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Guide to the Collection of John Bachmann Prints
 PR 353

New-York Historical Society
170 Central Park West
New York, NY 10024
Phone: (212) 873-3400

© 2011 New-York Historical Society

Collection processed by Marybeth Kavanagh

This finding aid was produced using the Archivists' Toolkit on February 23, 2018 using Describing Archives: A Content Standard

Biographical/Historical Note

John Bachmann (1814–1896) was a German-speaking Swiss printmaker and artist best known for his bird's-eye views, especially of New York City. Bachmann was a journeyman lithographer in Switzerland and Paris until 1847. His first known American print appeared in 1849; it is a view from an imagined point above Union Square in New York, looking south toward the Battery. This print is credited to "C. Bachman" as artist and "J. Bachmann" as publisher; his name appears on subsequent prints as both Bachman and Bachmann.

In 1850-1851, he published a series of bird's-eye views of American cities, including Boston, New York, Philadelphia, New Orleans and Washington, D.C. Bachmann married in about 1852, and had four children, the eldest of whom became a lithographer. Around 1860, the family moved to Hoboken NJ, and in 1864 settled in Jersey City Heights, NJ. Bachmann continued producing prints, the majority of which were views of New York and Central Park, until about 1885. Bachmann's prints were among the first major bird's eye views, as opposed to panoramic views, in the United States. Although they appear to be captured from above, bird's eye views were actually mathematically compiled on a grid using hundreds of sketches done on the ground. Bachmann's skillful use of the bird's-eye view helped popularize it as a way of portraying modern urban geography, and launched a new genre of American printmaking.

Sources: Case, Nat. "John Bachmann and the American Bird's Eye View Print", Imprint, Vol. 33, Number II, Autumn 2008, pp.19-35.

Reps, John W. Views and Viewmakers of Urban America. (Columbia, MO: University of Missouri Press, 1984.)