Carleton Watkins                                A Delicate Balance


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Let us now revisit the hypothesis proposed in Chapter Ten regarding how numbers could have been assigned by Vance to 131 of the 300 daguerreotypes before he handed the manuscript of the “Catalog” to his New York printer, Baker, Godwin and Company, no later than the first week of October,1851.[13]  To account for the peculiar organization of the “Catalog” we have proposed in Chapter Ten a scenario whereby the daguerreotypes as they were created were placed for safe keeping in standard slotted wooden boxes [Fig. 3] with each box filled one-by-one from back to front (or vice versa).  However, when Vance prepared his “Catalog” the plates were removed from the box from front to back (or vice versa) such that the “Catalog” numbers were assigned in reverse chronological order. The daguerreotypes made earliest in the sequence (first half of 1850) were numbered higher than the ones made in mid-1851 that bear lower Vance “Catalog” numbers (hereafter referred to as “R.V.”).  The highest numbers are views made in Valparaíso (R.V.  130, 131) before departing for California, while the lowest numbers refer to scenes in San Francisco made between the devastating San Francisco fires of May 3 (R.V. 2-4, 6-7) and June 27, 1851 (R.V. 8).  The following table proceeds numerically in descending order from views made in Valparaíso to those made in Sacramento, Marysville and their environs (R.V . 129 to 117).[14]  When the inventory is arranged in reverse numerical order as shown in the following table we believe the approximate chronological sequence of the first thirty-five or so views is revealed:


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[13] A notice in the New-York Daily Times establishes the show installation was complete by October 7, 1851.

[14] The fact that six views made en route north are numbered R.V. 103-108 can be explained by the possibility they were relocated for viewing after arriving in California because of the exotic subjects and not returned to their exact original sequence of creation.