Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Wide Angle:19th Century Lithographic Views of San Francisco

Don’t miss the opportunity to see, in person, these beautiful and historic lithographic views of San Francisco. They will be on display through July 31st on the 6th floor of the Main Library, in the Skylight Gallery. Here’s a brief peek at the exhibition. 

Lithographer, from Prang’s Aids for Object Teaching, Boston: L. Prang & Company, 1874

While photography was still in its early years, a hand printing process using limestone blocks - lithography - was also developing in Europe.  The evolution of the lithographic printing process led, over time, from images in black with a faint background tint to spectacular colorful images and large printing runs.  The production and distribution of lithographs involved artists, lithographers, printers and publishers, in varying combinations.  Whether publishers’ ends were aesthetic or commercial, views of cities (or aspects of those cities) became popular.

The City of San Francisco, Currier & Ives, c1877. Courtesy of UC Berkeley, Bancroft Library, Calisphere

This exhibition of lithographs from the collections of the San Francisco History Center illustrates the effects San Francisco's gold rush boom and the subsequent development made possible by Nevada silver mining wealth and increased industrialization. Local personalities within the burgeoning metropolis - movers and shakers of various sorts - are also represented.  The exhibition includes works by artists and lithographers Edward Jump, Eduard Hildebrandt, and Kuchel & Dresel, as well as by publishers and printers such as Currier and Ives, Bosqui Engraving, H. S. Crocker, and Schmidt Lithograph Company.   

San Francisco at the [Industrial and Fine Arts] Fair, Edward Jump, c1864. Courtesy of UC Berkeley, Bancroft Library, Calisphere

Detail of San Francisco at the [Industrial and Fine Arts] Fair,  Edward Jump, c1864. Courtesy of UC Berkeley, Bancroft Library, Calisphere
Compare depictions of George Washington II, who once competed with ‘Emperor’ Joshua Norton for San Francisco’s attention.  Count a multitude of wealthy, powerful, and prominent men of the City, announced by Lillie Coit.  In other prints, Union Iron Works proclaims its industrial might; we get a rare view looking downhill at the first Cliff House; and the landmarks of Yerba Buena are mapped and labelled.  A 1908 panorama of The Great White Fleet, arrayed in San Francisco Bay, closes this exploration of San Francisco as seen through a half-century of lithography.

Funeral of Lazarus, Edward Jump, [ca. 1861-ca. 1865] Courtesy of UC Berkeley, Bancroft Library, Calisphere

For further reference, you may also enjoy this related Wide Angle: A Booklist.

San Francisco, Francis Samuel Marryat, M. & N. Hanhart, lithographer, Henry Squire & Company, [1851] Courtesy of UC Berkeley, Bancroft Library, Calisphere

The Daniel E. Koshland San Francisco History Center maintains a research collection of books, newspapers and magazines, photographs, maps, posters, ephemera, and archives and manuscript collections, documenting all aspects of San Francisco life and history. The Center also houses the archives for the City and County of San Francisco.