1874 Panoramic View of San Francisco

San Francisco - California. - Main View

1874 Panoramic View of San Francisco


Dramatic, scarce view capturing San Francisco after the Gold Rush.


San Francisco - California.
  1874 (dated)     10.75 x 24.5 in (27.305 x 62.23 cm)


This is Frederick Hess' scarce, separately-published 1874 view of San Francisco, capturing the thriving city and displaying an array of its architectural highlights. Hess, a German immigrant, newspaperman, and a booster of his adopted city, appears to have produced this steel engraving both as a celebration of his city and an enticement for others of his native countrymen to emigrate and join the German community of which Hess was a vigorous and essential member.
The Engraving
Central to the plate is a panoramic view of San Francisco seen from Nob Hill, oriented to the north with the mast-forested waterfront in the deep background. The foreground shows the luxuriant, wooded top of the hill with fashionably-dressed families perambulating and enjoying the view. Surrounding the main view are twenty-two vignettes highlighting important buildings, lively street scenes, and a scene from one of the city's wharves capturing the roustabout hustle of the waterfront. The city here is presented as a sophisticated and settled city, suitable for respectable families, an urban center on a par with cities on the east coast, or even Europe. Not only San Francisco's municipal buildings, but also large and ornate hotels, churches and banks are represented. The streets feature pedestrians, horse carts, but also horse-drawn trolleys. The day-to-day features highlighted here show the city from the viewpoint of an actual denizen dedicated to the success of his new home. Thus it is not surprising that the view should have been sold both in San Francisco and, the following year, in Germany: Hess' intent seems to have been to show off the city to potential immigrants, particularly for his own community.
Publication History and Census
This plate was engraved for publication in 1874, probably from Hess' own press in San Francisco. It was not included in any book, but was a separate issue intended for decoration. Consequently, few have survived. A second, 1875 state of the map has survived, with its date changed and an added Darmstadt copyright. Both states are rare on the market and in institutional collections. This 1874 state appears in the Library of Congress and the Massachusetts Historical Society Library; the 1875 second state was catalogued by the American Antiquarian Society. An imprecisely-dated example appears in OCLC, catalogued by Yale University.


Frederich (Frederick) Johann Georg Hess Jr. (July 20, 1837 or 1840 - May 4, 1913) was a German - American publisher, active in San Francisco. He was born in Coblenz, Germany in 1837 (although he gave his birthdate as 1840 in the 1900 census.) He arrived in America either in 1849 (according to the 1900 census) or in 1854 (as per his 1913 obituary.) He and his mother arrived in San Francisco via Panama in 1855, his father having died on the voyage. He found employment as a sweeper-up at the ailing San Francisco German-language newspaper the California Demokrat. As gold fever drew many of the paper's staff away, he found himself called upon to serve the newspaper in virtually every position as became required. In 1856, in a remarkable turn of events, he purchased the dying newspaper at auction for $561. He was eighteen years old. Hess was able not only to save the paper, but to make it thrive: by 1893 the Demokrat was the longest running daily newspaper west of the Rocky Mountains.

Hess was naturalized September 5, 1859; in 1866 he married Ellen Magdalena Schuetze, with whom he had three sons and two daughters. He remained in San Francisco the rest of his life, was in general a booster of his adopted city, and was a particular supporter of its German community: he was a founder of the General German Benevolent Society and the German Savings and Loan Society. He was a charter member of the San Francisco Verein, an ethnic-German social club which also organized as a milita. By the time San Francisco was struck by the earthquake of 1906 he was prosperous enough that he could have retired, but instead chose to keep his publication running. More by this mapmaker...


Very good. Some marginal soiling and spotting. Small mend to bottom edge, not impacting printed image.


OCLC 51164167. Reps, John, Views and Viewmakers of Urban America (University of Missouri, Columbia, 1984), # 322.