Seal Rocks


Stereoview 2048 (click here for crosseyed viewing) by Northern California photographer Carleton Watkins, captioned "Sea Lions, West End, Farallone Islands, P.O.", is from a series of Farallon Islands undated stereoviews (2001-2078) by Watkins. The Getty Museum dates several cards in the series (e.g., Watkins 2058) as "about 1867". I.W. Taber acquired Watkins' negatives in 1874 when Watkins went bankrupt. Taber published Watkins 2048 as an unnumbered Taber stereoview, captioned "At the Cliff House, Seal Rocks, San Francisco", and also as photo Taber B2191, captioned "The Seal Rocks near Cliff House, San Francisco". identifies the Taber stereoview as "Mistitled Farallone Islands view number 2048". My opinion is that the Farallon location in the earlier Watkins 2048 caption is correct and Taber's Cliff House location is incorrect, probably changed by Taber for marketing purposes.

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These four postcards and the four Mitchell cards below, plus Newman V294 and Souvenir 1730 (not shown), all use the Watkins image. None of them credit Watkins or Taber. If the original image is from the Farallons, the Cliff House/Seal Rocks captions of all these cards is incorrect. This animated GIF overlays the cards shown above on the Taber photo for comparison.

Left: Mitchell 55, undated b+w private mailing card, ca. 1901. Next: American Souvenir 12, multiview postmarked SF 10/18/1904. Next: Weidner 39, credit "Charles Weidner Photographer" front left, AutoChrom logo, undivided back; ca. 1904. Weidner is the postcard publisher but not the photographer. Right: Curteich A-49344, published 1913. Weidner Catalog shows five Weidner 39 variants:

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These four Mitchell 2 variants also show the Watkins photo. Left: Mitchell 2, undivided back. Next: Mitchell 2, undivided back. Next: Mitchell 2, divided back. Right: Mitchell 2, divided back. Image details are substantially different, especially the water and the horizon placement.

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The image on these cards is strikingly similar to the Watkins image used above, but there are many differences. I have searched without success for a Watkins or Taber original of this image. Left: Britton & Rey 522 (postmarked SF 7/22/1905) has undivided back and does not include the out-of-scale steamship at the upper right of the other cards. Next: Britton & Rey 1011. Next: Britton & Rey 1011, variant of preceding recaptioned "Seals on the Rocks at the Cliff House, showing old Ben Butler, the famous King of the Seals, now deceased." The San Francisco Call reported Ben Butler's death on 7/07/1895. Right: Cardinell-Vincent 1011, same image and stock number, PPIE seal.

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These cards show different images of Seal Rocks. Left: Unknown publisher 2, private mailing card ca. 1902. Right: Weidner 115, postmarked 6/29/1908. Weidner Catalog shows four Weidner 115 variants:

Steve's SF postcard pages: