1855 Lemercier - San Francisco from California Street drawn from a daguerreotype

1855 Lemercier - San Francisco from California Street drawn from a daguerreotype

Spectacular Gold Rush era view of San Francisco


San Francisco. From California Street. Drawn from a Daguerreotype, the property of Eugene Delessert, Esq.re

Map maker:

Knoedler, M. (publisher); Lemercier (printer)

Place and Year:

Paris, c. 1855


Visible image 28.5 x 89 cm





Condition Rating:

Nearly fine

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This is a sweeping view of San Francisco published in Paris around the year 1855. It was constructed from a daguerrotype (or a series of daguerrotypes) taken from land on today’s Nob Hill owned by a local merchant, Eugène Delessert.

Documenting a momentous time for both the city in particular and the United States in general — what Barbara Berglund calls the emergence of a new urban society on the western frontier of the country’s landed empire — this panoramic view looks east over the city, with Yerba Buena Island at center and the Oakland/Berkeley Hills in the background. From left to right, the other distinguishing natural features are Alcatraz and Angel Islands, Telegraph Hill, and Rincon Point to the south.

The city is recorded in exquisite detail to the individual building level, accurately illustrating its churches, schools, banks, government buildings, and more. The engraving work is so fine that we even see each individual footpath leading up Telegraph Hill, atop which sits a windmill-like structure known as a semaphore. This was erected in September 1849 for the purpose of signaling to the rest of the city the nature of the ships entering the Golden Gate. It consisted of a pole with two raisable arms that could form various configurations, each corresponding to a specific meaning: steamer, clipper, sailing boat, etc. The information was gathered by observers operating for financiers, merchants, wholesalers, and speculators in the city.

The view looks down California Street towards today’s financial district. At the end of the street in San Francisco Bay we see the famed “forest of masts” - the harbor so full of ships arriving for the Gold Rush that the it became dense with rising masts. The foreground on Nob Hill follows the theme of the Gold Rush and an evolving city, with a series of figures, including miners and Chinese laborers.

Joseph Lemercier (1803-1887) was the director of the acclaimed Paris lithography firm of Lemercier & Cie.


An absolutely beautiful image with some minor wear along the margins.





Berglund, Barbara. Making San Francisco American: Cultural Frontiers in the Urban West, 1946-1906. Lawrence: University Pr Of Kansas, 2010, p. 1.