“Bird's Eye view of Mayfield, Leland Stanford, Jr. University and Palo Alto, the University Town”
San Francisco: Carnall, Fitzhugh, Hopkins Co., 1888-1889
Sheet size: 23 ¾” x 35 ¾”; Framed size: 28 ¼” x 41”
$1,800 framed to full museum specifications
Leland Stanford was born in Watervliet, New York in 1824. Stanford studied law in New York and joined a law office in Albany in 1845. He later married and set up a law practice in Wisconsin. After losing much of his property to a fire in 1852, Stanford moved west to California during the great gold rush. He briefly operated a general store for miners in Placer County, but went on to move to San Francisco and invest in the Central Pacific Railroad, where he would make his fortune.
Stanford was a popular figure in both the business and politics of the new state of California. In 1861 Stanford, a member of the Republican Party, was elected the governor of California. In 1868, he helped form the Pacific Union Express Company, which became Wells Fargo and Company in 1870 (Stanford would later become director of Well's Fargo). Stanford also acquired control of the Southern Pacific Railroad in 1868. In 1872, Leland Stanford had taken a position on a popularlydebated question of the day: whether all four of a horse's hooves left the ground at the same time during a gallop. Stanford sided with this assertion that they did, called “unsupported transit,” and decided to find scientific proof to back his theory. Stanford hired Muybridge to settle the issue. To prove Stanford's claim, Muybridge developed a scheme for instantaneous motion picture capture along with the chief engineer for the Southern Pacific Railroad, John D. Isaacs. In 1878, Muybridge successfully photographed a horse in fast motion to prove Stanford's claim using a series of 24 cameras. This series of photographs, taken at what is now Stanford University, is now called The Horse in Motion, and is one of the most popular images in history.
In 1876, Stanford purchased 650 acres of Rancho San Francisquito for a country home and began the development of his famous Palo Alto Stock Farm. He later bought adjoining properties totaling more than 8,000 acres. The little town that was beginning to emerge near the land took the name Palo Alto (tall tree) after a giant California redwood on the bank of San Francisquito Creek. The tree still exists today and is now Stanford University’s symbol and centerpiece of its official seal.
Stanford and his wife Jane had one son, Leland Stanford, Jr., who died of typhoid fever as a teenager in 1884 when the family was traveling in Italy. Leland Jr. was just 15.Within weeks of his death, the Stanfords decided that, because they no longer could do anything for their own child, “the children of California shall be our children.” They quickly set about to find a lasting way to memorialize their beloved son, and ultimately decided to establish Stanford University at their property in Palo Alto. From the outset they made some untraditional choices: the university would be coeducational, in a time when most were all-male; non-denominational, when most were associated with a religious organization; and avowedly practical, producing “cultured and useful citizens.”
On October 1, 1891, Stanford University opened its doors after six years of planning and building. The first student body consisted of 555 men and women, and the original faculty of 15 was expanded to 49 for the second year. The Stanfords engaged Frederick Law Olmsted, the famed landscape architect who created New York’s Central Park, to design the physical plan for the university. The collaboration was contentious, but finally resulted in an organization of quadrangles on an east-west axis.
Stanford later served in the United States Senate for the state of California from 1885 until his death in 1893. This view and advertisement for the “last auction sale” of the building lots in Palo Alto, and lots adjacent to the University, is a fascinating glimpse of Palo Alto and Stanford University. The large central bird’s eye view shows the emerging towns of Palo Alto and Mayfield (Mayfield would later become part of Palo Alto) with the newly built university buildings to the right. There is a large detailed view, which shows the university, with the Main Quad and Memorial Church in the center; there is also a detailed inset of the Memorial Church (Memorial Chapel) at the top. Along the sides are inset views of various buildings and residences of importance, including the Palo Alto Lumber Yard and the residence of Edward Barron, a beautiful estate now known as the “Barron Park” neighborhood. The accompanying historical document, once on the reverse side of the bird’s eye view, advertises the sale of lots in Palo Alto and includes several maps of Palo Alto and the San Francisco Bay Area.
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