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Exquisite Steel-Engravings of San Francisco

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497.     [SAN FRANCISCO]. HESS, Frederick. [Central vignette, panoramic view] San Francisco. [surrounded by twelve vignettes of landmarks, clockwise from top left] Merchant’s Exchange; Montgomery Street; Kearny Street; Masonic Temple. Bank of California; S.F. Savings Union Building; Cal. S.S.N. Co’s Wharf; Bush Street; California Street; Nuceleus [sic] Hotel; Fireman’s Fund Ins Building; Lincoln School [below neat line at right] Frederick Hess, Publisher, San Francisco | Orders for engraving on steel promptly executed. San Francisco, n.d. [Baird suggests end of 1860s based on architecture]. Steel-engraved print in letter sheet format, folded (as issued), to 4 pp., on thin wove paper, uncolored; overall sheet: 30.8 x 49.7 cm; neat line to neat line (image): 14.9 x 22.4 cm. Creased at centerfold, as issued, otherwise, very fine.

     These vignettes are little jewels of history that reveal a great deal and deserve further study. It is astonishing to look at the engravings under magnification. If Hess was the engraver, he certainly was brilliant, accomplished, and very patient. Our firm handled a much larger, expanded version of a similarly designed print by Hess. See Auction 20, Lot 112.

     Baird, California Pictorial Letter Sheets 232 (noting this was one of the last of the letter sheets, and remarking on letter sheets in general): “Manifestly, the pictorial letter sheet of California was an extraordinary phenomenon-unparalleled in development anywhere else in the United States.” Gary Kurutz in the introduction to Henry H. Clifford’s letter sheet catalogue remarks: “The California pictorial letter sheet provides the best visual chronicle of the California Gold Rush and the golden decades of the 1850s and 1860s. Imprinted on sheets of writing paper were views of rough-and-ready mining camps, Argonauts panning for gold in the boiling Sierra foothill sun, pioneers pushing their way across the continent, terrifying city fires, vigilance committees marching down San Francisco streets, and California’s spectacular natural wonders. Because of this union of pictures with stationery, historians call the letter sheet the forerunner of the modern picture postcard…. Artists delineated the mushrooming growth of Queen Calafia’s cities, towns, and mining camps. Together these form a remarkable visualization of urban development not found elsewhere in the country.”


Sold. Hammer: $850.00; Price Realized: $1,020.00

Auction 22 Abstracts

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