San Francisco Panorama

The Society of California Pioneers has an online exhibit of a fabulous panorama of San Francisco Bay in 1853. Take a look.

The panorama is a series of five photographs taken by William Shew. The first panel shows a collection of buildings, mostly wooden. Two are signed Sutter Iron Works and Sutter House (a hotel), showing just how much Sutter’s name was identified with California. The second picture shows the bay with water lots marked out by stakes. These were bought and sold even before they were filled in with debris and became buildable lots. A white steamship by the shore was probably functional, unlike most of the sailing ships in the next three panels.

All that water has long since been filled in and forms downtown San Francisco.

The rest of the panorama shows scores of vessels, almost all abandoned by their crews, gone to the goldfields. Some of those ships would be used for storage or their timbers repurposed for building on shore.

The Society of California Pioneers has one of only two sets of these photos. The other belongs to the Smithsonian.

The photographer was William Shew, who came to San Francisco in 1851 and set up shop in a wagon — his “Movable Daguerreotype Saloon.” Later he would move his business to a fire-proof building.

Daily Alta California 8 August 1857

And just in case you are shopping for a daguerreotype of yourself or a loved one, here is his price list, as of 1857.

Mr. Shew boasted in another advertisement of “taking likenesses of children almost instantly.” So for only $3 you could have your toddler immortalized in a daguerreotype.

According to Measuring Worth, that would be about $100 today. But well worth it!

About nancyleek

Nancy is a retired librarian who lives in Chico, California. She is the author of John Bidwell: The Adventurous Life of a California Pioneer.
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1 Response to San Francisco Panorama

  1. baxterfan says:

    LOVE his post– and I will check out the panorama– the earliest photos are the most fascinating– I have attached an 1840s photo that is VERY rare– this is  Marie Therese Charlotte, “Madame Royale” the daughter of Marie Antoinette and King Louis XVI– suffered the loss of her whole immediate family, was imprisoned,– and was born in the artificial powdered wig splendor of 18th cenury Versailles–yet was captured by a c amera for a photograph–  amazing… Oh, I actually use that water lot picture in my powerpoint lectures…. Eric

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