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California Hunting & Fishing Licenses – Part Three

During the years, 1911, 1912 and 1913, the Board of Fish and Game Commissioners oversaw the production of over 35 million trout at California fish hatcheries and directed the distribution of these trout to stock streams around the state. The commissioners “placed fish in streams previously barren, and kept up and even increased the stock in other streams more favored by nature.”

Prior to the year 1911, the state directly appropriated funds to operate this massive program. Starting in 1911, the state stopped making direct appropriations as it was thought that the hatching and distribution of fish could be funded primarily from the revenue derived from the sale of licenses to hunters (some funds were also allocated from the sale of licenses to commercial fishermen).


A Return to Union Litho

In 1912 and 1913, California once again contracted with Union Litho to produce their hunting licenses. The 1912-13 California resident hunting license features a pair of Ring-Necked pheasants in tall grasses and is lithographed in green and brown ink on white paper. For the first time, the artwork was placed on the reverse of the license and was signed. The placement was likely a requirement by the artist to prevent his art from being obscured by the licensee information. Louis Fuertes was a prominent ornithological painter whose work has been compared to Audubon (see Figures 1, 2 and 3).



Figure 1. Obverse of 1912-13 California hunting license from the sheet format. The Union Litho imprint is located at the lower left.



Figure 2. Reverse of the license above with the artwork. Signed and dated at the lower right by the famous artist, Louis Agassiz Fuertes.



Figure 3. 1912-13 California hunting license from the booklet format. Note the straight edge appears to be at the left instead of the right as you are looking at the reverse. Serial number 158450 is printed on the obverse.



The commissioners must have received positive feedback concerning Fuerte’s artwork, for they chose to use it again on the cover of a promotional booklet in 1926. Interestingly, the pheasants have been repositioned at the bottom (see Figure 4).  The interior of the booklet contains the statement:


“Since 1913 the Fish and Game Commission has been supported wholly and entirely by moneys derived from the sale of licenses and fines… NOT ONE CENT has been paid by the Tax Payer”.



Figure 4. Promotional booklet distributed by the California Board of Fish and Game Commissioners in 1926. Note the pair of pheasants at the bottom have been repositioned.



I acquired the license below with an Abstract of Fish and Game laws for the years 1911-1913. Both have matching overprints indicating “Compliments of N. W. Collins, County Clerk” in red ink. The Abstract contains a list of all the various fish and game licenses issued by California for these years (see Figures 4 and 6).



Figure 5. Reverse of sheet type license with overprint in red ink. Very neatly applied, however, Fuertes would probably not have approved.



Figure 6. Abstract of Fish and Game Laws for 1911-1913 with matching overprint.



The 1913-14 California resident hunting license features a group of California Mountain Sheep and is lithographed in blue and brown ink on white paper. Although the Union Litho imprint is absent, the license is very similar to that of the year before and almost certainly their work. Once again, the artwork was placed on the reverse of the license but it was not signed. Other than that, there is nothing remarkable about the license and it is not especially popular with collectors (see Figures 7 and 8).



Figure 7. Obverse of 1913-14 California resident hunting license from the sheet format. The Union Litho imprint is absent.



Figure 8. Reverse of the license above. Unlike the year before, the artwork is not signed.



Fishing Licenses Issued

As it turns out, revenue from the sale of hunting licenses (and those to commercial fishermen) was “entirely inadequate” to fund both hunting related and fishing related conservation programs. Among other things, the commissioners desired to build and operate both new game refuges and fish hatcheries on a regular – if not annual – basis. Further, it was decided that it was not fair for hunters to pay for fishing programs, many of which never fished. Thus, The Fishing License Act of 1913:


“Act 1692 – An act to regulate and license the taking and catching of game fishes and to define game fish and to provide revenue therefrom, for fish preservation and restoration. ” Approved June 16, 1913.


The act stated that every person over the age of 18 must obtain a license before fishing in the State of California. Licenses were to be issued as follows:


“First – To any citizen of the United States, over the age of eighteen years, who is a bona fide resident of California, upon the payment of one dollar; provided that licenses shall be issued to veterans of the Civil War free of charge.

Second – To any citizen of the United States, over the age of eighteen years, not a bona fide resident of California, upon payment of three dollars.

Third – To any person, not a citizen of the United States and over the age of eighteen years, upon the payment of three dollars.”


Starting in 1914, the commissioners began to issue a new publication (quarterly), titled CALIFORNIA FISH AND GAME (see Figure 9). The publication includes some interesting insights:


“The new [fishing] licenses are handled in the same manner as the hunting licenses… They may always be obtained at the the offices of the county clerks and, in most counties, of deputy county clerks located in each town. In most of the large towns they will be found on sale in gun and hardware stores. They may also be had at the offices of the Fish and Game Commission in Sacramento, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Fresno, while people in out of the way districts will have every opportunity to obtain them from the deputy commissioners, usually known as game wardens.”


Somewhere in this paragraph is a clue as to where the booklet type licenses originated. As game wardens would often be out and about and also service remote areas, it makes sense that a smaller, more convenient format may have been devised for them to make licensing easier to handle. A second paragraph is of interest:


“Incidentally, the first issue of the new [fishing] license is regarded as being the most artistic license of the kind ever issued. It bears on the face a representation (lithograph) of a familiar fishing scene reproduced from a photograph, while on the back is given a synopsis of the laws relating to game fishes. This plan of giving an outline of the laws on the license seems to be new in the United States, but has been used in Germany for a great many years. It is not only convenient, but should guarantee that every person fishing will have with him at all times complete information with regard to the fishing laws.”


This indicates that the commissioners were quite proud of the fact that they selected the appropriate company to lithograph the first California fishing license – and rightly so.



Figure 9. California Fish and Game, Volume 1; Number 1.



Britton & Rey Lithographers

Britton & Rey were the leading lithographic printers in San Francisco (and likely the western United States) during the second half of the 19th century. They published a large number of views of California, printed both in large format and as postcards and contracted for a great deal of commercial work that included maps, stationary and stock certificates. They earned their reputation as “the western Currier & Ives.”

Joseph Britton (1825 – 1901) was born in Yorkshire, England. He immigrated to the United states in 1835 and by 1847 was working as a lithographer in New York. In 1849 he joined the Gold Rush and traveled to California to seek his fortune in gold mining. When that didn’t pan out (couldn’t resist), he moved to San Francisco in 1851.

Jacques Joseph Rey (1820-1892) was born in Bouxwiller, Alsace. He studied art and lithography in France before joining the Gold Rush via Panama in 1852. He soon moved to san Francisco and established a lithography business, partnering with Joseph Britton.

Rey married Britton’s sister and their son, Valentine J.A. Rey, took over running the company after his father’s death in 1892 and Britton’s retirement. Britton & Rey was without peer until the earthquake and fire in 1906. Subsequently, they made a valiant effort to pick up the pieces and continued to put out quality work until what remained of Britton & Rey was sold another San Francisco printer, A. Carlisle and Company, in 1916 (see Figure 10).




Figure 10. Advertisement for Britton & Rey put out following the 1906 earthquake and fire. The top central motif depicts a symbol of California (the golden bear) standing over San Francisco after the earthquake and fire – wounded but defiant and determined to rebuild and surpass past glory. Sadly, for Britton & Rey this was not to be the case.



Ironically, even though Britton & Rey was only a shell of it’s former self after the fire, they not only continued to excel at their craft – but were responsible for producing two of the most iconic images in the collecting world, one in 1913 and one in 1914.

in 1913, Britton & Rey was selected by the Hawaii Promotion Committee and the Honolulu Star Bulletin to take artwork by an unknown German artist and produce it into posters, postcards, poster stamps and brochures to promote the 4th Annual Mid Pacific Carnival and 8th Annual Floral Parade. Held at Aala Park in Honolulu, it was a grand celebration featuring a huge parade, hula dancers, circuses and side shows and copious amounts of island food.

The Mid Pacific Carnival was held for many years and related artifacts are among the most sought after in the hobby of Hawaiiana. For 1913, Britton & Rey lithographed the German artist’s rendering of Duke Kahanamoku surfing with “HAWAII” emblazoned in large red block letters above his head (see Figure 11). Today, this is arguably the most iconic image in all of Hawaiiana.



Figure 11. Postcard advertising the 1913 Mid Pacific Carnival, held in Honolulu, Hawaii. The image is a representation of the legendary swimmer and surfer Duke Kahanamoku.



For the first California fishing license in 1914, Britton & Rey once again knocked it out of the park, with a multicolor lithograph of two fishermen working together alongside a stream to land a fish. Incorporated into the ornate border are to two flies at the top center. The Britton & Rey imprint is located at the bottom center and the synopsis of California fishing laws is printed on the reverse (see Figures 12-15). The license is always in great demand and considered by many to be the ultimate in fish and game collectibles.



Figure 12. Britton & Rey’s masterpiece – the 1914 California resident anglers license. This license is from the sheet format. The Britton & Rey imprint is at the bottom center.



Figure 13. Reverse of license above showing the synopsis of California sporting fishing laws.



Figure 14. Rare 1914 California resident anglers license from a booklet. Note this license was issued to a fisherman in the tiny hamlet of Pine Flat.



Figure 15. The unique 1914 California alien anglers license, from the sheet format.



It is interesting that the resident booklet type license above was issued to a fisherman in Pine Flat. Pine Flat, located in Sonoma County, is very remote. Near the top of the rugged Mayacamas Mountain Range that straddles, Sonoma, Lake and Napa counties, it is (in the present day) over an hour’s drive from Santa Rosa and maybe 45 minutes from the closest town, Healdsburg.

For a brief period of time in the 1870s it was a boom town, fueled by the short-lived California Quicksilver Rush that caused it to become the fastest growing town in California – going from 0 to 4,000 in the blink of an eye. However, by 1880 is went bust and by the time this license was issued in 1914, it was largely a ghost town inhabited by only a handful of people.

I bring this up because it would seem to lend credence to the idea that the booklet type licenses may have been issued by game wardens who would have been expected to service such outlying areas.




Continue to part Part Four


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