Chinatown: Bulletin Board

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Left: Mitchell 1647. Center: Britton & Rey 1137. Right: Piltz 63. All three cards obviously use the same image, but the later linen era Piltz card is sanitized as well as stylized: cropped to exclude window and drying linen at left, a much cleaner street, no crates or fire hydrant at the corner, no pole passing through the awning, no queue on the middle figure at right center, and crates of groceries replacing the horsecart across the street. The image looks NE toward the NW corner of Grant/Clay. The bulletin board is on the Clay St. side of 801 Grant (built 1907). Another example of Mitchell 1647 is postmarked 1/14/1909, so the image must date from 1907 or 1908. 801 Grant and the building across the street at 800 Grant (NE corner Grant/Clay, built 1906) both remain in 2020, and their details match the postcards. Just as the lightpole passes through the awning in the Mitchell card, a lightpole at the corner passes through the awning now, though the pole is a few feet from the old location (then on Clay, now on Grant). The fire hydrant has not moved.

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These cards show the same poster wall from a different angle, looking NW from Grant, with Tie Yick Lung Kee Co. at 757 Grant (SW corner Grant/Clay). Left: Twin Peaks 22. Judy Yung's San Francisco's Chinatown (rev. ed., Arcadia 2016, p. 20) credits this photo to Laura Adams Armer. The photo probably dates from ca. 1907-1910; it's certainly post-quake, not from 1900 as dated by Yung. The same image appears on a b+w Bear Photo RPPC. Right: Pacific Novelty 1-117 is a more tightly cropped version of the same image, with a utility pole passing through the awning as in the Mitchell and Britton & Rey cards above. Anthony W. Lee's Picturing Chinatown (Univ. of California Press, 2001) includes a Louis Stellman photo (4.20) of the same poster wall, dated ca. 1913-1915. It also includes several Armer images (3.20-3.22) of a poster wall on a different building, dated ca. 1900.

Not shown: later (linen era) Piltz 77 (examples date from 1930 through 1950).

Wall poster use diminished as local Chinese language print media expanded in the decade following the quake, so Chinatown poster walls were largely gone by the 1920s.

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