Vintage California images golden in PBA auction Dec. 17

Vintage California images

San Francisco’s Sutro Baths, large color lithograph, circa 1896, printed in four sheets joined together on modern linen backing, 80¼ x 82in including margins. Estimate: $5,000-$8,000. PBA image

BERKELEY, Calif. – PBA Galleries will present an auction of Americana – Travel & Exploration – World History – Cartography on Thursday, Dec. 17. Offerings include 380 lots of rare and varied material, an eclectic gathering of historical and cultural interest, with much on California and the western portions of the United States, but ranging beyond to the Eastern Seaboard, up to Canada, across the seas and around the globe. Included are printed books from four centuries, maps dating back to the 16th century, photography from its infancy through the 20th century and an abundance of scarce ephemera. Bid absentee or live online through LiveAuctioneers.

Competitive bidding is expected for one of the sale’s headline lots, a mammoth plate albumen photograph by Carleton E. Watkins of the Cliff House, San Francisco. The photograph looks down from the dunes, Seal Rocks behind, the vast Pacific Ocean beyond, Watkins’ “photo wagon” parked in front (est. $10,000-$15,000).

Vintage California images

Carleton E. Watkins, ‘Cliff House, San Francisco,’ circa 1871-1875, mammoth plate albumen photograph, 15½ x 21¾ in, period mount. Estimate: $10,000-$15,000.

Other views of San Francisco are represented in a rare real estate brochure for Richmond, California, 1911, with a striking, full-color “Aeroplane View” looking across the bay toward San Francisco and the Golden Gate (est. $1,500-$2,500). The city also appears in a brilliant large color lithograph of the interior of the Sutro Baths on the western shore of San Francisco, measuring nearly 7 feet square, the colors bright and unfaded (est. $5,000-$8,000).

Vintage California images

California real estate brochure with large “Aeroplane View of Richmond and Vicinity,” circa 1911, 10½ x 25½in, folding to 10½ x 4½in. Estimate: $1,500-$2,500. PBA image

 Other Americana in the sale spans the continent: New Hampshire is represented by a collection of 15 daguerreotypes and ambrotypes of members of the Hill family of Greenland, N.H., including various relatives and friends, and a view of the family farmhouse, circa 1848-1855 (est. $3,000-$5,000). Farther south, Texas; Ein Handbuch für deutsche Auswanderer, 1845, a rare handbook for German immigrants was published the year before Texas was absorbed into the United States (est. $8,000-$12,000).

In world history, the auction block will see an engraved chart of a portion of the Swedish coast and points inland by Lucas Jansz Waghenaer, circa 1585, with engraved vignettes of sailing ships, sea monsters, farms, villages and other features (est. $1,500-$2,500). Books feature in the sale, as well: The Gold Mines of Midian, by Richard F. Burton, the second edition, a presentation copy inscribed by the author and signed by him using his Arabic alias (est. $1,500-$2,500).

Other highlights include a sheet signed by the seven Mercury astronauts, being the second page of an autograph letter signed by John Glenn, “Mercury Astronaut,” dated Sept. 29, 1959, with envelope hand-addressed by Glenn (est. $5,000-$8,000). The Confederate States of America, Register of Vessels, April 7, 1862, is a rare document from the Confederacy, listing the 54-ton schooner Blanchette, John F. Gilbert the Master (est. $3,000-$5,000).

Vintage California images

Sheet signed by the seven Mercury astronauts, the second page of a letter signed by John Glenn, with envelope hand-addressed by Glenn, Sept. 29, 1959. Estimate: $5,000-$8,000. PBA image

PBA continues to safeguard the health of employees and clients by remaining closed to the public. PBA will limit live auction participation to online or phone bidding. For more information about upcoming sales or to schedule a Zoom preview or phone bidding for a future auction, please contact the galleries at 415-989-2665 or


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