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Thursday, August 2, 2012

A Rare 19th century Birdseye View of San Francisco

 View of San Francisco, Formerly Yerba Buena, in 1846-7
Before the Discovery of Gold
Engraved by Edward Bosqui
Published c. 1884
Includes signatures of J. D. Stevenson, Genl. M. G. Vallejo, George Hyde, and Capt. W. F. Swasey
Image size: 20 1/2 x 16 3/4 inches
Paper size: 24 x 20 3/4 inches
Hand colored lithograph

Written lower center: Copyrighted 
Written lower right: Designed & Copied from Views Taken at the Time & Published by 
Lower left: Executed by the Bosqui Eng & Print Co.

All locations in the print are described according to numbers 1-35 on the bottom

A copy exists at the Library of Congress Geography and Map Division Washington, D.C.

Originally, San Francisco was known as Yerba Buena while it was a Spanish province of New Spain. It was then under possession of the Mexicans until the Mexican American War ended with the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in 1848 when California became a territory of the United States of America. As deemed by the title, this hand colored lithograph bears the date 1846-7, one year before this treaty was signed. Immediately following the title, it reads : "We the Undersigned Hereby Certify That This Picture is a Faithful and Accurate Representation of San Francisco As It Really Appeared in March 1847" and is signed by J.D. Stevenson, Commanding 1st Regt. of N.Y. Vols. In the War with Mexico, Genl. M.G. Vallejo, George Hyde, First Alcalde Dist. of San Francisco 1846-7.

Interestingly, the sub-title 'Before the Discovery of Gold' puts the piece into historical context. Just two years after this lithograph was drawn, the nature of California would change forever due to James Marshall's discovery of gold at Sutter's Mill, touching off the California gold rush.  San Francisco in particular grew from a small settlement of about 200 residents in 1846 to a boomtown of nearly 40,000 by 1852.  

The engraver of this work, Edward Bosqui, was Canadian by birth, born in Montreal in 1832. He arrived in San Francisco in 1850 settling in Marin County. A talented painter, he also tried his hand at printing, eventually founding the Bosqui Engraving and Printing Company in 1863. Being active in the local arts community, he organized the San Francisco Art Association in 1871. His home, which housed a large collection of California artworks, including those he created, burned to the ground in 1897. His company also suffered a tragic fire in 1906 which the artist never rebuilt. Bosqui died in San Francisco in 1917.

This schematized view depicts six prominently placed ships in the forefront, and recreates the simple street patterns of early San Francisco in the distance. Prominent streets are identified: Clay, Kearney [sic], Washington and Montgomery while all relevant structures are numbered in a corresponding list below the imagery.

This lithograph is not dated but a dated example does exist bearing the year 1884. This example is probably earlier.

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