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Fire the Fourth

September 18, 2014

Yesterday on, @brockwinstead and I spoke of many things, including the fire of September 17, 1850, one of the six fires that hit San Francisco in the space of a year and a half.

1850 sept 17 fire headline

Side note: good news! You can now subscribe to Burrito Justice Radio via RSS!

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Here’s a rough map of the affected area today.

1850 Sept 17 fire 2014

Here’s a GIF of the 1853 Survey Map (more on that over at Pastmapper) — caveat emptor, this was surveyed in 1851-1852, after another TWO fires had taken place..

1850 Sept 17 fire

The fire burned up to the brick walls of the Daily Alta itself.

1850 sept 17 fire daily alta building

Here’s the famous shot from Portsmouth Square in 1851, looking across Washington St. at that survivor, the Daily Alta building.


I’ve started making a rough map of what burned over on Mapbox. Red is what burned, blue is what survived, and yellow is what got torn down.

1850 sept 17 fire

It’s a work in progress. The map doesn’t have the granularity or metadata I need to realistically keep track of what was where. Also, they didn’t exactly record the street address numbers with any great gusto. (I get the impression not all streets had actual numbered addresss at this point.)

1850 sf directory alta

Also, people are not exactly listed in alphabetic order within letters.

1850 sf directory M

Anyway, during the fire some of these people were a little too focused on rescuing their goods, in this case gunpowder:

1850 fire gunpowder

And in addition to the play by play of the fire’s path, the Daily Alta also published fascinating list of all the businesses lost. Here’s just a sample:

1850 sept 17 fire sf business lost

One of these days I’ll get this info embedded in a slippy map.

If this fourth fire was too much for you and you wanted to get out of San Francisco before it burned down twice more, here were some of your options:

1850 cost of passage panama nyc

A first class fare to NYC, adjusted for inflation, was about $10,000. If you wanted to slum it in steerage, you’d only have to shell out $5,000. Getting to Portland would have run you $1200. More on ocean transportation of that era over here.

One Comment leave one →
  1. olutolataiwo permalink
    September 19, 2014 6:31 am

    I like dis, Please send more.

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