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Stock# 94837

Photographs of San Diego in 1872-1874

The First Photograph of San Diego Mission

These rare 1870s albumen photographs of San Diego and environs, including the first known photograph of San Diego Mission de Alcalá, are some of the best early photographs of New San Diego's built environment. The photographs show the main business buildings and larger homes in San Diego, reflecting the growth of the city in the years after Alonzo Horton's promotion of New San Diego established the city's business center near San Diego Bay. The photographs are mounted on sheets of paper, with printed captions that also identify the photographers: C. P. Fessenden and Parker & Parker. According to Peter Palmquist, Charles Pierce Fessenden started out as a daguerreotypist in San Francisco around 1855, but by 1871 had set up his gallery in San Diego on the corner of Sixth and K Streets. The present group of 21 photographs comprises a nearly complete set of the series that originally illustrated the very rare promotional pamphlet issued by the San Diego Chamber of Commerce in 1874: Descriptive, Historical, Commercial, Agricultural, and other Important Information Relative to the City of San Diego, California. This publication has long been heralded as the first photographically illustrated book published in Southern California. Only the Sectional View of San Diego City and Harbor is not present here.

Fessenden's 1872 view of the Mission San Diego de Alcalá is the earliest known photograph of that landmark - Peter Palmquist.

In addition to the important view of San Diego Mission, other notable buildings and sites depicted include: Horton House; Horton's Garden; E. W. Morse's Garden; Bank of San Diego; Court House; Schneder & Abegg's Book Store, and the like.

All but one of the images are approximately 3 x 2 1/2 inches. The photograph of the Kimball Brothers' Wharf in National City is larger, at about 6 x 3 inches.

Two of the photographs are dated April 1872, another December 1873, and another April 1874.

In 1867, Alonzo E. Horton purchased approximately 800 acres of land adjacent to San Diego Bay with a vision of relocating San Diego from its historic, missionary site to one more conducive to commerce and economic growth. Less than seven years later, the dream was taking root, and the once empty land now contained a thriving business community and about a thousand buildings - Dawson 80.

The photographs are as follows:

  • The Old Mission (one hundred years old,) of San Diego. By C. P. Fessenden.
  • Olive Orchard and Palms, at the Mission of San Diego. By C. P. Fessenden.
  • Horton House, San Diego, S. W. Craigue, Proprietor, Capt. J. A. Gordon, Manager. By C. P. Fessenden.
  • Central Market, 5th Street, San Diego. By Parker & Parker.
  • Horton's Garden, in December 1874. By C. P. Fessenden.
  • Residence of T. L. Nesmith, Esq., November, 1872. By C. P. Fessenden.
  • Residence of Maj. Levi Chase (Attorney at Law), April, 1874. By C. P. Fessenden.
  • Residence of Capt. A. H. Wilcox. By Parker & Parker.
  • Residence of G. W. McDonalds, Esq., April, 1872. By C. P. Fessenden.
  • E. W. Morse's Garden in December, 1873. By C. P. Fessenden.
  • G. W. Treanor, Proprietor [Pacific Livery Stable]. By Parker & Parker.
  • Hinton, Gallagher & Co., Proprietors. By Parker & Parker,
  • Bank of San Diego, T. L. Nesmith, President, L. G. Nesmith, Assistant Cashier. By C. P. Fessenden.
  • [Commission House. W. W. Stewart & Co.] By C. P. Fessenden.
  • [Schneider & Abegg Book Store]. Importers and Dealers in Books, Stationery, Music, Chromos, Picture Frames, Newspapers and Magazines, Wholesale and Retail. By Parker & Parker.
  • Horton's Bank Building. By Parker & Parker. [D. C. Reed & Co. Law & Land Office, Millinery & Fancy Store]
  • Commercial Bank of San Diego, Capt. A. H. Wilcox, President, E. F. Spence, Cashier, J. G. Estudillo, Assistant Cashier. By Parker & Parker. [Loewenstein & Co.]
  • Court House, San Diego. By Parker & Parker.
  • Residence of A. F. Hinchman, Esq. By Parker & Parker.
  • Residence of J. G. Capron, Esq. By Parker & Parker.
  • Kimball Brothers' Wharf, National City, near San Diego. By Parker & Parker. Larger image, 6 1/8 x 2 7/8 inches.


Original photographs of San Diego buildings and sites from such an early date are very rare in the market. The present series has been lauded for its importance as far back as 1917 when the Rosenbach Co. described the photographs of "great historical value."

Condition Description
21 original albumen photographs, mounted on sheets. All but one of the photographs measure approximately 3 x 2 1/2 inches. The sheets with edge chipping and some stains. The photographs exhibit uniform age-toning, but are generally very good examples of this series.
Palmquist & Kailbourn, Pioneer Photographers of the Far West: a Biographical Dictionary, 1840-1865, page 228. Citations for the complete Chamber of Commerce book: Dawson 80:63. Quebedeaux 63. Rocq 7826. Graff 3664. Howes S67. Cowan I, pages 198-199. Cowan II, page 551. Streeter Sale 2946. Norris 3416. To Delight the Eye 14. Kurutz, California Books Illustrated with Original Photographs: 1856-1890, page 12.