Item #5968 San Francisco-California. F. HESS.
A Finely Detailed Portrayal of Early San Francisco
San Francisco.
[San Francisco? 1874]

San Francisco-California.

10 ¼ x 24 ¼ inches (26 x 61.5 cm). Fine hand color; marginal mends and reinforcements at folds, else excellent.

A wonderfully detailed, panoramic view of the city seen from Nob Hill, with the ship-filled bay in the far background. Surrounding the primary view are 22 finely engraved vignettes depicting notable structures, lively streetscapes, and even a chaotic scene on a wharf featuring a brawl. The work overall provides a vital visual record of pre-earthquake San Francisco. It reveals that by the 1870’s the city had already become a remarkably sophisticated place with many large, ornate buildings and improved streets. The vignettes depict banks, churches, and some surprisingly large and elaborate hotels. One shows the original Cliff House, built in 1863, set on its dramatic perch above the bay. An interesting feature appearing in some of the vignettes are horse drawn trolley cars riding rails; these were precursors to the city’s famed cable cars. It is, in fact, this kind of quotidian detail, conveying a vivid sense of life as lived at the time, which sets this work apart from most other early views. In fact, when studied under magnification, the vignettes assume a vibrant life of their own that is quite uncanny.

Central panoramic view: San Francisco (engraving and title).

Vignettes of landmarks (clockwise from top left, with title):

Nevada Block. 
Calvary Church. 
Sansome Street. 
Palace Hotel. 
City Hall. 
Grand Hotel. 
London & S. Fr. Bank. 
S. Mary’s Cathedral. 
Cliff House.
Lick Hotel.
The White House. 
Occidental Hotel. 
Corner Geary and Kearny Street. 
Corner First and Market Street.
California Street. 
P.M.S.S. Co’s Wharf - Off for China and Japan.
Montgomery Street.
Mercantile Library - Bush Street.
California Street. Corner Sansome.
Oriental Block.
Murphy, Grant & Co’s Building - Sansome Street.
Russ House - Montgomery Street.

The map’s publisher was Frederick Hess, who was at the time a publisher and editor of German language newspapers in San Francisco. In 1858, he purchased the California Demokrat, the oldest daily on the Pacific coast.

Dorothy Sloan's Auction catalog identified at least two other related prints of San Francisco by Hess: (1) a much smaller version in letter sheet format with 12 views, undated; and (2) a larger view, almost identical to the present version, except on thin paper, uncolored, two of the views changed in sequenece, and a later copyright of 1875 in copyright notice. In 2007, Dorothy Sloan sold a copy of the print for $5,875.

The present version appeared in San Francisco Municipal Reports for the Fiscal Year 1875-76 (1876). 
Reps (see reference below) located just two examples of the view—in the Library of Congress and the Oakland Museum.

*Reps, J. W. Views and Viewmakers of Urban America, no. 322; Dorothy Sloan Auction 22: 573 and Dorothy Sloan Auction 20: 112.

Price: $2,850.00

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