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1851 Justh Quirot Letter Sheet Cartoon: The Times!!! Committee of Vigilance

The Times!!! - Main View

1851 Justh Quirot Letter Sheet Cartoon: The Times!!! Committee of Vigilance


Extremely rare letter sheet cartoon illustrating the rise of the San Francisco Committee of Vigilance. Printed in San Francisco after the May 3-4 Great Fire of San Francisco.


The Times!!!
  1851 (dated)     9 x 11 in (22.86 x 27.94 cm)


An exceptionally rare 1851 Justh, Quirot and Company letter sheet or broadsheet political cartoon satirizing the rise of the San Francisco Committee of Vigilance. In this cartoon, corrupt city officials argue with the Committee of Vigilance over an Australian criminal from Sydney. The cartoon is here referring to the Sydney Ducks, an Australian street gang active in San Francisco from 1849. The Sydney Ducks held both criminal and political power, undermining the existent corrupt law enforcement establishment. They ran a variety of criminal activities ranging from theft to prostitution and extortion, in addition to being blamed for both San Francisco fires of 1851. The committee formed following the May 3-4 Great Fire of San Francisco, for which the Sydney Ducks were blamed – hence the matches, shavings, and burning brand in the criminal's hands. This view was issued shortly before the second Great San Francisco Fire, in late June of 1851. It has been postulated that the second 1851 fire was an incendiary response on the part of the Ducks to their aggressive suppression by the Committee. It is of further note that the size of the paper on this sheet references the size of the small letter sheet press that Justh and Quirot were able to salvage from their original pre-May fire headquarters on Broadway between Dupont and Stockton.

In this cartoon, the city officials, on the left, stand idly and complain about the Committee of Vigilance taking 'all the business out of our hands.' While the criminal is being dragged away by the Committee, he is underhandedly passing his loot to the local police officer. In the background is the state prison where prisoners are 'supplied with every luxury add allowed to carry the keys of their cells.' By contrast, the vigilance committee appears on the right. In the distance there is a gallows, where indeed, several members of the Sydney Ducks were hung. The crowds gathering about the gallows illustrate the popular support the Committee of Vigilance enjoyed. The doomed criminal probably represents John Jenkens, one of the four 'Ducks' hung by the Committee. The Committee of Vigilance disbanded after three months, turning power back over to the local government, but their actions broke the power of the Sydney Ducks and also, along with other factors, ended the disastrous string of fires which began in December of 1849.

This cartoon was published after the May 3-4 San Francisco fire after which Justh, Quirot and Company moved to a temporary location at the corner of California and Montgomery Street. It is of the utmost rarity and we are aware of only a single other surviving example of this letter sheet which is housed at the Bancroft Library.


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...


Good. Even overall toning. Backed on archival tissue. Upper let corner repaired with some loss. Would benefit from additional restoration.


University of California, Berkeley, Bancroft Library, BANC PIC 1963.002:0150—A.