The Peter T. Pope Early California Collection

The Peter T. Pope Early California Collection, now part of the Crocker Art Museum’s permanent collection, examines the history of California through rare historic maps, depictions of Gold Rush towns, urban scenes of San Francisco, and other aspects of daily life. Scenes of the city include depictions of urban development, bird’s-eye views, social gatherings, caricatures of well-known industrialists, and the destruction caused by the 1865 and 1906 earthquakes. Through nearly all of the works—from cartography to cartoons—visitors will see the evolution of California’s urban, natural, and political landscape during multiple periods of growth and development.

The collection also seeks to address under-told narratives of immigrant labor that accompanied the Gold Rush boom, the forced relocation of Native American peoples, colonization, as well as the increased demand for, and use of, environmental resources. The people and places omitted from the many scenes depicted in the artwork are as important as the people and places purposefully represented.

Between 1848 and 1853, a quarter of a million people literally rushed to California in search of gold. The influx of people during the Gold Rush, considered the largest mass migration up to that point in American history, hastened California’s move toward statehood, which was secured through the Compromise of 1850. Within this Gold Rush history also lies the history of Native American peoples and immigrants. The latter came to Northern California from around the globe by steam ships, river boats, and overland trails.

Trains also play a central role in many of the works and are evidenced through scenes of railroads under construction and as connectors of people and industry. In 1862, Congress passed the Pacific Railway Act, which allowed for the start of construction on a transcontinental railroad. Upwards of 20,000 Chinese laborers helped build the most treacherous western portion of the transcontinental railroad between 1863 and 1869. Further, territorial expansion was fueled by the idea of Manifest Destiny, or that it was the God-given right for the United States to span from coast to coast regardless of those already here or who might stand in the way.

The Peter T. Pope Early California Collection digital project was made possible by the generous support of Maria and Molly Pope.

Back to Collections
  • Unknown
    Untitled (Maguire's Opera House Playbill). May 30, 1863.
  • Unknown
    Untitled (Metropolitan Theatre Playbill). 1856.
  • Unknown
    Untitled (New San Francisco Theatre Playbill for Much Ado About Nothing). 1853.
  • Unknown
    Union Theatre, Six Degrees of Crime. 1855.
  • Unknown
    Untitled (Panama Pacific International Exposition Certificate). circa 1910.
  • Unknown
    Untitled (Handwritten Checks). 1850–1868.
  • Victor Semon Perard (American, born France, 1870–1957)
    Panoramic View of San Francisco, Nocturne. n.d.
  • W. H. O'Grady (American, active 19th century) and printed by A.J. McLees (American, active 19th century)
    San Francisco. 1850.
  • W. W. Kurtz & Co. (active 19th century), publisher
    The May Festival of the Turnverein Association, San Francisco. 1856.
  • Wells Fargo & Co.
    Untitled (Wells Fargo Note). August 31, 1859.
  • William Carey Jones (American, 1814–1867), William Eddy (American, 1819–1854), Edwin Moody (American, 1814–1896) and Banjamin Franklin Butler (American, born France, 1816–1865)
    Official Map of the City of San Francisco, Full and Complete to the Present Date. January 15, 1851.
  • William Eddy (American, 1819–1854), S.W. Higgins (American, active 19th century), P.M. McGill (American, active 19th century) and published by C.B. Graham (American, active 19th century)
    Official Map of San Francisco. 1849.
  • William Eddy (American, 1819–1854), Zakreski and Hartman (American, active 19th century) and published by S.H. Marlette C.E. (American, active 19th century)
    A Complete Map of San Francisco. 1851.
  • William H. Dougal (American, 1822–1895) and published by John T. Towers (American, 1811–1857)
    View of San Francisco from Yerba Buena Island. 1852.
  • William Keith (American, born Scotland, 1838–1911)
    Untitled (Coastline with Road, Land's End). n.d.
  • William Simpson (Scottish, 1823–1899)
    San Francisco from Rincon Hill, April 1873. 1873.
  • William Smith Jewett (American, 1812–1873) and published by Sarony & Major (American, active 19th century)
    A View of Sutter's Mill & Culloma Valley on the South Fork of the American Line, Alta, CA. n.d.
  • William Smyth (English, 1800–1877) and J. A. Pinto (active 19th century) and published by Thomas C. Russell (American, active 19th century)
    The Mission of San Francisco, Upper California et al.. circa 1800.
  • William Vallance Gray (American, born Scotland, 1839–1891) and Charles Braddock Gifford (American, 1830–1882)
    Bird's Eye View of the Bay of San Francisco and Adjacent Country. 1869.


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