An important panorama of post-1906 San Francisco, captured by one of the most iconic photographers of the American West.

San Francisco, to-day, as viewed from Rincon Hill, showing the remarkable results accomplished since the Great Fire of April 1906


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SKU: NL-01615 Category: Tag:
Cartographer(s): H.C. Tibbitts
Date: 1908
Place: San Francisco
Dimensions: 125 x 25 cm (49 x 10 in)
Condition Rating: VG


This wonderful hand-colored panorama catches San Francisco amid its impressive recovery from the devastation of the 1906 earthquake and fires, which destroyed much of the city. The photograph was taken by H.C. Tibbitts in April of 1908 as a commission for the Southern Pacific Railroad’s magazine, Sunset.

Captured from a vantage point around Rincon Hill, the vista shows the so-called ‘burned district’ of San Francisco, which corresponds roughly to today’s Financial District. At the time, this central part of San Francisco was still rebuilding. Nevertheless, the efforts had clearly started to pay off, and the panorama shows a city full of life and unfulfilled potential. The catastrophe had caused vital economic interests to shift south to Los Angeles, making city officials and local industrialists keen to convey a narrative of speedy recovery. And what could relay the indomitable spirit of San Franciscans better than a photograph of its most destroyed district in full flourish? 

Two key structures serve as bookends on either side of the photo. On the far left, we see the great dome of City Hall being rebuilt, whereas on the far right is the Ferry Building tower at the end of Market Street. The Ferry Building was one of a few iconic San Francisco landmarks that survived the destruction. Left of center stands the Call Building, its iconic upper section largely rebuilt after it caught fire after the earthquake. Many other buildings are recognizable, making the panorama an essential snapshot of early 20th-century San Francisco architecture.

In the lower right corner, we find a short printed text noting the source and subsequently relaying the magnitude of the efforts entailed in the rebuilding: 

“Experts estimate that buildings erected since the firs, up to March 1st, 1908, have cost about $100,000,000. The present population of the city, from recent estimates, is 480,000; the proposed bond issue for fire protection, city buildings, and constructing city street and sewers will raise $30,700,000.”


H.C. Tibbitts

Howard Clinton Tibbitts (1863-1937) was a San Francisco-based photographer famous for his photographic documentation of the American West. Starting in 1892, Tibbitts worked for the Southern Pacific Railroad for over 40 years. His job was to photograph landscapes, towns, agriculture, and other local scenes that would help to promote the railroad among the wider public.

During his tenure, Tibbitts created countless images of the United States, Canada, and Mexico, making him one of the most important documentarians of his age. His work was often published in the railroad’s magazine, Sunset, which endeavored to show California and Nevada as something other than the ‘Wild West.’

Condition Description

Good. 8 conjoined sheets, with wear along meeting points/ fold lines. Small tears in margins at fold lines. Scrape across one sheet at right. Hand-colored.