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Rare Early San Francisco Panorama

Exceptional two-stone lithograph of San Francisco, one of the earliest accurate large format views of San Francisco.

This remarkable early panoramic view of the booming city of San Francisco was published in Paris sometime between about 1853 and 1855 and drawn from Daguerrotype photos in the private collection of French writer and traveler Eugene Delessert, who was living in San Francisco shortly after the gold rush and was briefly a prominent San Francisco citizen.  Fardon and Birt opine that the photograph from which the view was drawn likely dates to 1852

Lemercier's view looks down Sacramento Street towards San Francisco Bay, which was then so full of ships arriving for the Gold Rush that the it became dense with rising masts. In the foreground, Nob Hill is shown, including a colorful depiction of locals, including miners and Chinese laborers. Across the Bay, Yerba Buena Island appears at the center, with the Oakland and Berkeley Hills in the background and Alcatraz island at the far left, with Telegraph Hill, and Rincon Point clearly visible.  

The detail of the work is remarkable, sufficient to show a footpath leading up Telegraph Hill, with a semaphore at the top, built in September 1849 to signal to the city the nature of the ships arriving in the harbor.  Many of the earliest buildings in the city are clearly and meticulously shown.

Eugene Delesert 

Eugene Delesert (1819-1877) traveled extensively in the United States, Brazil, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong, the Philippine Islands and French Polynesia.  By 1851, Delessert was in California, where he was a member of San Francisco's Vigilance Committee, formed by bankers and other leading citizens to combat the rampant lawlessness . He was listed in San Francisco's 1852-3 city directory as a resident banker with Delessert, Cordier and Company. Later in the 1850s he returned to reside in France, and then in Algeria where he died at Médéa in 1877.


The view is very rare. OCLC locates only the example at the Bancroft Library.

We note a single example in a published auction catalogue in RBH (American Art Association, February 17, 1920).

Condition Description
Two-stone lithograph on wove paper. Two expertly-mended marginal tears at the left edge.
G. R. Fardon, Rodger C. Birt: San Francisco Album Photographs 1854-1856, p. 27.