A fine 1894 chromolithograph George Henry Burgess view of San Francisco depicting the city in 1849, at the height of the California Gold Rush. Burgess drew this view based on sketches drawn from life in 1849, shortly after his arrival in San Francisco. He compiled these into a painting in 1891. It was transferred to lithographic stone, as here, in 1894. The view looks westward along Montgomery Street with Telegraph Hill prominent in the distance. A temporary camp of newly arrived 49ers fills the foreground, with two mounted Californios riding out of town at left. New construction and warehouses occupy the center, with the busy harbor at right bringing in waves of 49ers. This is essentially today's Financial District. There is a key to the map in the lower left, identifying all prominent locations throughout the growing city.
The California Gold Rush
The discovery of Gold at John Sutter's mill by James Wilson Marshall (1810 - 1885) in January of 1848 was one of the most definitive moments in American history. Coming at the end of the Mexican-American War (1846 - 1848), the timing of the discovery could not have been more propitious. The combination of new seemly unlimited territory and the lure of gold led to a stampede of adventurers, prospectors, merchants, and homesteaders ready to take their chance with a new life on the frontier. The Gold Rush was not limited to Americans crossing the Great Plains. European, Australian, and even Chinese immigrants rushed into California hungry for their part of the great strike. This Great Migration of peoples transformed the United States in the span of just a few years from a former colony into an expansive transcontinental nation on the cusp of becoming a world power
American Bird's-Eye City Views
The tradition of the bird's-eye city view emerged in the United States in the middle part of the 19th century and coincided with the commercial development of lithographic printing. While before the rise of lithography, the ability to own and display artwork in the home was largely limited to the extremely wealthy, lithographic printing made it possible for everyone to own visually striking artwork. A robust trade developed in portraits of political leaders, allegorical and religious images, and city views.
City views were being produced in the United States as early as the 1830s, but the genre exploded after the American Civil War (1861 - 1865). Bridging the gap between maps and pictures, most 19th century American Bird's-eye views presented cities to the public high vantage points. Some were imagined, but others were drawn from hot-air balloons or nearby hills. The presentation, combining high elevation, commercial interest, and new printing technology created a uniquely American art form, as described by historian Donald Karshan,
Some print connoisseurs believe that it was only with the advent of the full-blown city-view lithograph that American printmaking reached its first plateau of originality, making a historical contribution to the graphic arts. They cite the differences between the European city-view prints and the expansive American version that reflects a new land and a new attitude toward the land.
The vogue for bird's-eye city views lasted from about 1845 to 1920, during which period some 2,400 cities were thus portrayed, some multiple times. Although views were produced in many urban centers, the nexus of view production in the United States was Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The major American viewmakers were Stoner, Wellge, Bailey, Fowler, Hill, Ruger, Koch, Burleigh, Norris, and Morse, among others.
Chromolithography, sometimes called oleography, is a color lithographic technique developed in the mid-19th century. The process involved using multiple lithographic stones, one for each color, to yield a rich composite effect. Oftentimes, the process would start with a black basecoat upon which subsequent colors were layered. Some chromolithographs used 30 or more separate lithographic stones to achieve the desired product. Chromolithograph color could also be effectively blended for even more dramatic results. The process became extremely popular in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, when it emerged as the dominate method of color printing. The vivid color chromolithography produced made it exceptionally effective for advertising and propaganda imagery.
Publication History and Census
This view is based on a painting by George Henry Burgess compiled from c. 1849 sketches but painted in 1891. The painting survives at the Oakland Museum of California. It was converted to chromolithograph and published by Burgess and Crocker in 1894 - as here. There are at least two states: one with and one without the key in the lower left. Both editions appear to have been simultaneously published.
George Henry Burgess (June 8, 1831 - April 22, 1905) was a British-American landscape painter and viewmaker. Burgess was born in London to a well-known surgeon. More interested in art that the medical profession, Burgess began studies at the Somerset House School of Design. Inspired by the 1849 California Gold Rush, Burgess and his brothers Edward Burgess (1820 - 1870) and William Hubert Burgess (1824 - 1893) moved to San Francisco, arriving around July 1849. They served as miners, jewelers, hunters, and more, but all the while captured scenes of the city and surrounding country at the height of the Gold Rush hustle and bustle. During this time, they also traveled three times to Hawaii. Their longest stay was 1855 - 1856, with shorter visits in 1866 and 1871 (when Edward died). On these visits they traveled around the archipelago making drawings and sketches. In 1858 he traveled by canoe up the Fraser river in British Columbia, Canada when gold was discovered making sketches and paintings along the way. Burgess eventually made San Francisco his permanent home where he established himself as portraitist - one of San Francisco's first. In 1871, he cofounded the San Francisco Art Association where he taught art and produced lithographic views. Many of his views and drawings were turned into chromolithographic views during this period. He died in Oakland, California, 1905. Learn More...
Henry Smith Crocker (1832 - July 18, 1904) was an American printer, publisher, and railroad investor active in northern California in the middle to late 19th century. Crocker followed the Gold Rush to California, settling in Sacramento in the 1850s. He established his printing concern, H. S. Crocker, in 1856. Apparently his first office was little more than a tent with a small sign. Crocker relocated to San Francisco in 1871. He became extremely wealthy almost overnight by leveraging his ties to the Central Pacific Railroad (his brother Charles Crocker was one of the founders). In 1885, Crocker constructed a large five-story printing factory, powered by his own private steam plant, then the largest and most sophisticated printing concern on the west coast. Crocker's prosperity continued and by the time he died in 1904, he was the head of a large and extremely wealthy family. Although Crocker passed on, his company, H.S. Crocker, continued to operate and remains active to this day. Learn More...
Good. Some old toning and dampstaining. Minor edge tears - stabilized. Laid on archival tissue.