San Francisco ephemera charted historical path to success at PBA Galleries

‘Vue de San Francisco en 1860,’ published by Henry Payot, $10,625

‘Vue de San Francisco en 1860,’ published by Henry Payot, $10,625

BERKELEY, Calif. – On April 21, PBA Galleries offered a small but highly important group of maps, views, and pictorial letter sheets relating to the early history and later development of the city of San Francisco. The assemblage of graphic and cartographic material from the Charles Fracchia collection was gathered during half a century by one of the leading historians of the city. The results often exceeded the published presale estimates, but many of the items were of such rarity, even unique, that the estimates mostly served as starting points. In the end, all 134 lots sold – a white glove auction, the first in the 30-year history of PBA Galleries.

Charles Fracchia, who passed away in the summer of 2021, was the founder of the San Francisco Historical Society and one of San Francisco’s most respected historians. He led historical walking tours for two generations of San Franciscans; taught history courses at the University of San Francisco, San Francisco State, and City College; and lectured at venues throughout the city. He was the author of numerous books, and was publisher of the historical journal The Argonaut and the quarterly newsletter Panorama. He was also one of the founders of Rolling Stone magazine.

The bidders were passionate about the Fracchia collection, and in particular passionate about lithographs and views of San Francisco. Vue de San Francisco en 1860, a tinted lithograph looking toward Yerba Buena Island, sold for $10,625, twice the high estimate. In the same category, a George Baker lithograph of San Francisco went to a lucky bidder for $11,785.

The collection featured numerous maps of the entire city, from its infancy to the years of rebuilding after the devastating earthquake. But perhaps of even greater interest were the local maps featuring the neighborhoods being divided up into lots for sale to homesteaders and speculators. One in this category that went well above the estimate was a map of tide lands for sale, printed by G.T. Brown, the first African American lithographer in California, which sold for $10,000.

‘Bird’s Eye View of San Francisco Drawn from Meream’s Model & Nature July 1852,’ published by Cooke & LeCount, $9,375

‘Bird’s Eye View of San Francisco Drawn from Meream’s Model & Nature July 1852,’ $9,375

Another map that piqued the interest of bidders was titled Official Map of Chinatown in San Francisco, a color lithograph from 1885. The lot sold for $15,000, 10 times the high estimate. The large selection of pictorial letter sheets, graphic portrayals of San Francisco in the wild days of the Gold Rush, captured its amazing growth from outpost to metropolis in a few short years. These brought high prices across the board – among the most notable was a letter sheet with a large double-page lithographed Bird’s Eye View of San Francisco … July 1852, published by Cooke & LeCount, which went for $9,375.

The second portion of the Charles Fracchia collection, featuring a group of lithographed views of San Francisco, will be offered in the fall of 2022.

PBA Galleries is currently accepting consignments for Fine Literature with Beats & the Counterculture. For more information regarding upcoming sales, consignments or auction results, please contact PBA Galleries at 415-989-2665 or pba@pbagalleries.com.

 

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