Skip to content

California Hunting & Fishing Licenses – Part Four

Britton & Rey was not the only San Francisco lithographer and printer to put out stunning work in the middle teens. In fact, most – if not all – of the San Fransisco companies were at the top of their game during this time. There were two reasons for this. First, the devastating earthquake and fire had engendered a competitive environment involving local artisans, businessmen and craftsmen that allowed them to reach heights that may not have otherwise been possible. Every company was fighting for their very survival on a daily basis.

Second, for many lithographers and printers in particular, their prayers for salvation were answered in the form of the Panama – Pacific International Exposition (PPIE), held in San Francisco between February 20 and December 4 in 1915 (see Figure 1). The PPIE was one of the last great world’s fairs that were held at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th centuries. The purpose of the huge fair was ostensibly to celebrate the completion of the Panama Canal, but was widely seen on the part of locals as a way to showcase their recovery from the catastrophe (see Figure 2).



Figure 1. Street map of San Francisco showing the location of the Panama Pacific Exposition (upper left).



Figure 2. Lithographed advertising postcard for the PPIE . This postcard reflects the spirit of a great city in recovery.




Putting on a world’s fair at that time was quite different than today. There was no radio, television or internet – everything was in print. The competition for contracts to lithograph and print all of the advertisements, posters, postcards, poster stamps, souvenirs and tickets (see Figures 3 and 4) was an extraordinarily powerful force that, when added to the already competitive environment that existed in post 1906 San Francisco, produced the most beautiful and captivating hunting and fishing licenses in our hobby.



Figure 3. Lithographed cover for a brochure advertising information for the PPIE.



Figure 4. Lithographed poster stamp for the PPIE.



Mysell-Rollins Produces a Jewel

For the 1914-15 hunting license, the commissioners once again turned to Mysell-Rollins. Fresh off their bronze medal lithography performance in London, the company produced what is considered by many collectors (including myself) as their favorite hunting license in the series. It features an aesthetically pleasing scene, including a hunter showing open affection for his trusted dog and a second hunter shooting ducks flying overhead (see Figures 5 and 7).

The artwork is overlaid on a background consisting of a repeating pattern of union shields inscribed “STATE OF CALIFORNIA HUNTING LICENSE”. The California valley quail has been incorporated into the border at the upper right. For the first time, both sides of the license featured artwork. The reverse features an exquisite scene of a hunter putting out his campfire and was an early plea for the prevention of forest fires (see Figure 6).

The quality of the artwork is so good that it makes me wonder if Mysell-Rollins used steel die engraving (for which they were also well known) instead of chromolithography to produce this license.

The obverse of the striking license was printed in black and yellow-orange ink and the reverse all in black, on white paper. The paper itself is of exceptional quality and on December 12 of 1915, Mysell-Rollins applied to the U.S. Patent office for a trademark on their special writing and printing paper that they claimed “had been in continuous use since 1910.”



Figure 5. Obverse of 1914-15 California resident hunting license from the sheet format. Mysell-Rollins imprint is located at the lower left. A real stunner!



Figure 6. Reverse of the license above. Note the message on the tree at the upper left.



Figure 7. Obverse of 1914-15 California hunting license from the booklet format.



As previously discussed, the California hunting and fishing licenses were produced in batches which resulted in licenses whose artwork was printed in noticeably different shades of ink. Less frequently, collectors may run across a license whose serial number was printed in a different shade or color of ink (see Figure 8).



Figure 8. 1914-15 sheet format license with a dark red serial number. The normally bright red ink seems to have been mixed with black.



Compensation for Sale of Licenses

As the population of California grew (and licensing became a bigger operation) it became necessary for the the commissioners to better define not only who was eligible to sell licenses – but how they were to be compensated. Therefore, the state legislature passed The Issuance for Resale Act of 1915:


“Act 1692a – An act to regulate the issuance of licenses for resale to hunters and anglers.”  Approved May 20, 1915.


Section 1 pertains to who may issue hunting and fishing licenses:


“Licenses granting the privilege to take, catch, hunt or kill fishes, wild mammals or wild birds shall be issued and delivered, upon application in writing, by the county clerk of any of the counties of the state, or by the board of fish and game commissioners, or by the persons duly appointed and authorized by any such county clerk or the board of fish and game commissioners.”


Section 2 pertains to compensation for sale of licenses:


“For each license sold, registered and accounted for by any person, except by a fish and game commissioner or a deputy or assistant fish and game commissioner paid a salary in full for his services to the state, he shall be allowed compensation, for his own use, out of the fish and game preservation fund, ten per cent of the amount or amounts accounted for by him.”



The 1915 fishing and 1915-16 hunting licenses were once again lithographed by Union Litho. This was the only year that California granted the contract for both the fishing and hunting licenses to the same printer. I am not aware of the reason for this interesting fact.

The 1915 California anglers license is unique for the period in that it does not feature any artwork per se (no illustration). This is particularly striking following on the heels of Britton & Rey’s masterpiece. Perhaps they figured it was too hard of an act to follow. Instead, the company chose to showcase their talent for scrollwork.

For this reason, the license was not saved in as great a number as its contemporaries and is the scarcest of all of the early California resident hunting and fishing licenses and the most difficult to acquire. While not as “pretty” as the others, the license has grown on me over the years and I have now developed a great appreciation for what Union Litho was trying to get across – they indeed were incredibly talented artisans!

Resident licenses were lithographed in black, blue-green and red inks on white paper. The license was apparently made in small batches as a wide variety of shades of the blue green ink have been recorded (see Figures 9, 10 and 11). This is not to be confused with the entirely blue ink used on the alien angler’s licenses.



Figure 9. 1915 California resident anglers license produced using an intense shade of blue-green ink. Note the incredibly ornate scrollwork.



Figure 10. A second example using a less vivid shade of blue-green ink.



Figure 11. A third example using a light blue-green ink. This is the original color and is not faded.



Non Resident angler’s licenses were lithographed in black, orange-brown and red inks on white paper (see Figure 12) and alien licenses in black, blue and red inks on white paper (see Figure 13).



Figure 12. California non resident anglers license.



Figure 13. 1915 California alien anglers license produced using a blue ink with no green mixed in.



Also in 1915, Union Litho produced a gorgeous combination fish and game laws and license holder for the Kimball-Upson Company in Sacramento. At the time, Kimball-Upson advertised themselves as one of the largest sporting goods dealers in the world. Inside the back cover of the booklet, was a place provided to “paste your license here” (see Figure 14).



Figure 14. 1915-1917 California fish & game laws and license holder provided to customers by the Kimball-Upson Company. A beautiful example of chromolithography.



The Last Union Litho License

the 1915-16 hunting license is the last time California used Union Litho to produce their licenses. In total, Union Litho produced six different licenses, including the first paper and five out of the first seven paper hunting licenses. A big tip of the hat to Union Litho from collectors of fish and game stamps!


The Union Lithography Company:

1909-10 hunting licenses

1910-11 hunting licenses

1912-13 hunting licenses

1913-14 hunting licenses

1915 anglers licenses

1915-16 hunting licenses


Union litho would stay in business until they were purchased by and merged into the H.S. Crocker Company in 1922. H.S. Crocker was a competitor who produced the 1919 California fishing licenses.

The 1915-16 California resident hunting license features a buffalo head mounted on a plaque with rays of light shooting out from it in all directions (on the obverse). The reverse of the license shares the same fire prevention illustration as the 1914-15 hunting license produced by Mysell-Rollins. The obverse is printed in black and light brown ink and the reverse in black on white paper (see Figures 15, 16 and 17).



Figure 15. Obverse of 1915-16 California resident hunting license from the sheet format.



Figure 16. Reverse of the license above. Note that it shares the same illustration as the 1914-15 hunting license produced by Mysell-Rollins.



Figure 17. Obverse of 1915-16 California hunting license from the booklet format.



The final item that I would like to present today is an Abstract of California Fish and Game Laws for the years 1915-1917. The first paragraph contains some interesting information. It provides a (rather long) list of different animals that did not require a license to hunt:


“Predatory animals designated as moles, shrews, wolves, coyotes, foxes, ringtail cats, raccoons, martins, fishers, wolverines, weasels, minks, skunks, badgers, cougars, wild cats, lynx, rats, mice, gophers and ground squirrels” (see Figure 18).



1915-17 California Abstract of game laws

Figure 18. California abstract of fish and game laws for the years 1915-17.



So it is seems that without spending a lot of money to purchase a hunting license, there were numerous kinds of game that a sportsman could still legally hunt at this time.




Continue to part Part Five


Leave a Comment

Scroll To Top
Verified by ExactMetrics