stations, and industrial complexes--all nestled within the embrace of topographical features such as hills, mountains, and waterways. Many of the views highlighted particular community assets  (such as religious, government, and entertainment structures) that were keyed to a number or letter and listed at the bottom of the print. Several of the views also took this a step farther, highlighting particular buildings or industrial complexes in insets that frame the map.


The process by which the views were created followed a similar pattern: first, ground level drawings were made of notable buildings, and sketches were made of topographical features; second, a street map was used as a grid and then adapted for use from a high perspective, and; third, these earlier sketches were integrated into the adapted grid.[55]

Through the muscular reach of newspapers, artists solicited subscriptions and garnered publicity, like that of a Seattle journalist who proclaimed that a city view "will be a splendid thing to send abroad to advertise the town," [56]or the Victoria B.C. newspaper that enthused "the view will prove invaluable to residents here, whilst for transmission to friends in England and elsewhere who have but a vague idea of the extent and beauty of our city."[57]

Holdings arranged by city depicted

Victoria, British Columbia, Canada

1) Bird's-eye-view of Victoria, Vancouver Island, B.C. from 1878 by E.S. Glover

View includes 29 notable landmarks: churches, government buildings, mountains, hospitals, cemeteries that are all keyed to number references. Streets and waterways are labeled. Glover includes signs of human activity: boats, people walking down street, industrial buildings sending up plumes of smoke, people swimming at the beach, a person in a horse-drawn carriage. Presentation technique was to use the Strait of Juan de Fuca as frame with city in foreground, city receding in midground, and Mount Baker in the far distance. Black & white. (AWC0756)

2) Victoria B.C. from 1889, artist unknown.

Text on this view proclaims that it is "Issued by Ellis & Co., publishers of The Colonist, Victoria B.C." Similar in perspective to Glover's view--from the Strait of Juan de Fuca--this map moves closer in for more city detail, with 63 keyed numbers including religious institutions; fraternal halls; industrial sites; Victoria Opera House; skating rink; schools; hospitals; major topographical features like Mount Baker; and the waterfront dock. Black & white.

Camano Island, Washington

1) Grennan & Cranney's Saw Mills, Utsalady, Camano Island, Puget Sound, W.T., from 1862 by C.B. Gifford

In this view C.B. Gifford focuses exclusively on the sawmills of Grennan & Cranney's, who likely commissioned the work. The mills are featured in the center. On the left, the boat harbor is shown. On the right, one can see worker's shacks and the Utsalady Hotel. Printed at the lower left is the promotional boast: "The harbor is one of the best in the world. It is completely sheltered from all winds. 400 feet of Wharf frontage with a depth of 22 ft. at low water. Bottom very soft--no rocks." And at the bottom right, the type proclaims:  "We have an unfailing supply of large Masts, Spars, Ship-plank, and sawn lumber of all dimensions, such as we are now furnishing to the French and Spanish governments." There is strong human presence, with some men shown building a boat and two men shown talking with a team of oxen behind them. Mount Baker (unlabeled) is seen in the background. Black & white.

Everett, Washington

1) Bird's-eye-view of Everett Washington, 1893, artist unknown.

Produced by Brown's Land and Engineering Company. The decorated perimeter features insets of notable buildings and houses including: the Chamber of Commerce; Monroe Public School; the residence of J.E. McManus, Senator; Puget Sound Pulp & Paper Co.'s Works; Neff & Mish Shingle Mill; Pacific Steel Barge Works; and the Whaleback Steamer. Framed from Port Gardner Bay, the bird's-eye-view hovers high, although one can see the grid of city with street names. Everett looks sparsely built, with most buildings off the axis of Hewitt Avenue. The buildings are so small, it is troublesome to locate all 60 landmarks which include: industrial sites, religious structures, a buillding belonging to a newspaper, and notable city blocks. However, this view provides a wonderful depiction of the train tunnel and shows the Great Northern Railroad and Seattle & Montana Railroad routes. Full color. (WAS0296)

Olympia, Washington

1) Bird's-eye-view of the city of Olympia, East Olympia and Tumwater from 1879 by E.S. Glover (2 copies).

The artist depicts himself at the bottom left, sitting on a log and drawing at his easel, on a hillside high above Olympia. Despite the fact that the artist is drawing the view, the perspective is from high above him. The rendering of trees is beautiful and the buildings are meticulous geometric shapes. Ships are delineated so clearly that you can see the individual rig lines. Human presence is sparse. There are 15 keyed references to notable landmarks, including government buildings, schools, religious institutions, and fraternal halls. Budd's Inlet is labeled on the right, with Tumwater on the left. The old Capitol building can be seen. Black and white.

Port Ludlow, Washington

1) Port Ludlow, Puget Sound, W.T. from 1865 by G.B. Gifford.

Gifford is listed as the "del" (Latin delineavit) and as the lithographer. It was printed by L. Nagel, San Francisco. Rather than a sweeping town view, such as his Camano Island print, this focuses exclusively on Amos, Phinney & Co. Mills, who may have commissioned the view. The mill is shown surrounded on three sides by water. To the right of the mill is a large Victorian house sited on a gently sloping hill with a large landscaped, fenced plot. The view includes 13 large ships and many smaller boats in and around the mill, including what appears to be a Native American canoe. A caption below the image boasts of "1,200 ft of Wharf frontage" and "40 feet of water at low tide." Black & white.

Port Townsend, Washington

1) Bird's-eye-view of Port Townsend, Puget Sound, Washington Territory from 1878 by E.S. Glover.

The view is situated above a forested hillside facing the water, and ships can be seen in the harbor. Landmarks are keyed A to T. "T" is mislabeled Olinpa (sic Olympic) Mountains. Black & white.

Seattle, Washington

1) Seattle, W.T., from 1884 by A. Burr (2 copies)

Created for publication in The West Shore, this view was drawn by A. Burr, and printed by lithographer C.L. Smith. The viewpoint is from high above a forested hillside, and the artist can be seen in the foreground, sitting on chair in front of easel with The West Shore clearly visible. A woman, with her hat removed, is standing beside him. On the artist's left, a man with binoculars stands on a log and looks out over Seattle. Just right of center is a boy with a walking stick, and on right is a family taking a walk with a carriage marked "Belltown" traveling behind. There is a strong emphasis on human activity and attention is pointed toward the busy industrial harbor crowded with ships. The architecture of the city is detailed with windows, porches, and varying rooflines visible. Mt. Rainier is in background. There is no key. Black & white.

2) Bird's-eye-view of the city of Seattle, Puget Sound, Washington Territory from 1878 by E.S. Glover

Depicting the busy Seattle wharves and the architectural development between Vine and Jackson, this panorama's viewpoint is high above Elliott Bay. In the center, the dome of the original University Building is prominently featured. At the bottom right, one can see the harbor railway service operated by the Seattle & Walla Walla Railroad. Black & white. (SEA1381)

3) Bird's-eye-view of the city of Seattle from 1884 by Henry Wellge.

Taking the viewpoint above Elliott Bay, Wellge's bird's-eye-view is similar to Glover's. In it, 37 monuments are divided into schools, public buildings & hotels, banks, or manufacturers. Religious structures are labeled A-M. The insets feature "Mount Rainier 14,400 ft." and the "Olympic Range 6 to 10,000 ft high". Lake Washington and the Cascade Mountains can be seen in the distance. Maritime activity is the focus. Black & white. (SEA1371)

4) Bird's-eye-view of Seattle and environs, King County, Wash., from 1891 by Augustus Koch.

Published only 18 months after the Great Fire, as proclaimed in the subtitle of this bird's-eye-view, this large map includes surrounding areas from Ballard to West Seattle. It is an extensive view, keyed to 120 notable landmarks, with visual detail about city infrastructure like water reservoirs. Full color. (SEA1373)

5) Bird's-eye-view, city of Seattle and Vicinity from 1904 by an unidentified artist whose initials are F.L.

In this vast panorama of Seattle with 94 monuments listed, one can see the extensive development from Elliott Bay to Lake Washington, and the University of Washington at its present site. It was published by the Seattle Map Company: A. Robinson, G.A. Edmunds, and J.P. Fuller, owners. Tucker, Hanford Co, Seattle (lithographers). The border is scalloped. Black & white. (SEA1378)

Snohomish, Washington

1) Snohomish from 1889 by unknown artist.

Published as part of History of the Pacific Northwest: Oregon and Washington (in volume 2, p. 246). The insets feature: Blackman Block, Office of the Eye, and Cathcart's Hall. Black & white.

Tacoma, Washington

1) View of New Tacoma and Mount Rainier, Puget Sound, Washington Territory: Terminus of the Northern Pacific Railroad from 1878 by E.S. Glover

Mount Rainier is the dominant focus of this view. Commencement Bay can be seen in the lower third and the sparsely populated Tacoma on the bottom. Perspective hovers above a forested hillside with two men on left sitting on a felled tree and looking out over the vista. This view was sketched in February 1878, five years after the announcement that the terminus of the Northern Pacific Railroad would be Tacoma rather than Seattle. Hence, the visual emphasis is on the railroad, which is prominently detailed along with maritime activity. Black & white. (WAS1120)

2) City of Tacoma, W.T., from 1885, artist unknown.

A brown monochromatic lithograph, this view of Tacoma is beautiful in its simplicity. Without including Mount Rainier, the shimmering Commencement Bay forms a triangle in the lower-right of the south-looking view. 35 monuments are noted in the key. This view emphasizes the presence of the Northern Pacific in a direct and charming way--a steam engine with hopper cars and caboose chugs out of view in center bottom. Brown monochrome. (UW black and white negative is very poor quality WAS1121, see instead, Early Washington Maps: Tacoma)

3) Tacoma: Western Terminus of the Northern Pacific Railroad, 1890 by Will Carson.

Printed in pastel colors and ornate with multiple insets that appear like scrolled paper, this bird's-eye view celebrates the educational, cultural, industrial, scenic, and architectural merits of Tacoma.  Insets feature the Annie Wright Seminary, Opera House, Tacoma Lumber Mill, Emerson's School, Pacific Avenue, Headquarters of the Northern Pacific R.R., Mount Tacoma, (the habit of Tacoma residents to call Mount Rainier, "Mount Tacoma" or "Mount Tahoma" continues today), Central School, St. Peter's Church, the Natural Bell Tower, and the Tacoma Hotel. Although positioned from the viewpoint of the Puyallup River joining into Commencement Bay, the view's focus is on city density and architecture. Color.

4) Tacoma, from 1890, artist unknown.

Similar in viewpoint to the Tacoma bird's-eye-view by Will Carson, this color map is framed by 16 insets, including the residence of George W. Traver, the publisher of the map.  There are 99 numbered explanatory keys plus seven features labeled A-G. The focus is on the bustling maritime and railroad industries. Color.

Walla Walla

1) Walla Walla, Wt., from 1876 by E.S. Glover

Looking west toward the Blue Mountains, this bird's-eye-view shows the neat grid of city streets (from Tenth to Touchet) populated with buildings and trees. With farmland in the foreground and Walla Walla nestled in the center, the map highlights 10 churches and schools, along with the Sisters of Charity, Agricultural Park, and Walla Walla & Columbia Railroad. Under the category Public Building and Factories, 22 features are numbered. Text below the view on the left reads: "Walla Walla was located in 1859; its present population is about 3000; it publishes three Weekly Newspapers, has two Banking Houses, and numerous mercantile establishments." On the right: "Walla Walla is situated near the center of a fine agricultural district, connecting the navigation of the Columbia River by the W.W. & C.R. Railway at Wallula, a thirty miles distant." Black & white.

Biographies of artists[58] cross-referenced with holdings

A. BURR, the artist of Seattle, W.T. (1884) which was printed in The West Shore magazine, also drew a map for the Pacific Coast Co. and Pacific Coast Coal Company Lands from 1921 which details the location of mines from a bird's eye perspective including the Black Diamond, Hyde, Burnett, Newcastle, Issaquah and Indian mines.

WILL CARSON was the artist of Tacoma: Western Terminus of the Northern Pacific Railroad from 1890 which appeared in The West Shore magazine.

CHARLES B. GIFFORD (1830-?) primarily worked in California. Special Collections holds his only two Washington birds-eye views: Grennan & Cranney's Saw Mills, Utsalady, Camano Island, Puget Sound, W.T., from 1862 and Port Ludlow, Puget Sound, W.T. from 1865.

ELI SHELDON GLOVER (1844-1920), formerly a teacher, owned the Merchants Lithography Company in Chicago, and it was not until 1870 that he embarked on his own career as a bird's-eye-view artist. After his business was destroyed in the Chicago Fire, Glover roamed around the county drawing, and in 1875 visited Walla Walla where he produced a view. During a period of residence in Portland, Oregon, he produced his views of Seattle, Port Townsend, Tacoma, Olympia, Victoria, B.C., and Portland. Glover moved around the country again, living in Tacoma, and finally dying in Seattle. Sheldon L. Glover was the youngest of his four children.  Amongst the 62 bird's-eye-views made by Eli S. Glover, five are of Washington and one of British Columbia. Special Collections holds Bird's-eye view of Victoria, Vancouver Island, B.C. from 1878; and Bird's eye view of Port Townsend, Puget Sound, Washington Territory 1878, View of New Tacoma and Mount Rainier, Puget Sound, Washington Territory: Terminus of the Northern Pacific Railroad 1878, Bird's-eye view of the city of Seattle, Puget Sound, Washington Territory, 1878, and Bird's-eye view of the city of Olympia, East Olympia and Tumwater from 1879. In our holdings is also a bird's-eye-view of Walla Walla from 1876 (uncataloged G4284.W2 A3 1876)

AUGUSTUS KOCH (1840-?) born in Germany, literally canvassed the United States, creating 110 bird's-eye views in his career. Serving as a draftsman in the Civil War for the Union Army, Koch was notable for his accuracy. Special Collections holds the only view done of Washington by Koch, Birds-eye-view of Seattle and environs, King County, Wash., from 1891, which was produced in color.

HENRY WELLEGE (1850-1917) was one of the most prolific artists, drawing 152 views of cities throughout the United States. Born in Germany, Wellge immigrated to the U.S. and settled in Milwaukee. He embarking on his career in 1878. Many of Wellge's views of Washington were published by J.J. Stoner (who published a total of 7 views of Washington). Special Collections holds Wellge's Bird's eye view of the city of Seattle from 1884, as well as a bird's-eye-view of Pensacola, Florida.

Also in holdings

Of artistic and historic interest is the view of La Rica and Badger State Mines in the Cascade Mountains. This unique bird's-eye-view was hand-drawn in pencil and ink with some white painted highlights, on paper with a canvas backing, by Professor Edward Lange in 1904. Although this map is not of a city per se, this industrial complex shows a small township on the left, along with the mining buildings and features (including such shafts, tramway, cyanide plant, tailings reservoir and all) and in its corporate flavor is not different from those drawn by Gifford.

Special Collections also holds reproductions of bird's-eye-views drawn by Kuchel & Dresel of cities in Oregon: Salem, Oregon City, and Portland (all originally published in 1858), and the Authorized bird's-eye-view of the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition by William Caughey, from 1909. The view, with Frosh Pond in the center, depicts the human activity at the Exposition and features the A-Y-P-E emblem on the bottom left and the A-Y-P-E flag on the bottom right. The view was printed by Schmidt Lithography Co. Full color. (AYP462)

Digital resources for seeing these bird's-eye-views include: Early Washington Maps: A Digital Collection (a collaborative project between Washington State University Special Collections, University of Washington Special Collections, and Tacoma Public Library); and University of Washington Libraries Digital Collections.

[54] Reprinted in John William Reps, Views and Viewmakers of Urban America : Lithographs of Towns and Cities in the United States and Canada, Notes on the Artists and Publishers, and a Union Catalog of Their Work, 1825-1925 (Columbia : University of Missouri Press, 1984), 68. The Seattle Post Intelligencer, July 15, 1884, page 2, column 2. Quotation relates to E.S. Glover’s bird’s-eye view of Seattle.
[55] Adapted from John William Reps, Panoramas of Promise : Pacific Northwest Cities and Towns on Nineteenth-Century Lithographs (Pullman, Wash. : Washington State University Press, 1984), 19.
[56] Ibid., 9. Quotation originally appeared in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, July 15, 1884, page 2, column 2.
[57] Ibid. Quotation originally appeared in the Victoria Colonist, October 16, 1878, page 3.
[58] Some of the biographical information is adapted from Reps, Views and Viewmakers of Urban America : Lithographs of Towns and Cities in the United States and Canada, Notes on the Artists and Publishers, and a Union Catalog of Their Work."