Friday, May 1, 2009
Bird's Eye View of the City of Buffalo, N.Y.
I mention Charles Magnus' illustration, "Bird's Eye View of the City of Buffalo, N.Y.," several times in American Colossus. The most important references occur on pages 235-236, in the context of a discussion of the (in)visibility of Buffalo's grain elevators to the city's residents, partisans, and boosters. Prior to 1860, in similar illustrations by J.W. Hill (1853) and J.H. Cohen (1859), grain elevators -- despite their number, great size, and unusual appearance -- were strangely absent from representations of the city in which they were invented, back in 1843.
Things began to change in the early 1860s, during the Civil War, when Buffalo's elevators became "newsworthy" as the result of being targeted by arsonists (commandos from the Confederacy, torches hired by the Western Elevating Association, or anti-American rebels from Canada). By 1863, when Magnus' "Bird's Eye View of the City of Buffalo, N.Y." was published, the elevators were "suddenly" as visible as they should have been, that is to say, as they were all along.
If we "zoom" into certain sections of this remarkable image/map, which was originally photographed and placed on-line by Chuck LaChiusa, we can see many significant grain elevators.
In the detail provided below, we can see the Erie Basin (built in 1854) and the Exchange (1863) elevators.
Below, the Cutter & Austin (date unknown), the C.W. Evans (original 1847, rebuilt 1863) and the Reed (original 1847, rebuilt 1862). Note: a part of the Bennett (built 1863) appears at the middle left.
Below, the Watson (1863) and an unnamed transfer tower, possibly the Excelsior (1862).
Below, the Watson, the Excelsior(?), the Corn Dock (date unknown), and the Main St. (1848).
Below, the Sturges (1863) and the Marine (1848).
Below, in the foreground (south side of the Buffalo River): the Marine and two unnamed elevators, probably the Richmond (1863) and the Hazard (date unknown). In the middle (north side of the Buffalo River), moving from left to right: the Seymour & Wells (1855), the Wadsworth (1846), and the Sternberg "A" and "B" elevators (original 1847, rebuilt 1862).
Below, in the foreground (south side of the Buffalo River): the Evans (date unknown). In the middle (north side of the Buffalo River), moving from left to right: the Sternberg "A" and "B," and the City (original 1859, rebuilt 1863).