San Francisco Album (1854–1865)

Originally published in 1856 as photographs of the Most Beautiful Views and Public Buildings of San Francisco, G.R. Fardon’s San Francisco Album is the earliest existing photographic record of an American city and one of the earliest of any city in the world. The album is unmatched as a historical document of the city during the years of rapid growth, burgeoning prosperity and increasing density in the wake of the Gold Rush. Equally, the plates themselves are compelling aesthetic objects, surviving as some of the earliest photographs made on paper in the United States. Exhibited will be thirty salt prints dating from 1854-56, from an extraordinary example of the album acquired last year by Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco, and Hans P. Kraus Jr., New York. Fardon’s detailed images depict among other subjects, a booming downtown, a rural South Park, the famous Merchant’s Exchange on Battery Street, Fort Vigilance, City Hall, as well as a four-part panorama of the city taken from atop Nob Hill.

View of North Beach, from Telegraph Hill, ca. 1856
salt print, 6-1/4 x 8-1/4 inches (image & sheet)

San Francisco Album: Photographs by George Robinson Fardon is the first serious, comprehensive look at the San Francisco Album as well as Fardon’s other known work, his life and artistic contributions. The Gundlach Album, highlighted here, takes its name from the family which held it in their collection for the last 140 years. It is one of only nine surviving albums and the only one not held in an institutional collection. San Francisco Album: Photographs by George Robinson Fardon is accompanied by a 176- page hardcover catalogue including critical essays by four distinguished scholars.

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