Albert Tolf cartoons : LUSENET : San Francisco History : One Thread

I came up with squat on google this time: Anybody out there remember Albert Tolf's wonderful postcard or poster, "You can't get there from here?" I'm looking to buy a copy of it.

It's a beautiful piece of work satirizing the impossible freeway system in the city (especially the old Embarcadero "Free"way). In some respects, it would remind you of The Jetsons. In others, it could have come straight out of vintage Mad Magazine, it's that good.

Last time I saw it was in a shop on Powell in the early 1970s. Last time I saw Albert Tolf exhibited was walking past The Albert Tolf Studio on my way home from work every night. It was on Post or Sutter Street and gone now.

I found this dealer, Victoria Chiofalo Artiques in Oakland. Have to see if she's still in business and, if she is, does she only sell the fine art pieces.

Any referrals would be appreciated.

-- Rosa (, November 21, 2003


Sorry I can't help you find a copy of "You can't get there from here", Rosa, but your email brought back a flood of memories.

For years when I was a teenager I had a print of Tolf's "Drop me a line" hanging on my bedroom wall. It was one of my most prized possessions, because I bought it from Tolf personally back about 1965 at that tiny gallery of his across from today's B of A building. The print disappeared, alas, when I headed off to college.

Albert Tolf was one of those people who stimulated my interest in SF history through the marvelous series of historical cartoons he drew about the City that ran in the old San Francisco News. I still have a dog-eared copy of "In Old San Francisco" (a compilation of those cartoons) that my grandmother gave me around 1960.

His works evoked a marvelous feeling for the old gingerbread San Francisco that made me wish I'd been born about a century earlier. Only later did I discover what Tolf elected not to include in those cheery drawings: the smoke, filth, racism, prostitution, shanghaiing, and poverty that also made up "Old San Francisco". But hey, the view through rose-tinted glasses can be a great starting point for authentic research.

-- John Martini (, November 23, 2003.

Hello Rosa:

I can't help you either, but I am also a big Albert Tolf fan, thanks to my San Francisco uncle, who gave me his posters as Christmas presents when I was a kid.

The posters I had of his were: - San Frantasia (a masterwork!) - Crookedest Street in the World - Drop Me a Line - On Top of the World

The first I heard of a fifth poster (You can't get there from here) was from your post.

Is anyone aware of additional Tolf posters - and where one could buy any of them?

-- Nick (, December 08, 2003.

As a huge fan and inspired artist of Tolf I too have been on the hunt for more Tolf work's. I have a poster titled "Noboby Believes Me", which I believe is a sixth poster from those also mentioned. I have a job where I meet all sorts of people and have been asking those that I know are artist or admirerers of his work, and just the other night I met a fellow who actually knew him! I asked if he could possibly help with my search for more Tolf works and He said he would love to help. So I'm waiting to hear back. What a cool guy! So anyway good luck with your searches and I'll share any info I get.

-- jeff venturi (, December 12, 2003.

I wonder if Mr. Tolf, or his estate, realizes what great Christmas cards his work would make. Heck, if we can sell Santa and the Reindeer sharing eggnog with everyone at the Golden Gate tollbooth, just think what we can do with Mr. Tolf!

-- Rosa (, December 13, 2003.

I can't help you, but was excited to know that I'm not the only one who was touched by the artwork of Albert Tolf. I purchased some blank cards in San Francscio back in the 1960's or 1970's showing several of his elaborate whimsical drawings of San Francisco with the exagerated hills and valleys. I found his studio sometime in the 1980's while visiting San Francisco, and purchased one of his large posters which he autographed for me. He was very personable and I spent over an hour just talking to him and looking at his work. He had a huge painting of the Golden Gate Bridge which stretched almost the entire length of his studio. He offered a small oil painting that he had painted to me for $100.00. I wanted to buy it, but $100 was more than I felt I could afford at that time. I have regreted that decision ever since.

-- Sandy Brockway (, January 06, 2004.

What an odd coincidence, Al Tolf is (was) my uncle, and I was doing some research today on his works - and found this! I must say, I did not know Al too well, but seeing the responses to Rosa's request has warmed my heart. These stories dovetail exactly with the "family stories" I have heard, and my impressions from the few times I met him. I love his art as well, and am in the process of framing what I have to display in my bedroom. Unfortunately, Al passed away in the late 1980's. He is survived by his widow, my aunt. I do actually have a copies of Top of the World, The Golden Gate and San Frantasia, all signed by Al. No, they are not for sale, but I may be able to obtain a copy of at least some of his posters or oil paintings. Anyone who is serious about Al's works can contact me via email. I am willing to see if I can arrange something for you. Thanks again to everyone for all the wonderful comments about Al, I will certainly pass them along to the family!

-- Russell (, January 13, 2004.

Years ago I worked for Kohnke Printing in San Francisco. For years they printed the posters and cards created by the artist. The company went out of business years ago. I do not have a copy of the poster you refer to, however, I do have a signed copy of "San Frantasia the Timeless Wonderland" and copy of the 75th anniverary poster created for Kohnke Printing. (Not for sale)

I do have 5 copies of "The World of Nob Hill" that I would be willing to sell.

Mr. Tolf created these great works of art for all the people who love San Francisco.

Another artist to review is Dong Kingman. He created great works during the same period.

-- Gregory Watson (, February 18, 2004.

I lived at the Worth Hotel on Post St. During the 80's. Albert's studio was across the street,in a six ft wide store front.He would be sitting in the studio and always be painting. I would stop in there and talk to him about his life work. I am sorry to hear Albert passed on. As, someone said above, he never painted anything negative about the city, I believe this. Albert,would listen to christian music on the radio while he painted and he is probably continuing his art work in heaven now.

-- Ron Burreson (, February 20, 2004.

I unfortunently do not have any of Albert Tolf's posters but both my sister and I each have an oil painting he did of a church in Woodside, CA. Albert was a friend of my grandfather's. On the back of my oil he carved a wonderful inscription to my Grandfather. Even though they are not a typical representation of Albert's work, they are very special paintings to my sister and me.

-- Jeanne (, February 26, 2004.

i do have a framed poster of "San Frantasia." I found it in a now defunct novelty store, south of market (actually 5th and Market) during mid-80's. This $5.00, fun, whimsical piece of Mr Tolf's work has brought me much pleasure and expect it will continue to do so.

-- Jeff (, April 05, 2004.

You can see the Tolf print "Nobody Believes Me" here as of 4/22/04: ViewItem&category=20149&item=3718709811

-- B. Coulais (, April 22, 2004.

Well, that's our boy -- but who would have believed it from the description "Dirty old picture as is?"

-- Rosa (, April 22, 2004.

I recently purchased an oil painting by Albert Toft at an estate sale. It is an outdoor scene of a river and trees. It's very beautiful. I had never heard of him prior to buying it. I found this discussion of his work here and would love to know more about him.

-- Coco Cosgrove (, May 15, 2004.

The resonse from Al's nephew is interesting ("...he died in the late 1980's...") because I have a PHOTO of Al standing in front of his last Gallery (680 Post Street) where he worked until the end of August, 1991.

I have one of his large originals (30 x 40).....of cost me a FORTUNE back in 1970 (about $10,000 in today's money) and it's titled "Playland, U.S.A" (a comic view of San Francisco).

-- Jeff Cain (, May 21, 2004.

At an estate sale about two years ago I found this amazing little painting signed Albert Tolf that makes me smile every time I look at it. It has a street car with Powell written on the top traveling on wires strung over street construction with a jumble of signs below. The beatnik hanging off the back and the chap doffing his hat in salute while clinging to a post at the edge of the cliff created by the missing street are just too perfect...well, the whole painting is a pet. I've been searching for information on him on and off ever since so was thrilled to find this page today. Cheers!

-- Pam (, July 07, 2004.

EUREKA!! The nephew of Albert Tolf found my query and responded, giving me information about how to contact her because she still has a few copies of the "San Frantasia" poster and is willing to sell them. She's very elderly, but quite sharp and personable. I'M GOING TO GET A BRAND NEW COPY FROM HER!!!

She gave me permission to post her phone number for anybody who wants to get a copy. Please do not call after 7pm PST, as she is quite old and goes to bed early. I didn't inquire about other posters, but she might have others available. Call Naomi Tolf--707/546- 3139. The price is $45, which includes shipping.

Thanks to all who helped me find this information after 30 long years of searching.

-- Carla Kelly (, August 10, 2004.

Oh, I just WOULD have to read this answer at 11 p.m., wouldn't I?

-- Rosa (, August 11, 2004.

Clarification: Missed making a reference correctly. The phone number I got from Tolf's nephew is for the WIDOW OF ALBERT TOLF-- Naomi Tolf, who is in her 80's now. That is why the "her" reference. Please see my 8/10 message for further particulars.

-- Carla Kelly (, August 11, 2004.

I See there is some interest in Albert's work. I am a distant relation. I recall visiting his studio in SanFrancisco in the mid 1970's. I have some postcards and a book he designed, but are not for sale. I will however look into our family resources to see where we may be able to locate some of his work. Interested persons can email me at Thanks, Matthew Tolf

-- Matthew Tolf (, October 01, 2004.

Hello to all-- Was looking on Google to get some info on the Albert Tolf San Frantasia poster and found this site. I have one near mint copy for sale. If anyone is interested please contact me. thanks Carole Gostanian Penny Candy Poster Factory Fresno CA 559-226-1397

-- Carole Gostanian (, October 23, 2004.

I have found a number of Albert Tolf signed prints in my mothers house.My father met Albert Tolf many times and would visit SF. We all have copies we are keeping but will be willing to sell some. If anyone has interest please let me know and I check to to which posters we have. Please ref Tolf in the e-mail

-- George Baird (, November 02, 2004.

I have a copy of "In Old San Francisco" by Albert Tolf - signed by him as well - for sale on eBay right now - bidding starts at $9.95. You can copy and paste the link below to find the listing...

Good luck and Happy Bidding!

-- Bookopia (, December 29, 2004.

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