The Drawings and Photographs of Edward Vischer (1809–1878) came to Honnold Library as the generous gift of Mrs. Frederick Hellman. Edward Vischer as a young man of nineteen emigrated from Germany to Mexico where he was associated with the commercial house of Heinrich Virmond. In the employ of Virmond, or other German-Latin American companies, he acted as supercargo on many trading voyages to west-coast ports of the Americas and to the Orient.

Mission of San Luis Ray, from the Vischer Collection.

Mission of San Luis Ray, from the Vischer Collection (view close up).

In 1842, he became interested in California and agreed to travel there for Virmond. It was in this way that Vischer first came to know the region, anchoring at Monterey, taking an excursion northwest to the port of Yerba Buena, and visiting Santa Barbara and Los Angeles. On this visit he fell in love with California. He gladly returned to San Francisco where he was active in currency exchange operations, acted as agent for German-Mexican firms, as marine forwarding agent, as real estate agent, and as a mortgage banker.

“Monterey Cypress-Grove”, 1867, from the Vischer Collection.

“Monterey Cypress-Grove”, 1867, from the Vischer Collection (view close up).

At the age of fifty, Vischer became intensely interested in sketching and painting. He combined with these interests a skill in photography. It was his practice to make rapid sketches on the spot of scenes which interested him, the big trees, the ruins of Missions, or mining operations, and later to work up these sketches in water colour, pencil, pen or crayon. Subsequently he reproduced his drawing, first by lithography and later by photography. Using these techniques, Vischer published portfolios of drawings: The Mammoth Tree Grove (1862), The Washoe Mining Region (1862), Pictorial of California Landscape (1870), and Missions of Upper California (1872). The material to be found at Honnold Library includes an important file of original Vischer drawings and paintings; two scrapbooks of California scenes; all the portfolios of drawings listed above; numerous volumes of California scenes; and items about Vischer.

For more information:

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For further information in the Honnold Library Record:

“The Drawings and Photographs of Edward Vischer,” which appeared in the Honnold Library Record, Vol. III, No.2, Summer 1960.