Nine-Foot, Panoramic 360-Degree View of San Francisco in 1862
From the Top of Russian Hill

“One of the rarest and most important of items relating to San Francisco”

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517. [SAN FRANCISCO]. GIFFORD, C[harles] B. (artist & lithographer), L[ouis] Nagel (printer), A[nthony] Rosenfeld (publisher) & Henry G. Langley (broadside text) [Panoramic view of San Francisco, title on each of five double-sheet sections of panorama, left to right]:

[Sheet 1] San Francisco, 1862. | From Russian Hill. Sect. 1. Looking West. | Published by A. Rosenfeld, S.F. 38 x 52 cm.

[Sheet 2] San Francisco, 1862. | From Russian Hill. Section 2. Looking North. | Published by A. Rosenfeld, S.F. 38 x 54.7 cm.

[Sheet 3] San Francisco, 1862. | From Russian Hill. Section 3. Looking East. | Published by A. Rosenfeld, S.F. 38 x 55 cm.

[Sheet 4] San Francisco, 1862. | From Russian Hill. S. 4. Looking East & South. | Published by A. Rosenfeld, S.F. 38 x 55.3 cm.

[Sheet 5] San Francisco, 1862. | From Russian Hill. Secn. 5 Looking South & West. | Published by A. Rosenfeld, S.F. 38 x 55.3 cm.

[Imprint at lower right below image, on Sheet 5] Printed by L. Nagel, S.F. San Francisco: A. Rosenfeld, 1862. Lithograph on maize toned ground, key identifying 121 points by name extending across panels below image; measurement of connected image: image only: 32.5 x 268.3 cm; image with text below: 36 x 268.3 cm; overall sheet size: 38 x 272.3 cm; sheets laid continuously on early twentieth-century pasteboard. Covers supplied from another copy: Contemporary green cloth gilt-lettered pictorial covers with illustration of a train; lower cover has brass repousse oval boss of Buswell & Co., SF. Covers measure 41 x 29.2 cm; lower cover with printed broadside as pastedown: Historical Sketch of California ([San Francisco]: Towne & Bacon); 40 x 28 cm. Overall very good, especially for so large and fragile a format. The Rumsey copy (black and white version, rather than toned, and with covers present) is missing some text at lower margin. The Volkmann copy we sold at auction at the California Historical Society in 2005 (fetched $48,500) was the toned version and covers were present. The image was lightly darkened, on one sheet due to adhesive, two sheets were trimmed close at bottom with some loss of imprint, and had some vertical streaking where formerly folded. Our copy has light vertical streaking in center of each panel, as usual. Sheet 1: crack in far left blank margin; second line trimmed with partial loss, third line missing. Sheet 2: second line trimmed (mostly gone), third line missing. Sheet 3: copyright trimmed away. Sheet 4: Last two lines trimmed away. Sheet 5: last line trimmed away. Corners of covers bumped and gilt rubbed, a few minor stains, straps absent, otherwise very good.

     This copy has useful contemporary manuscript notations in the margins denoting additional place names, buildings, and names of residents. Retained with the panorama are one original backing board and one piece of frame, both containing fragments of the printed label of N.R. Helgesen, 341-345 Sutter Street, San Francisco, a prominent art dealer and framer who apparently executed a frame for the Merchant Exchange of San Francisco, which was established in 1904 and was one of the few buildings to survive the great earthquake and fire of 1906. This panorama hung in the Merchant Exchange building until the 1990s. Helgesen is listed in the San Francisco Blue Book and other sources as being active in the first decade of the twentieth century. Because the lithograph was mounted at an early date by Helgesen, it has escaped some of the deterioration that has affected copies on flimsier backings.

     First edition, first issue, of an amazing creation of art, history, architecture, and urban history, not only because of its size, but also because of the wealth of detail and animation present in the view. Here the lithograph is in the desirable state on toned maize ground, which imparts a richness of atmosphere, highlight, and intensity not present in the black and white version. The following year the image was reprinted with the title San Francisco, 1863... (Reps, Views and Viewmakers of Urban America 296). Publisher Rosenfield offered three formats to his clients: printed on thin paper and mounted on cloth as a single sheet; folded in an album with single sheets printed on heavier paper; and mounted on cloth and fastened to wooden rollers.

     References: Baird & Evans, Historic Lithographs of San Francisco 38a. Eberstadt 133:236: “One of the rarest and most important of items relating to San Francisco.” Groce & Wallace (Gifford & Nagel). Peters, America on Stone, pp. 195 & 291-292: “In San Francisco, separate work by Nagel includes a panoramic view of San Francisco, 1862, in five sections, from ‘Russian Hill’ (Telegraph Hill) West, North, East, East and South, and South and West.... This is very rare.” Peters, California on Stone, pp. 123 & 167-168: “This important, rare panorama arranged that every house is plainly shown and all prominent buildings are numbered and the names given beneath. Not only the city but the surrounding land and water are visible. The view embraces the entire circle, commencing at the Golden Gate and ending at the place of beginning.” Reps, Views and Viewmakers of America 290-295 & p. 178: “Gifford’s finest and most ambitious view was a sweeping panorama of San Francisco as seen from Russian Hill...issued in 1862 by A. Rosenfield of San Francisco. Gifford put his own drawing on stone, and it was carefully printed by Nagel.... Gifford drew well, and he was fortunate in having his work printed by such competent lithographers as Nagel.” Rumsey 5147. Stokes & Haskell, American Historical Prints G82 (1862). Streeter Sale 2872. Woodbridge, San Francisco in Maps & Views, pp. 68-71.

     Deák, Picturing America 776 (Vol. I, pp. 525-526) & illustration 776 in Vol. II:

The California area continued to attract settlers even after the flow of gold from the mines slowed to a trickle. San Francisco’s accessibility for settlement and trade by land and by water made it a magnetic site, and the population continued to swell. By 1862 the city had become too large to be embraced within the borders of one picture, and it took an ambitious project like Charles Gifford’s multi-sectioned panorama to record completely the city’s tremendous growth. His all-encompassing topographic rendering is a lithograph in five sections...; each of the segments bears the full title of the print as well as publishing information.... The view of the city in each segment is from Russian Hill, but each is taken from a different point of view. A depiction of the city’s most densely settled neighborhood, in section 4, looks east and south, and it shows us the Market, the Mission Street Wharf, the Custom House, the Jewish Synagogue, City Hall, the U.S. Marine Hospital (Rincon Point), Saint Mary’s Cathedral, the Masonic Temple, and Steamboat Point. In section 1 the Presidio appears; Alcatraz Island in section 2; Yerba Buena (Goat Island) in section 3; and Mission Dolores in section 5.

     Catherine Hoover & Robert Sawchuck, “From the Place We Hear about...”: A Descriptive Checklist of Pictorial Lithographs and Letter Sheets in the CHS Collection in California Historical Quarterly, Vol. 56, No. 4, Winter, 1977-1978, pp. 347-350, presenting a general discussion of California images of the era, and why they are so rare:

Pioneer lithographers such as Joseph Britton and J.J. Rey, who established themselves in San Francisco in 1852, were soon followed by talented artists, lithographers, and printers like Charles Kuchel, Emil Dresel, Arthur and Charles Nahl, Louis Nagel, George H. Baker, C.B. Gifford, Edward Bosqui, and others. A quick, versatile, and inexpensive medium, lithography was widely employed to produce hundreds of views of California’s cities and towns, mining....

Until the beginning of the nineteenth century, the primary media for the reproduction of pictorial images in multiple copies for public distribution or for book illustration had been the intaglio and relief processes of engraving, etching, and woodcut. These processes had their limitations, however, both in the speed at which copies could be produced and in the total number of good imprints that could be taken from a single plate or block. The principles of lithography were discovered in 1798, only fifty years before the California Gold Rush, by Alois Senefelder, a Bavarian playwright seeking an inexpensive method of reproducing his manuscripts. Like many useful inventions, his was accidental, but it almost immediately revolutionized the manufacture of printed materials. Lithography was not introduced into America until 1819 (via New York), but the medium soon became a popular alternative to earlier techniques because pictures could be produced cheaply and in large numbers....

The highly-skilled printers of the San Francisco school preferred to apply colored tones [as in the present lithograph], when they were deemed desirable, by use of additional stones prepared with colored inks, carefully registered for clarity. They tended to use a restricted palette of basic black with beige or light brown, gray-orange, or blue. The applications of bright watercolor washes by hand, which was popular in the East among firms such as Currier and Ives, were considered extraneous to the art of California printing.

Separately published lithographs were issued in numbers from several hundred to a thousand or more. Precise information about the numbers within editions and the prices for which the prints were sold is notoriously scarce due to the destructive fire of 1906 in San Francisco which consumed the business records of virtually all of California’s lithograph firms.

Regardless of the original number of prints issued by California lithographers, relatively few have survived. Almost all California views, and particularly those of San Francisco, remain in numbers less than ten, and several are represented by a single copy. Many prints escaping the fire of 1906 were destroyed by time, neglect, and improper handling. The few lithographs which exist in collections today owe their survival in part to the fact that they were usually printed on high quality rag paper which offered some resistance to the damage caused by excessive exposure to light, acidic mount boards, glues, tapes, and other...techniques.

     Charles B. Gifford (1830-1882?) also went by the names Charles Braddock Gifford and Charles Bradford Gifford. He was a prominent artist and lithographer who created many Bay Area views during the 1860s, specializing in city, landscape, and naval perspectives. Gifford created several other memorable views of San Francisco, his earliest being an 1860 view of Mission Dolores, while one of his most influential and interesting consisted of a view of the city from an imaginary point in the air (see Reps, Views & Viewmakers of Urban America, Plate 49). Gifford’s other town views included Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, San Jose, and Vallejo. Among his non-California views were two of Washington Territory: Utsalady and Fort Ludlow, both in collaboration with Louis Nagel. He often worked in partnership with W. Vallance Gray.

     Printer Louis Nagel was born in Germany in 1817, worked in New York City between 1844 and 1856, and moved to San Francisco ca. 1856 or 1857, where he joined the Mechanics’ Institute and remained active until 1873. Nagel was a man of many talents, including printer, lithographer, writer, publisher, and editor. Nagel’s body of work ran the gamut from small, exquisite advertising to grand productions like the present panorama of San Francisco view, which is a wonderful example of Nagel’s precision, conscientiousness, and patience. Nagel’s other California work includes the lithograph plates for J.W. Audubon’s Illustrated Notes of an Expedition through Mexico and California (New York, 1852), letter sheets, prints, and even maps (see herein, for example, Ransom & Doolittle’s New Map of the State of California and Nevada Territory). See Peters, California on Stone, pp. 165-172 & America on Stone, pp. 291-294.

     Forty-Niner Anthony Rosenfeld (variously known by first name Anson, Anton, or Amson, and surname sometimes Rosenfield) mined at Mokelumne Hill, where he became a naturalized citizen in 1854. Rosenfeld was born in Bavaria ca. 1827 and died in 1895. Not much was known about his life until recent scholarship by Dennis Kruska in James Mason Hutchings of Yosemite (Book Club of California, 2009, pp. 53-65). Rosenfeld partnered with James M. Hutchings, also a miner, who early in his California experience realized he might get more gold by making prints and letter sheets, such as the classic Miner’s Ten Commandments, and publishing Hutchings’ California Magazine. The two men met when Hutchings advertised in the San Francisco Alta California newspaper for a business partner in 1856. Hutchings and Rosenfeld specialized in larger images of California (notably Yosemite), and their activities included a bookstore to sell letter sheets, bill heads, and related goods, and their own publications, which included classics such as The Miners’ Own Book: California Mining (1858), the many editions of Scenes of Wonder and Curiosity in California, Map of Washoe Mines, etc. Hutchings & Rosenfeld dissolved their partnership in 1861, after which Rosenfeld sallied forth boldly by publishing the present ambitious panorama. He continued to publish other California material, engaged in various financial ventures, and later went back East where he turned his mechanical abilities to activities such as obtaining a patent.

     The source of the text of the printed broadside affixed to the inside of the cover was Henry Grace Langley, book publisher, compiler, editor, correspondent, and prolific maker of San Francisco, Pacific Coast, and other regional directories of California from 1858 to the late nineteenth century. Prior to relocating to California, Langley published in New York, where his work was diverse, ranging from the first American edition of Alexander Walker’s long-lived but flawed Woman Physiologically Considered: As to Mind, Morals, Marriage, Matrimonial Slavery, Infidelity and Divorce (1840) to Josiah Gregg’s Commerce of the Prairies (1844).

     One can only wonder that such a complex production as this panorama was created in 1862 in San Francisco which only a decade and a half before was a bucolic, little coastal town that swiftly transformed itself when “the world rushed in.” One result of its transformation was an exponential growth in population that included technically and artistically proficient people from many ports in this world. They were justifiably impressed with the city and documented it for themselves, their fellow citizens, and for a world eager and impatient for news from San Francisco. The panorama was, simply put, good business. One possible inspiration for Gifford and Nagel’s panorama was the work of Englishman George Robinson Fardon (1807-1886), a pioneer in the history of photography who developed a process of taking images that had been captured on glass plate negatives and reproducing them on paper. His landmark photographs of San Francisco in the 1850s were the first published compilation of photographs done of any American city (San Francisco Album: Photographs of the Most Beautiful Views and Public Buildings of San Francisco, published by Herre and Bauer of San Francisco). With a preference for cityscapes, one of Fardon’s earliest works created in San Francisco was a seven-panel photographic panorama of San Francisco in May 1855, which showed a 180-degree sweep of the city and harbor (see Palmquist, Pioneer Photographers of the Far West, pp. 223-225). Fardon’s last photograph taken in the city before he followed another gold rush to British Columbia was made into an engraving (San Francisco in 1859), which was published by Hutchings & Rosenfeld, the latter of whom was the publisher for Gifford’s panorama.

     Another possible source of inspiration for the present panorama—on a far grander scale—was Forty-Niner George Tirrell’s enormous moving-picture panorama of California completed in 1860, measuring eleven feet high and twenty-three hundred feet long. The San Francisco segment covered eighty linear feet and was a 360-degree panorama from Telegraph Hill, i.e., Russian Hill (see Palmquist, pp. 548-549). Worth noting is one more panorama of California—on a much smaller scale—executed in 1860 by thirteen-year-old Charles Dorman Robinson (1847-1933; born in New England, he arrived in California at the age of three and by the time he was seven, he was studying with Charles Nahl). Robinson made a miniature moving panorama painted in distemper on nine light fabric panels and whip-stitched into a twelve-inch by twelve-foot tapestry. Tirrell gave young Robinson some of his leftover paints from his own gargantuan panorama project. Palmquist (pp. 456-457) notes that the San Francisco portion of Robinson’s panorama was based on that of our artist, C.B. Gifford, which does not work out chronologically. However, the Bancroft Library, who now holds Robinson’s panorama, dates Robinson’s panorama as ca. 1860. See Edan Milton Hughes, Artists in California: 1786-1940 (Sacramento: Crocker Art Museum, 2002).

     Panoramas had long been a favorite medium for exhibition. Painted panoramas were so large, of course, that they often had to be displayed in their own separate buildings. Nineteenth-century photography and lithography could not hope ever to produce works of such size. An exception is John Wesley Jones’ creation of over fifteen hundred images from daguerreotypes made on an overland trip West in 1851 for a panorama of California, about which Stephen Oettermann remarked: “The panorama proved highly successful (no doubt along with gold) in motivating prospective settlers to California” (The Panorama: History of a Mass Medium, New York: Zone Books, 1997, p. 325). Nevertheless, the realistic nature and detail of panoramas such as the present work belie their small size and in many ways they are superior to larger works that cannot be transported easily or enjoyed in the comfort of one’s fireside. Finally, dramatic cityscapes also can serve as promotional and advertising media, which is almost certainly the case with this panorama and many other publications by the same collaborators. The growth of San Francisco was in all likelihood one of the Seven Wonders of the United States at the time, as appealing and fascinating in its own way as Yosemite or the Grand Canyon. As Stephen F. Pyne points out in How the Grand Canyon Became Grand (New York: Viking, 1998), p. 32: “The United States, a self-consciously new nation, [was] as eager for a past as for a future.... Natural history and national history proceeded in sync, a cultural fugue to Manifest Destiny” (p. 32).


Auction 23 Abstracts

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