Visual Culture in 19th Century San Francisco
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Visual Culture in 19th Century San Francisco



[photograph of a Chinese man holding a flower]

Chinese characters inscribed on recto. Carte-de-visite, approx. 9.0 x 5.7 cm. on mount 10.7 x 6.5 cm. William Shew folder, Image ID Number 2015041, WA Photos 357, Carl Mautz collection of cartes-de-visite photographs created by California photographers, ca. 1855-1895, Yale Collection of Western Americana, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library.

Creator/Contributor: William Shew

Date: c. 1853-4

Location: San Francisco

There is a blank space at the bottom of this carte in which two Cantonese characters have been carefully drawn: the character on the right indicates the surname “Pan,” and the one on the left is pronounced “Yip,” which can refer to business or industry. If this was the subject’s name, it would be written as “Pan Yip,” as surnames appear first in Chinese—and someone has handwritten this translation on the back of the carte, which bears Shew’s imprint from his address at 123 Montgomery St. Yet there is no way of knowing whether such a translation was added much later or marked down by the subject himself, in a bid to record his identity in both languages. My thanks to Angie Patangay for her assistance with this translation.

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About the Book

Consuming Identities: Visual Culture in 19th Century San Francisco traces the growth of the commodified image industry in San Francisco during the nineteenth century, incorporating mass-reproduced visual representations of people into a broader history and explaining the cultural roots of modern celebrity.

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