Notes: An attractive scene inside a San Francisco Chinese restaurant in the 1870s. The image centers on a recessed seating area along the back wall of a room in an empty restaurant, with tables in the foreground, a collection of decorative objects is displayed on the left side of the image. On the right are a doorway and tall, neat stack of extra chairs. The room is neat, luxurious, and virtually devoid of Western objects.
For Watkins' customers who purchased this image, the interior of this restaurant would have been a very foreign site. The image also offers a hint of the tremendous volume of trade underway between San Francisco and China, as the furniture, decorations, wall tapestries, and knick-knacks would have been imported from across the Pacific.
Watkins photographed the exterior of two large Chinese restaurants, one on Jackson Street and the other on Dupont, in San Francisco. It's not clear which restaurant this is. The previous image in this series of photographs (B3759) is the restaurant on Dupont; the subsequent one (B3761) is the restaurant on Jackson.
Carleton Watkins, a prolific and acclaimed 19th century photographer of California, made a number of views of San Francisco's Chinatown, which was located a couple of blocks from his studio-showroom on Montgomery Street. Watkins is known to have employed a Chinese-American darkroom assistant, Ah Fue, who may have helped give him access to people and locations not normally visited by white photographers. Based on Peter Palmquist's checklist of Watkins' stereoviews—one of which was a cropped version of this photograph—this image likely dates from the late 1870s.
The albumen silver print measures 8-1/16 by 4-3/4. In Watkins' New Boudoir Series of Pacific Coast Views, B3760.
Edition + Condition: The albumen print is very near fine, with minor spotting to the edges, not affecting the image. The mount appears to have been cut down and is currently 10-1/8 by 8-1/2, with some tanning along the top edge and a modern caption in pencil along the bottom edge.
Publication: San Francisco: Carleton Watkins, (late 1870s).
Item No: #307225