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Unrecorded map of the destruction in San Francisco, published soon after the earthquake and fire.

Place/Date: San Francisco / 1906
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Title: 1906 Britton & Rey’s Map of Greater San Francisco Showing Burned District
Technique
Lithograph
Dimensions
63.5 x 50.8 cm (25 x 20 in)
Identifier
NL-00703
Coloring
Uncolored
Condition Rating
VG

Description

Unrecorded San Francisco map of the Burnt District, showing the area affected by the 1906 earthquake and fire.

The map illustrates the areas burned during the fire in gold.

The map covers promote the lithographic work of “The Pioneer Lithographers of Greater San Francisco.” Indeed, after over 50 years in business, the present work is toward the tail end of the firm’s existence.

1906 San Francisco Earthquake and Fire

The San Francisco Earthquake struck Northern California at 5:12 a.m. on Wednesday, April 18, 1906, with an estimated magnitude of 7.9. Devastating fires soon broke out in the city and lasted for days. As many as 3000 people died, more than half the population was rendered homeless, and four square miles of the city were laid waste. The quake and subsequent fires are together remembered as one of the worst natural disasters in American history.

Just as today, the American public was fascinated by mayhem, and the presses churned out a flood of imagery depicting the destruction of San Francisco. Offered here is a hitherto-unrecorded example of the genre, being a pocket map of the city with the enormous “burned district” highlighted in orange. If anything, the map understates the extent of the destruction: the burnt district was among the city’s most densely populated, while much of the area shown had been laid out for development but was at most lightly inhabited.

The map is tipped into printed card stock covers promoting the lithographic work of Britton & Rey, “The Pioneer Lithographers of Greater San Francisco,” who, “in renewing our facilities on a larger scale after the Fire… have been guided by an experience of over Fifty years in serving patrons who place quality above all other considerations.” Indeed, after over more than five decades in business, by 1906 the firm was nearing the end of its long and successful run.

Rarity

The map is unrecorded. We find no other examples, though we note another 1906 map by Britton & Rey entitled Map of greater San Francisco, showing contour lines and burned district (OCLC lists a sole example, held by Santa Clara University.) Despite the apparent similarities, our map has no features that could be construed as contour lines. The map was reissued, with a somewhat different title, in the Report of the State Earthquake Investigation Commission (Washington, D.C.: Carnegie Institution, 1908).

Cartographer(s)

Britton & Rey

Joseph Britton (1825 – July 18, 1901) was a lithographer, the co-founder of prominent San Francisco lithography studio Britton and Rey, and a civic leader in San Francisco, serving as a member of the Board of Supervisors and helping to draft a new city charter.

In 1852 he became active in lithography and publishing, first under the name Pollard and Britton, and then Britton and Rey, a printing company founded with his friend and eventual brother-in-law Jacques Joseph Rey. Britton and Rey became known as the premier lithographic and engraving studio of the Gold Rush era, producing letter sheets, maps, and artistic prints.

Condition Description

Minor soiling at folds.

References

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