An Unrecorded Variant of the Greatest San Francisco Map Ever Made.
Fine example of Augustus Chevalier's stunning map of San Francisco, the premier map of the City following the San Francisco Earthquake and, by any standard, one of the most impressive and beautiful urban plans in the history of American mapmaking.
Published during the re-birth of San Francisco following the 1906 earthquake, Chevalier's map represents the height of cartographic design and chromolithography. With its monumental size and up-to-date urban survey details laid over fine topographical contours, Chevalier has created a sophisticated map with an elegant depth of vision and an abundance of detail. In terms of shear size and beauty, Chevalier's map belongs to the Pantheon of American Urban plans.
Augustus Chevalier was a native of France who arrived in San Francisco in 1890. He produced his first Commercial, Pictorial and Tourist Map of San Francisco on a much smaller scale in December 1903. The map was very well received, with the San Francisco Chronicle of January 14, 1905 describing it as "The Best Map of the City to Be Had" . . . and offering free copies of the map to advertisers in the Sunday Chronicle.
On July 27, 1911, Chevalier obtained a copyright for a new map of San Francisco, which would be over 5 feet tall, in order to capture in minute detail the remarkable renewal of San Francisco after the earthquake and fire had completely obliterated its prior incarnation. The destruction of the 1906 earthquake and fires provided a proverbial clean slate which allowed entrepreneurial city councilors, urban planners, and businessmen to instigate a series of urban renewal projects that would modernize San Franciso and protect it from future disasters. Chevalier's new wall map of the city captures the re-branding the city, reassuring investors, citizens, and visitors alike that San Francisco was back, stronger than ever. In doing so, he successfully created a narrative to show how the city had used its worst calamity to renew the very fabric of urbanity, improving everything from commercial and supply infrastructure to public safety.
Chevalier's new map received immediate public acclaim in San Francisco, with San Francisco Board of Supervisors passing a resolution thanking Chevalier for the publication of the map (San Francisco Recorder, August 26, 1911--referencing the smaller pocket map edition). Over the next 4 years, the map was updated at least twice, including an edition promoting the 1915 Panama–Pacific International Exposition. The map was published both as a wall map (this example) and as a much smaller folding map. While the folding map appears occasionally on the market, only a few examples of the wall map survive.
Comparison with the 1911 Rumsey copy
The closest example to the example of the map offered here is a 1911 version held by the David Rumsey Collection at Stanford University. A comparison of the two, however, reveals significant differences in two principal areas:
1. Our version features an extensive reworking of the Southern Pacific Railroad yards south of Candlestick Point, which on the Rumsey version includes only a few scattered structures. The updated depiction features an extensive network of new railroad lines and related facilities. The yards are adjacent to a new San Mateo Power Company electrical plant, which at the time was being consolidated into the Pacific Gas and Electrical Company (PG&E). The electrical plant is completely missing on the Rumsey version, suggesting that the present example was published after the Rumsey copy.
2. In the neighborhood of Ingleside, just east of Lake Merced, our map features a new urban layout and street network not shown on the Rumsey map. This area was formerly the site of Ingleside Race Track, which never reopened after the 1906 earthquake. The proposed streetcar tunnel under Twin Peaks, which is plotted on our map, brought renewed interest in this area of the city, and the land was purchased by the Urban Realty Improvement Company. In 1912, civil engineer E.J. Morser and architects Leonard and Holt surveyed and plotted the new residential development of Ingleside Terraces depicted on our map. This again suggests that our version post-dates the Rumsey example.
Ingleside is a good example of how Chevalier seamlessly integrates new or planned neighborhoods onto his map. Interestingly, these development scenarios are also found well outside the city proper, such as in and around the small suburban town of Visitacion, which seems to be growing quite quickly at this stage and would become an incorporated part of San Francisco over the coming decades.
Modernizing San Francisco
During the first decades of the 20th century, Chevalier's map became the most influential cartographic depiction of San Francisco and achieved substantial commercial success. Chevalier shrewdly aligned himself with the city’s power brokers, and indeed this is a map with the imprints of San Francisco's most influential and wealthy politicians and businessmen all over it. In addition to the mighty Southern Pacific Railroad, the Spring Valley Water Company - the largest privately-owned public utility water company by the time this map was published - was involved in many of the development projects featured on this map.
A massive overhaul of commercial and industrial developments in San Francisco is palpable. Throughout the map, extensive swathes of land and waterfront are planned for development. We see the extensive waterfront area stretching from Portrero Point, across the Hunter's Point peninsula, and down to Candlestick Point and the new railroad yard. Hundreds of neighborhood blocks have been planned on water lots, essentially enveloping the entire western coastline in an enormous waterfront development project. The commercial potential of this vision is made quite clear. In addition to the new land, there are outlines of enormous docking and mooring facilities, dry docks for repair and construction, large canals to give way to the inner city, and many other features. This grandiose project would prove a crucial expansion of San Francisco over the following decades.
The map is of the utmost rarity, with the present example being an unrecorded variant, issued circa 1912.
OCLC locates (4 examples)
- 1911 version (Rumsey 0140).
- 1915 map (Rumsey 10996), Bancroft Library and UC Davis Library.
We note a heavily damaged example at auction offered for in 2009 (dated 1914) and this example, which was purchased at auction in 2022.