By: Millard Sheets
Date of Original: 1950 (circa) San Francisco
Original Size: 14.75 x 21.25 inches (37.5 cm x 54 cm)
At the time Millard Sheets was commissioned to do this poster he was known as one of America’s most versatile and distinguished painters. Although Sheets was best known for his water colors, he was talented in myriad techniques and approaches, from major mural commissions, to illustrations for magazines. He worked as a technical advisor on motion pictures, and taught and lectured at colleges and universities.
This particular poster is filled with colorful and lively representations of themes and events which took place over the centuries in the area which was eventually to become the state of California. Its first inhabitants, indigenous peoples are represented in a ceremonial dance circling round the first white men who landed there in 1542, the Spaniards. An early Spanish explorer is seen planting a flag and claiming the soil for Spain. Another is seen lifting a cross before one of the many missions later founded by them. Another historical allusion is the Russian Orthodox Church which was part of the original Fort Ross. Two Orthodox priests carrying a cross are represented nearby. Russia tried for some time to establish itself in the area, but ultimately failed in the mid-nineteenth century.
The Pacific is dotted with ships, both exploratory and trade ships which followed soon behind the first explorers. The otter population of northern California was rapidly decimated by the various hunters whose countries had sent them on perilous missions in the hope of capturing the market. Other ships came later, carrying Americans from the other side of the continent, people who married Spaniards and Mexicans, starting cultural traditions at the start of what was to become one of the greatest mass settlements in history.
Flying over Fort Sonoma is the Bear Flag of the California Republic, which was hoisted in 1846, signaling the end of foreign rule and the beginning of California’s role as part of America. Soon to follow would be the discovery of gold, leading to the gold rush which brought gold seekers from every continent to seek their fortune. Other industries represented include agriculture, coal, forestry and wineries. California was granted statehood just two years following the start of the gold rush.
This pictorial map is one of a pair commissioned by the American Trust company San Francisco.