San Francisco: Lith. & Publ. by Justh, Quirot & Co., . Pictorial letter sheet, 8 1/4 x 10 3/4 inches, on blue wove paper. With blank conjugate leaf still attached. A bit of light toning, mostly around the edges of the sheet. Near fine. Item #WRCAM54798
A striking and rare California pictorial letter sheet, depicting the first act of violence of the Vigilance Committee - the execution of the "Sydney Duck," John Jenkins. The so-called Sydney Ducks were a gang of Australian convicts who committed a number of arsons and robberies in San Francisco. Their activities, and the seeming inability of the legal authorities to stop them, were among the factors leading to the establishment of the first Vigilance Committee on June 9, 1851. The remainder of the printed caption tells the story: "John Jenkins, a Sidney [sic] man entered the store of Mr. V on long Wharf in the evening of 10th of June & carried off a sale. After he was captured he was brought to the corner of Sansome & Bush Sts. where he was tried by a jury of the highest respectability, and condemned to be hung. The execution took place on the Plaza on the same night at 2 o'clock. Immediately after sentence of death was passed upon him, he was asked if he had anything to say. He replied: No, I have nothing to say, only I should wish to have a cigar & brandy & water, which was given him." This moody lithographic illustration is done in an almost impressionistic style, with dark clouds obscuring the moonlit night, crowds of shadowy, cheering on-lookers, and Jenkins' body hanging from a rafter that forms part of a large cross at one end of the Custom House. "No series of events attracted greater attention than the workings of the 1851 and 1856 vigilance committees" - Kurutz (in the introduction to the Clifford Collection). This letter sheet was produced by Justh, Quirot & Co., one of the first and most important lithographic firms in San Francisco. It was printed on blue wove, gray wove, and white wove paper. A vivid depiction of violence and justice on the Barbary Coast. BAIRD, CALIFORNIA'S PICTORIAL LETTER SHEETS 79. CLIFFORD LETTER SHEET COLLECTION 73. PETERS, CALIFORNIA ON STONE, pp.133, plate 66.