Students will gain a perceptive of how different California was during the Gold Rush and how the residents of San Francisco coped with the growing population and changing economy.
Time Alloted2 class periods with home activity
State Content Standards
- 4.4.2 Explain how the Gold Rush transformed the economy of California, including the types of products produced and consumed, changes in town (e.g., Sacramento, San Francisco), and economic conflicts between diverse groups of people.
- 4.4.3 Discuss immigration and migration to California between 1850 and 1900, including the diverse composition of those who came; the countries of origin and their relative locations; conflicts and accords among the diverse groups (e.g., the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act).
on Digital Crocker (crockerartmuseum.org), paper, pencils.
1. Have students look carefully at the image, Market Scene, Sansome Street, San Francisco. This image is accessible on Digital Crocker at crockerartmuseum.org, on the Striking Gold CD ROM, and slides and overheads available for purchase through School Services.
2. Summarize About Market Scene to the students.
3. Lead an open class discussion with questions, and record all comments on the board. Ask:
a. What (or who) do you look at first? Where does your eye go next?
b. The painting shows many people from different cultural and economic groups. Who do you see? Wealthy woman with her two children, Chinese man, kids rummaging in food, sales person.
c. Do you think this painting represents what life was really like in San Francisco at the time? Yes, this artist didn’t invent an ideal picture of San Francisco, rather, he portrayed actual people and scenes from everyday life.
4. Have each student secretly chose an individual in the painting, Market Scene: Sansome Street.
a. Students will research the daily life of that individual and write a “Who Am I?” paragraph describing what he/she is doing in the painting based on the information learned about daily life.
5. Have students complete Homework: Doing Without
1. Doing Without: Have each group make a tally chart of each convenience that each student gave up.
2. As a class, make a tally chart of what convenience each student found the hardest to give up.
3. Once the “Who Am I?” paragraphs are completed, students may read each others and try to figure out who is being described. This can be done as a whole class, partner, group or independent activity.
Homework: Doing Without
Try to understand what was life was like in San Francisco during the Gold Rush of 1849. Throughout the evening, make a list of the modern conveniences that you use. Try to give up as many modern conveniences as possible (electric lights, ball point pens, or TV). Make a complete list of all the things you gave up.
About the Artist
There were many genre (everyday scenes) painters in the United States during the 1870s and 1880s, but few worked in California . William Hahn lived in California and New York for only ten years, beginning in 1871, but his genre paintings are important documents of the activities and places during this period.
Hahn was born Carl Wilhelm Hahn in 1829, in Germany. His father, a weaver, butcher and tavern keeper, died when young William was only eleven years old. At the age of fifteen, Hahn left home to study art at the Dresden Academy. For five years he learned to sketch the human figure, paint landscape backgrounds, compose his paintings like a stage set, and work with a limited palette of colors: greens, blues and browns contrasting with ochre and soft reds. While studying in Dresden, he made a name for himself, winning gold and silver medals. He next studied for about a year at the Düsseldorf Academy. He continued to learn new skills, among them sketching farm animals and people out of doors. By this time Hahn was showing paintings in both Europe and the United States.
While studying in Düsseldorf, Hahn became friends with California artist William Keith and his wife. When Keith and his wife returned to the United States, Hahn soon followed. In December 1871, the two friends set up a studio in Boston. The next spring the artists decided to go west to California and traveled by the train to San Francisco. There they set up separate studios in the Mercantile Library Building. In the 1870s, San Francisco was enjoying a very favorable artistic climate through the patronage of wealthy merchants, bankers, and railroad investors. Artists from the East Coast as well as Europe came to California to paint portraits of landscapes for homes and businesses of the newly rich. Hahn's portraits and still-life subjects were immediately admired. Soon Hahn joined the prestigious San Francisco Art Association, the Graphic Club and the Bohemian Club. Hahn began to travel throughout California to enrich his subject matter; visiting the Sierra Nevada, Russian River area, Sacramento River Valley, and Napa, Sonoma and Monterey counties. He even made a trip to Southern California.
Toward the end of the 1870s, the favorable artistic climate began to decline and by the end of the 1870s a major depression hit San Francisco. Even the best-known artists were unable to sell paintings. In 1878 Hahn left for New York where he lived, worked and exhibited for a year. He returned to San Francisco late in 1879, but the artistic climate had become worse. At the age of 53, Hahn married Adelaide Rising. Shortly after their marriage in 1882, the newlyweds traveled to England, where their daughter Rosina was born. In 1885 the family moved to Dresden. Hahn intended to return to San Francisco, but became ill and died in Dresden in 1887. His wife and child did return to California and settled in Oakland.
About Market Scene, Sansome Street, San Francisco
The newly wealthy merchants, bankers, and railroad barons living in San Francisco—like their East Coast counterparts, appreciated landscapes and everyday scenes. San Francisco in the 1870s had become a cosmopolitan city with a population of almost 150,000. San Francisco had grown rapidly since the Gold Rush. In April 1848, the population was only 850, but by July 1849, had grown to 5,000. By December 1849, the population had grown to 25,000 and by 1860 to 56,802. Hahn quickly became recognized as the leading genre painter working west of New York City. The specific details of his genre scenes enhanced the authenticity of the painting.
Market Scene, Sansome Street, San Francisco was the first major painting of a contemporary California subject, and Hahn's first major painting after his move to San Francisco . When Judge Edwin Crocker of Sacramento , an art patron, purchased the painting for $2,500, it established William Hahn's reputation. The painting records the lively disorder of the early morning produce market in San Francisco at the crossing of Sansome and Clay Streets. Hahn included many actual San Francisco businesses: C.S. Kellogg, seed man; C.F. Richards & Co., wholesale drugs and chemicals; John Howes, wholesale produce; Moron & Miller, produce commission merchants; the California Republican, newspaper shop; and the Quatro Ventri, bar and coffee house at 512 Sansome Street. The painting took him six months to complete.
The two enormous pitchers on top of a building are ceramic advertisements for Haynes and Lawton, Crockery, Wholesale and Porcelain Importers. The poster on the building to the left advertises Chirarini's Royal Italian Circus. In the background is a horse-drawn streetcar operating on a two-track line. In the background, Telegraph Hill is visible. Various social classes are represented, from the upper class, well-dressed lady, her two children and the family dog on the left to the three young urchins trying to pilfer vegetables from the open-air market on the right. Several ethnicities are also represented, from the two Chinese individuals on the right to the African-American servant on the left. The produce in the painting makes clear that even in the early 1870s California was known for its agricultural abundance. Notice the watermelon with the shape cut out of it in the lower left – such a plug assured the purchaser that the fruit was ripe and ready for eating. Such a wealth of incidental detail makes this work a valuable record of its particular time and place.
Marjorie Dakin Arkelian, William Hahn, Genre Painter 1829 – 1887. Oakland, CA The Oakland Museum Art Department, 1976.