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(CALIFORNIA.) "Smith, Hank G." Volume of pencil sketches titled "Californy." 15 pencil sketches, most of them signed "Hank G. Smith," in an oblong 8vo 1/2 calf sketchbook, tastefully rebacked; lacking flyleaf, otherwise minimal wear. California, circa 1875
These quite accomplished sketches depict an American Indian in bust; a wagon train view titled "Crossing the Sierra"; a frontiersman on a runaway horse cart; a wagon scene titled "On the Grade"; an Ohio trolley scene showing a car of the Youngstown Street Railroad Company (established 1873); a man sleeping under a tree with his fishing rod, titled "A Fisherman"; three owls, titled "Just Out"; and a variety of other unsigned nature views and small portraits. The paper bears the watermark "J Whatman 1875." The only record we find of an artist named Hank G. Smith was a frontier painter (generally assumed to be fictional) who appeared as a character in Clarence King's 1872 classic "Mountaineering in the Sierra Nevada." Smith was depicted as a garrulous primitive with delusions of grandeur, and King wrote: "It was a pleasure to sit there leaning against a vigorous old oak while Smith opened his heart to me, in easy confidence, and, with quick eye watching the passing mules, penciled in a little sketch-book a leg, a head, or such portions of body and harness as seemed to him useful for future works" (page 211). Perhaps these sketches were intended for a later edition of King's book. Perhaps an artist was inspired by King's work to take his character's name as a pseudonym. Or perhaps there really was a little-known artist named Hank G. Smith roaming the mountains of California.