CHARLES WEIDNER
l866 - l940

Charles Weidner, San Francisco photographer and postcard publisher, was born in Germany in l866 and came to the United States around l880. He maintained photographic studios in San Francisco for many years and began publishing numbered postcards under the imprint of Goeggel & Weidner in l903/4. The name Goeggel was dropped from the cards after no. ll0. However, because Weidner reprinted his own cards to fill demand, identical cards may appear with or without the Goeggel imprint, with either divided or undivided backs.

Weidner published up to 692 numbered cards -- the highest number I have located -- as well as unnumbered lithographs; a 40 card set of the Panama Pacific International Exposition printed by the Albertype Co. (1915); and numerous real photocards, including a set commemorating the visit of the Pacific Fleet to San Francisco (l907-09), and other locally hostoric events. Most of his numbered cards were chromolithographs, but he also released black and whites, and several cyanid (blue) and sepia cards, as well as some striking embossed (three dimensional) cards.

Weidner also sold his own photographs to other postcard publishers, inlcuding Newman and Pacific Novelty. These can be identifed by a cut line that reads "photo only copyright by Charles Weidner." In addition, his photographs appeared in contemporary books, including Gertrude Atherton's "California, An Intimate History" and at least two books on the San Francisco earthqukae of 1906, where the photos are not credited, but easily recognized because Weidner himself had published the same images as postcards.

In contradistinction to other postcard publishers, Weidner used only his own photographs, and he had them printed by the firm of Glazer in Leipzig. Glazer also lithographed many of the Detroit Company's postcards and there is -- especially in a series of Yosemite cards -- a great visual similarity between Detroit and Weidner cards.

Like the late Herb Caen, Charles Weidner could have been called "Mr. San Francisco." He photographed the city with a loving eye: the downtown business district, Golden Gate Park (the caroussel, groups of listeners at the outdoor concerts), hotels, and the picturesque side of Chinatown. The San Francisco views were followed by cards of the outlying districts: Berkeley and the University of California, as well as the now "yuppy" suburbs of Marin County, then dotted with small towns. Regular trips seem to have taken him farther afield: to the orchards of Santa Clara Valley (now known as Silicon Valley), to San Jose, the beaches of Santa Cruz, and wooded Yosemite. After returning to San Francisco he often repeated visits to previously photographed sites. Once he journeyed as far North as the Oregon border and another time he went to the Southland, where he took in the Cawton Ostrich farm, Catalina Island, and other landmarks.

Weidner's pattern of travelling, returning to the city, and from then journeying outwards again was only interrupted by a series of cards of the San Francisco earthquake of l906, starting with no. 200 and ending with the number 250. If viewed together, they give the impression of a man relentlessly driven to bequeath to the future a record of the ruined city he had depicted so glowingly before. The earthquake series ends with a chromolitho card titled: "One year after the earthquake " and a black and white card titled "Watch San Francisco Grow: Ruins l906, l Year Later, Today," the images arranged like a "Gruss aus" card.

With the outbeak of World War One, chromolitho postcards could no longer be printed in Germany and Weidner tried himself in black and white cards. But the golden age of postcard collecting had come to an end, and with it his publishing career. In his later years, Weidner was a staff photographer at the San Francisco Examiner, Sunset Magazine, and Camera Craft. He died in 1940.


In 1993, The Postcard Album, a German magazine, printed an article of mine: CHARLES WEIDNER AND HIS SAN FRANCISCO EARTHQUAKE CARDS. I am working on a checklist of Weidner cards and would appreciate quotes. On the numbered cards please quote by number only, or send for my list of still-needed cards. On the unnumbered cards, please describe or send xeroxes.


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