1873 Gifford and Bancroft Bird's-Eye View Map of San Francisco, California

Bird's Eye View of the City and County of San Francisco, 1873. - Main View

1873 Gifford and Bancroft Bird's-Eye View Map of San Francisco, California


One of the most significant and desirable views of San Francisco ever published.


Bird's Eye View of the City and County of San Francisco, 1873.
  1873 (dated)     22 x 31 in (55.88 x 78.74 cm)


An extraordinary Charles Braddock Gifford and William Vallance Gray 3-color chromolithograph bird's-eye view of San Francisco, California, in 1873 - one of the most desirable and influential views of San Francisco ever produced. The view looks southwest on San Francisco Peninsula from a fictional highpoint to the northeast. The city and bustling harbor are prominent in the foreground while the peninsula's hills and lakes are in the background. Golden Gate appears at the upper right, and Telegraph Hill at bottom center.
A Bustling Port
San Francisco, which then had a population of roughly 170,000, appears as a bustling port city, its harbor teeming with ships of all kinds, including paddlewheels and steamers. Downtown San Francisco was then, as it is now, dominated by the diagonal cross of Market Street. Individual buildings throughout are easy to identify, underscoring the viewmaker's mastery of detail. Development does not extend significantly beyond Van Ness. The Presidio Military Reservation beyond to Golden Gate Park and the Pacific Coast, remain empty and barren. There is no evidence of the rail yards then being built at 3rd and Townsend, suggesting that updates to this view over previous states were limited to the title.
Chromolithography 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 effect. 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 rare view is based upon a painting by Charles B. Gifford. It was first copyrighted and published in 1868. Although the copyright was not updated, the title was updated for subsequent states issued in 1869, 1872, and 1873. It was published by Albert Little Bancroft (1841 – 1914), of the significant Bancroft Company. The map historian John Williams Reps's cataloging of this map is confusing due to multiple views of the same title, but related publishers. He identifies 5 states, two published in 1868, and subsequent editions in 1869, 1872, and 1873 (this example). While there are about 7 examples, in various editions, held in institutional collections, we have not identified another example in the market since 1922. Rare opportunity.


Charles Braddock Gifford (1829 - November 17, 1888) was an American draughtsman, landscape artist, lithographer, and painter of city views based in and around San Francisco in the late 19th century. Gifford was born in New Bedford, Massachusetts. He worked in Massachusetts as a carpenter until about 1855, around which time he headed west to seek his fortune. By 1860, Gifford was established as a lithographer and landscape artist in San Francisco. His wife, Josephina, was from Nicaragua. His earliest views include the Mission Dolores, Vallejo and Santa Clara. Most of his earliest work was published by Louis Nagel, but later work was taken over by Bancroft. He began producing views in 1860 and continued to issue new views with various publishers until about 1877. He is best known for his highly ambitious 1862 view of the city on five large panels measuring some 9 feet across published with A. Rosenfeld. He issued approximately 15 views in total, most of which were of San Francisco area cities, but he also traveled to Washington state and issued several views there. Gifford died in San Mateo in 1888. More by this mapmaker...

William Vallance Gray (September 5, 1839 - October 15, 1891) was a Scottish-American artist, engraver, and lithographer active in San Francisco during the second half of the 19th century. Gray was born in Glasgow, Scotland. He emigrated to the United States sometime around 1860, settling in San Francisco. Gray was naturalized as a U.S. Citizen on October 16, 1868. By 1868 he had partnered in the lithography form of Charles B. Gifford. Gray became prominent for his paintings and views of the American west. He was a member of several fraternal orders, including the Odd Fellows, the Masons, and the Scottish Thistle Club. He is buried in the San Francisco Masonic Cemetery. Learn More...

Bancroft Company (1852 – present) was a San Francisco, California, based publishing firm active in the second half of the 19th century. Bancroft is considered the first major publisher to develop in California. The firm was founded in 1852 when Herbert Howe Bancroft (1832 – 1918) relocated from Buffalo, New York, to San Francisco, California, with a stock of books to establish a regional office of his family's East Coast publishing house. The firm, initially situated in the Naglee Buildings and Montgomery and Merchant Streets, was immensely successful both as booksellers and publishers. H. H. Bancroft resigned from the company in 1868 to pursue historical study and passed on management to his brother, Albert Little Bancroft (1841 – 1914). A. L. Bancroft ran the firm from 1869 and 1871. It was Albert who published the firm's first maps, including general maps of California, pocket maps of San Francisco, and other southwest focused material. Albert led the firm during its most expansive period, was a pillar of the San Francisco community, and a founding member of the Bohemian Club. The firm was exceptionally clever in leveraging California's gold wealth to maximize its profitability. According to A. L. Bancroft,

A purchase of an item costing $1.00 in currency in New York could be sold for $2.00 in gold in San Francisco. With the $2.00 in gold the company bought New York exchange currency at 250% and received $5.00 for what had originally cost $1.00. (Clark, H., A Venture in History, p. 9)
Meanwhile his brother, H. H. Bancroft dedicated himself to history and writing. He established the 'History Factory,' a commercially organized production house for historical research. Bancroft planned to write an expansive 39 volume history of the western part of North America. Only parts of Bancroft's were published due to an 1886 fire at Bancroft and Company where in several unpublished volumes were destroyed. Throughout his long career Bancroft compiled a vast library of some 60,000 volumes, most related to the western United States in one way or another. This vast collection was eventually transferred to the Bancroft Library at the University of California, Berkeley. In 1895 The educational stock of the Bancroft company was sold to Whitaker and Ray. In time the publishing arm of the Bancroft Company relocated to New York City where it took on new partners and focused on legal publications under the imprint Bancroft-Whitney Company. In 1989 it was absorbed into the International Thomson Organization. Learn More...


Very good.


Reps, John, Views and Viewmakers of Urban America (University of Missouri, Columbia, 1984), 321.