Sketches in North America and the Oregon Territory
A magnificent series of hand-colored lithographs of the Pacific Northwest. This is a beautiful record of the northwestern territories during the first years of colonization. This work owes its existence to an undercover expedition which was prompted by a crucial border dispute between the United States and Britain: "Captain Warre and Lieutenant [Mervin] Vavasour of the Royal Engineers were agents of the British government who were sent out to Oregon at the height of the controversy between the United States and Great Britain over the sovereignty of that territory.
The two officers crossed Canada by the Hudson's Bay Company's route as far as the Rockies, where they turned south to cross the mountains, probably through Crow's Nest Pass, to Kootenai Lake. They reached Fort Vancouver on August 25, 1845, and visited the Willamette Valley, the mouth of the Columbia River, Puget Sound and Vancouver Island before returning to England, where they found that the territorial dispute had been settled during their absence".
During the expedition the officers, disguised as young men of leisure visiting the west "for the pleasure of field sports and scientific pursuit," had been assigned to assess American military capabilities in the Oregon territory. Warre, who had no mean talents as a painter, made over eighty watercolor drawings, many of which included subjects of military importance.
When the agents' espionage reports turned out to be superfluous, he decided to publish a selection of his drawings as a book of views. The Sketches were issued two years after the expedition, with an accompanying narrative in which Warre avoids any mention of the true nature of his journey or even the name of his partner, designated as "Lieutenant V----".
Copies were issued with the plates either uncolored or colored. The subjects include dramatic vistas of the Rocky Mountains, Puget Sound, the Columbia River, and Mount Hood, most peopled with small figures of Native Americans in the foreground. A few scenes, such as the view of Fort Vancouver, depicted on the same plate with the scene of an "Indian tomb" (a canoe about to be launched on its final voyage), delicately evoke the poignancy of colonization. In an unusually laudatory note, Howes called these "the only western color-plates comparable in beauty to those by Bodmer accompanying Maximilian's Travels".
Abbey, Travel 656; Graff 4543; Howes W-114 ('the only western color-plates comparable in beauty to those by Bodmer'); Sabin 101455; Smith 10727; Wagner-Camp-Becker 157.
List of Images
1. Front Cover
2. Title Page
3. Fort Carry
4. Falls of the Kamanis Taquoir River
5. Buffalo Hunting on the W. Prairies
6. Forcing a Passage Through the Burning Prairie
7. Distant View of the Rocky Mountains
8. The Rocky Mountains
9. Source of the Columbia River
10. Fort Vancouver
11. Indian Tomb
12. Mount Baker
13. Cape Disappointmen
14. Valley of the Willamette River
15. The American Village
16. Fort George, formerly Astoria
17. McGillivray or Kootoonai River
18. Les Dalles, Columbia River
19. Mound Hood from Les Dalles
20. Mound Hood
21. Fall of the Peloos River
22. The Rocky Mountains From the Columbia River Looking N.W.
23. Back Cover