View of New York and Environs
Bird's Eye View by John Bachmann, 1865

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Bird's Eye View of New York and Environs
detail
Bachman View Bachman View Bachman View
John Bachmann (artist, lithographer)
Bird's Eye View of New York and Environs
Kimmel & Forster, New York: 1865
Hand-colored lithograph
12 x 17.5 inches, image
15.75 x 21.25 inches, overall
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John Bachmann's high panoramic view of New York City, taken from the tip of Manhattan at the end of the Civil War, gives an imposing image of the island. The flanking Hudson and East Rivers are busy with a variety of sailing vessels and steamships. Busy ports in New Jersey and Brooklyn flank lower Manhattan, while the distant areas of the metropolitan area are farm lands or undeveloped. Numerous buildings in lower Manhattan are shown in detail. Some current landmarks, such as the Brooklyn Bridge, were yet to be constructed.

The period from after the Civil War to about 1910 was the heyday of promotional bird’s-eye views of American towns. Historians estimate that some 4,500 views were produced nationwide during this period. In an era before aviation, the creation of these panoramas was an act of imagination, combining information from city maps, ground-level sketches of buildings and the rules of Renaissance perspective into a convincing aerial view. Some of these views were commissioned to promote settlement and development of towns, especially as part of the Westward Expansion of the United States, but they were also purchased by residents as emblems of civic pride. Hand-drawn views were largely supplanted by aerial photographs in the 20th century.

John Bachmann, a German immigrant to the United States, was an artist and lithographer, credited with coining the term bird's-eye view, and was a prolific and prominent creator of such views. His first such panoramas were of Civil War battle areas in 1861. Bachmann produced a variety of bird’s-eye views of New York City from different vantage points. Bachmann also produced a larger panorama, View of New-York and Vicinity, published by Herman Bencke.

Christopher Kimmel and Thomas Forster, the publishers, were in business from 1865 to 1871.

References:

"Commercial Mapping." Civil War Maps. http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/gmdhtml/cwmhtml/cwmcm.html (6 May 2002).

Deák, Gloria Gilda. Picturing America. Princeton University Press: 1989. See Item 799 (Bird's-eye View of Washington D.C. published by Kimmel and Forster in 1865) and Item 807 (Bachman larger view of New York City, 1866).

"MAP #: 361B5." Maryland State Archives. 23 May 1996. http://www.mdarchives.state.md.us/msa/speccol/1399/reports/html/361b5.html (6 May 2002).

Peters, Harry T. America on Stone. U.S.: Doubleday, Doran, 1931. p. 92.

Wise, Donald A. “Bird’s-Eye Views of Oklahoma Towns.” Originally published in The Chronicles of Oklahoma, vol. 67, no. 3 (Fall 1989): 228-247.Online Compilation of Historical Documents by Don Wise. 4 June 1998. http://home.earthlink.net/~dawise/view.htm (7 December 2004).