San Francisco: Francis Ficke, 1906. Colored lithograph mounted on cardstock, 16 x 39 1/2 inches. Small hole to top center margin of mount and faint tidelines in upper margin (image not affected). A shallow scrape to the lower left corner of the image, a few other scrapes in the margins. Colors strong and vibrant. Very good. Matted. Item #WRCAM55264
A chilling and dramatic panoramic view of the fires following the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, looking east from Nob Hill towards the bay. The lower margin includes captions listing the important locations destroyed by the fire: Telegraph Hill, Hall of Justice, Kohl Building, Merchants Exchange, Mills Building, Union Trust Building, Palace Hotel, Chronicle Building, Call Building, Flood Building, St. Francis Hotel, Post Office, City Hall, and Mechanics Pavilion. Although the flames rise in the distance, the sky is still blue and the trees are green, and it is difficult to imagine that, as Ficke's subtitle states, "every building shown in the above picture was destroyed...." A closer look at the image reveals small figures on every street and sidewalk running away from the fire. One can also see a few buildings that have already started to crumble or topple from the earthquake (but are not yet on fire). The earthquake struck the coast of northern California at 5:12 a.m. on Wednesday, April 18 with an estimated magnitude of 7.9. Shaking was felt from Oregon to Los Angeles, and inland as far as central Nevada. Within three days over thirty fires broke out, mostly caused by ruptured gas lines. Some fires were started when firefighters, untrained in the use of dynamite, attempted to demolish buildings to create firebreaks. The dynamited buildings themselves then caught fire. In total, some 25,000 buildings on 490 city blocks were destroyed. As many as 3000 people died and over 80% of the city was destroyed. This remains to date the most deadly natural disaster in California history. Francis Ficke had recently moved to San Francisco from Burley, Washington, where he had been a member of a cooperative socialist colony called the Co-operative Brotherhood. Prior to that he had worked in New York, where he participated in the New York lithographers' strike as General Secretary-Treasurer of the International Lithographic Artists' and Engravers' Protective and Insurance Association. At the time of printing, Ficke was located at 1778 Post Street, from which he advertised in BILLBOARD as the "Headquarters for Streetmen's Supplies." This image was produced by the Louis Roesch Lithography Company of San Francisco, a longtime lithography and commercial printing firm established in 1879, and a fixture in the Mission District until it finally closed in 2003. In additional to large lithograph posters like the present item, Roesch was the leading producer of labels and related promotional materials for the Central Valley agricultural sector through much of the 20th century. They printed labels and posters for beer, wine, brandy, and tobacco for the national market, and produced licenses and other regulatory paperwork for the California Fish and Game Commission, along with postcards and other ephemera. Ficke also issued a black and white version, and we found one example where St. Ignatius church is listed among the buildings destroyed instead of Mechanics Pavilion. Nevertheless, this lithograph is uncommon in any state. Only one copy is recorded in OCLC, at Stanford, and only a handful have appeared at auction. This is the first time we have handled a copy of this impressive color lithograph. OCLC 754863938. THE CO-OPERATOR, Vol.X, No.218 (July, 1905). BILLBOARD, Vol.XIX, No.49 (December 17, 1907).