An Early View of San Francisco by Henry Firks
San Francisco, 1849
Published by W. H. Jones, 1849 
Size: 26” x 41 1/4” framed
The growth of America and the burgeoning of its cities was spendidly documented in views andpanoramas of the nineteenth century. Before the development of the railroad, trade anddevelopment was based upon access to the sea and cities such as Boston, New York, New Orleansand San Francisco benefited from their great ocean harbors. The mid-nineteenth century was aperiod of spectacular growth for the latter of these cities, resulting from the discovery of gold andthe technological advances in shipping created by the development of the clipper ship whichallowed for rapid trans-American transportation.California’s Coloma Valley became the new El Dorado after the discovery of gold in January 1848.The gold fever that ensued led to the arrival of thousands of trappers, miners, farmers, preachers,lawyers, sailors, soldiers, schoolteachers, and gold seekers of every trade and nationality. A journalistfor the newly launched San Francisco Daily Herald noted: Since the discovery of California goldthe American republic has been constantly reminded by some of its trans-atlantic well-wishers that the preciousmetals of Mexico and Peru were the signal and cause for the decline of Spanish grandeur and Spanish power ...
The American mind seems to have an abiding faith in the capacity of the country to survive the luxury engenderedby the influx of gold, and the citizens of the republic have little fear that the strength of the States is tobe diminished by an increase of wealth... Although barely more than half an ounce per man per day wasfound, almost two million five hundred thousand ounces of gold passed through buyers’ anddealers’ hands during one twelve month period.The effect upon the San Francisco economy was monumental as seen in San Francisco, 1849. Thecity’s harbor swelled with ships and the once small trading post was unable to accommodate themany new arrivals, as seen by the tents erected to the right of the scene. The gold trade enabledmany other trades to establish most supporting the city’s new physical growth. Thus, Henry Firksnoted the many stores that had opened in San Francisco and which heralded a growth in thegolden city which once established never faded. Henry Firks was a painter and lithographer knownprimarily for his images of California during the mid-nineteenth century. His works are held by theBancroft Library, California Society of Pioneers, and the University of California.