1851 Justh Quirot Letter Sheet View of the San Francisco Fire of May 1851

Fire in San Francisco. In the Night, 3rd- 4th May, 1851, Loss $20,000,000. - Main View

1851 Justh Quirot Letter Sheet View of the San Francisco Fire of May 1851


Rare Broadsheet or Letter Sheet View of San Francisco, California.


Fire in San Francisco. In the Night, 3rd- 4th May, 1851, Loss $20,000,000.
  1851 (dated)     9 x 11 in (22.86 x 27.94 cm)


An extremely rare Justh, Quirot and Co. 1851 letter sheet or broadsheet view of San Francisco during the San Francisco Fire of May 3-4, 1851. It looks down on the burning city from a pastoral overlook. This letter sheet was issued in San Francisco just days after the May 3-4rd conflagration. The small size of this letter-sheet is reflective of the small and press that the firm, one of San Francisco's first printers, was able to salvage from the conflagration. It would not be until 1852 that they finally acquired a larger format press.

Although only 2 years after the 1849 discovery of gold in the nearby Sacramento Valley, and the subsequent boom in building, San Francisco of 1851 was already a bustling city. The San Francisco Fire of May 1851, possibly caused by arson, began around 11PM in a paint and upholstery store on the south side of Portsmouth Square. Given the high winds, the predominantly wooden city, including wood plank sidewalks, was quickie engulfed in the conflagration. By some estimates more three-quarters of the city, more than 2000 buildings, was consumed before the fire was brought under control. This being the 5th and worse such 'Great Conflagration' since December of 1849.

This view is quite rare due it the ephemeral nature of the medium – letter sheets, and the great loss of surviving sheets that occurred during the 1909 San Francisco Earthquake. The OCLC identifies no examples. An example is held at the Bancroft Library, and a second at the De Young Museum. We are aware of no others. Market presence is negligible, making this a once in a lifetime collecting opportunity.


Justh, Quirot and Company (fl. 1851 – 1853) was a San Francisco based lithographic company founded by C. Quirot and Emil (Emmanueal) Justh. They are one of the earliest and most important printing houses in San Francisco. Most of their early work appeared as quarto sized letter sheets, possibly reflecting the size of their press (or perhaps the press they were able to save from the 1851 fire). Later they issued larger format city views, probably after acquiring a larger press. Justh and Quirot maintained offices at 253 Montgomery Street (1851, post fire), 136 1/2 Clay Street (1852), and 136 California Street (1851 – 1853). Little of their early work survives due to a combination of numerous conflagrations that tore through the city and the 1906 San Francisco earthquake. The firm closed in 1853 and many of their plates were sold to competitors, Britton and Rey. Of the partners, Emil Justh was a Hungarian lithographer who immigrated to San Francisco in 1851. After leaving Justh, Quirot he worked as an assayer for the U.S. Mint in San Francisco, between 1854 and 1855. He later went on to found and run an assaying business with Solomon Hunter from 1855-1858. Of Quirot little is known. Learn More...


Very good. Even overall toning. Some loss at old fold intersections. Edge reinforcement on verso.


De Young Museum, 9213. Baird, J. A. California's Pictorial Letter Sheets, 1849-1869, # 77. University of California, Berkeley, Bancroft Library, BANC PIC 1963.002:37--A.