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The San Francisco call. [volume] (San Francisco [Calif.]) 1895-1913, December 26, 1896, Image 1

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Printers' Row Again Attacked by Flames and Men
aced for an Hour or More With Total
Francis, Valentine & Co. and
the Buswell Bindery Are
Gutted by Flames.
While Fighting the Fire He Tcpples
From a High Cornice— Offers
to "The Call."
Printers' row had its second Christmas
fire yesterday, and .by a strange coinci
dence the flames started in the same spot
in an alleyway between buildings. The
whole scene of three years ago when
Printers' row was visited by tire on a
Christmas day was . again enacted, the
same general alarm, The same fi : tit with
flaming paper and woodwork, only there
' was a sad accident yesterday, when Peter
McCabe, a fireman, slipped from the top
cornice of a building on Commercial street
and fell to the sidewalk, thirty or forty
feet below— probably fatal falL The Fire
. Department and the Underwriters' Fire
Patrol did remarkably efficient work, with
the result that only the establishment of
Francis, Valentine & Co. suffered to any
extent. ■;■■■ i- : <j''k
' Shortly after the noon hoar two bells
«nd then seven bells alarming the City
gave warning of the fire. The alarm was
looked for by many of the old-time print
ers and pressmen, and as 27 was. counted
more than one man exclaimed, "There
she goes again!" Then followed a general
rush to the scene of the tire, and in ten
minutes the streets around were thronged
with spectators. jjgja 'i
A second alarm rp-en forced the firemen
I already busy with the flames, which, with
the rapidity of a flash, assumed propor
tions that threatened to spread through
out the hioefc. Great masses of black
smoke rolled up from behind the building
of Francis, Valentine & Co. at 516 Com
mercial street, and , even in the brieat
light of day tongues of tire could be seen
leaping upward and cutting through the
, angry cloud.
At first sight it was hard to tell whence
the smoke and flames emanated — whether
from The Call's publishing a.nd editorial
department building at 517-519 Clay street,
or from the printing houses in the same
block. The ; firemen, however, attacked
their common enemy from front and rear
and in a very short time were victors. *-■'
The second alarm came so quickly after
the first one that .nearly all available ap
paratus was put in operation at the same
time. Streams from several engines were
united into half a dozen pipes, and these
combined soon deluged the burning
building and quenched' the blazing masses
of papers, machinery and woo' n parti
tions, though not until the bookbinding
works of the Buswell Booking and Mail
ing Company and Francis, Valentine &
Co.'s establishment were almost totally
The fire was first seen almost simultane
ously by nve or six men. H Cohn and
•W. F. Ferguson, employes of Francis,
Valentine & Co., were at lunch in Smith's
restaurant, 517 Clay street, the rear win
dows of which look into the light well
command a view of Francis, Valentine &
X)o.'fi pressrooms. Cohn and Ferguson
saw smoke in the alley and mentioned 1 1
to Smith, and then while they v:ere speak
ing tb ere came a burst of flame through
the windows.
Ferguson ran out and gave the alarm.
He encountered Thomas B. Valentine, his
employer, who was frantically shouting i
fire, and in the race were some composi
• tors of The Call. They had all seen the
fire break out like an explosion.
Presently the engines and fire appara
tus were upon the scene, and as the flj/nes
were threatening relief was summoned.
In ten minutes a gallant battle had
started. On Commercial street two "siam
es d" streams were plying r at either end
of the printing house, doing excellent
work. It was the water-tower, however,
that finished the angry fare. This machine I
was hauled up immediately in front of the
burning building and let loose with sev
eral streams united in a perfect avalanche
• through the top-story windows where the j
lire was raging. Wherever the nozzle: of j
the tower pointed there was darkness, for
it raked the combustible material with
mighty force and drove the fire to the wall. j
And »\1 this was accomplished in half' an
hour. 1 ' • . ,
Meanwhile three double streams were car
ried through The Call's composing rooms
and turned into the rear of the blazing !
structure, and kept persistently upon the
upper floor and roof. Such a flood falling
•between the four fire- proof walls* actually
washed everything downward and from
the beginning had control of the fire in
every part of the large space affected.
An hour or two after the first burst of
flame startled ail who saw it, the fire was
extinguished. All that remained was a
wreck of the newest and most complete
printing • house in San ■Francisco, of
twisted and - ruined machinery, charred
timbers and . publications. But an odd
straggler remained to view the ruin, the
fire engines were gone and a few gangs of
men worked in and about the scene of
the fire. .
The . Call escaped with a few broken
panes of window glass i and some Christ
mas "pi." Charles A. Gage, day foreman
"of the composing rooms, saw the smoke
and flames that surprised the men in the
restaurant downstairs. He made a hasty
investigation and saw the light-well belch
ing forth fire and smoke from the press
The San Francisco Call
room of Valentine & Co. The first thing
he did was to turn in an alarm from the
auxiliary box in his department, and with
the assistance of several printers be closed
the iron shutters on the rear windows.
This prompt action saved the composing
department, possibly the whole building,
for the flames passed up against the iron
shutters harmlessly.
In the editorial rooms on the upper floor
Ralph Schwab, the assistant librarian,
was all alone in his glory, thinking of
mince pie and things, when the dreaded
visitor showed its head. Hs immediately
closed the iron shutters and went out to
look at the fi>e that could not get in at his
part of the house.
In the basement the fire patrol men
covered the {Treat presses and other ma
chines with water-proof sheets, and saved
the printing department of The Call.
There will be some weekly papers miss
ing to-day. Quite a collection of them was
in Busweil's bindery, which occupied half
the top floor of the burned building. They
were there to be bound, but will never ap
pear. This bindery had contracts with the
News-Letter, Breeder and Sportsman,
Hispuno Americano, Illustrated World
and other periodicals. Besides there was
a large assortment of boo&s, magaz nes,
etc., in process of binding, and all of them
were destroyed. The machinery of the
bindery was so badly burned and distorted
it is thought that it is worthless now. The
loss to the bindery company was placed at
According to estimates of the under
writers Francis, Valentine & Co.'s loss
was about $20,000. and on the building, a
solid three-story brick structure owned by
tne J. B. Thomas estate, $7500. Blake,
MofStt & Towne's basement was invaded
by water and the loss to paper stored
there was about $100.
The loss claimed in the fire of 1803 was
$42,000, the insurance $22,000, by Francis,
Valentine & Co., and The Call Bulletin
loss was $900.
Where the Fire Started in Francis & Valentine's Premises— Just
After the Engines Arrived*
Thomas B. Valentine was in bin office
when the fire broke out. "Since we had
that fire three years ago Christmas day, 1 '
he said, "1 felt uneasy on this day. I
went to the office this morning about 9
o'clock and made an examination of the
whole building, peeped into every hole
and corner o! the pressroom and through
the two upper floors. Then I went into
my office and wrote some letters. While
writiug I heard the speaking-tube whistle
from the pressroom below. The sound in
creased in intensity until it began to
frighten me and as it continued to grow
louder I started to find out the cause of
the noise. I opened the door and found
the room full of smoke and rushed out
shouting 'Fire!'
"How this occurred is a mystery to me.
I'm certain that everything was all right
an hour before the fire. We have been
very particular since the la3t fire. We
cleaned up and burned up everything in
the way of reluse paper and the like, and
nothing of a combustible nature was left
in the building. I've no idea where it
came from. There is a furnace in the rear
for burning paper and such stuff as migUt
be dangerous.
"We have not carried enough insurance,
but 1 believe the aggregate amount car
ried is about $20,000. Probably we are
better covered than before. The last time
there was rebuilding nnd complete refit
ting, but now I presume the floors are
safe and the presses not all badly injurpd."
The Commercial Light and Power Com
pany, in the basement of the Francis Val
entine <ft Co. building, sustained heavy
losses by water and heat. Much of the
main belting was ruined, and the dyna
mos and engines, although securely cov
ered by the rire-patrol men before the
water came down heavily, were supposed
to have been more or less damaged. The
patrol had a pump at work on the base
ment some time previous to the last
stream's removal, and by that means fire
waskeptupin one boiler. The superin
tendent stated that his company would be
ready this morning to supply the print
ing-houses with power as usual, and his
other patrons with light. He estimated
the loss to the company at $2500.
As to the immediate cause of the fire no
positive information could be got, as
nobody could venture a guess about its
origin. But there was no doubt yesterday
about the place where the lire originated.
Those who first saw it agreed that it
started in the basement, and finding its
way into Valentine's pressroom leaped up
the elevator shaft direct to the top floor.
H. Cohn said he saw the flames coming
from below in the rear of the restaurant
Ferguson corroborated this ntatement.
He saw the fire as it burst from the cellar
and through the back windows of Valen
tine's pressrooms. The Call printers tell
the same story.
Negligence on the part of somebody con
nected with the wrecked print shop is be
lieved to be responsible for the tire. This
is the third extensive fire in the same
place, and besides the Fire Department
has responded to various "still" alarms
from the unlucky spot.
Three weeks ago The Call's librarian
extinguished an incipient blaze in the
Scene on Commercial Street Where McCabe Was Injured.
bottom of the light-well and at 4 o'clock
yesterday ; morning George I' Boy nei*» super
intendent of , The Call's mailing depart- •
men quenched : a tire of rags used for
cleaning^m^hinek These rags lay in i
h'eapsbeiide'Jthe cat'toftgd furnace lv tfa*
alley* or light-shaft, where Valentine &.
Co.'s men burned waste paper the day be
fore. -.^ l >:.- .»..••;»'«'. V; • ■-■..■;•'.'•-• ■-•■ > - '
It was in that particular place that the
fire started yesterday.
A remarkable incident of the fire was
Frank P. Lippett's experience. Mr. Lip
pett is a lawyer at Petaluma. Three years
ago he was on Montgomery street when
the alarm sounded from box 27. Yester
day he stood within twenty feet of the
same spot when 27 rang out again. He
went to the same corner at which ho stood
.three years ago watching the fire and saw
the same building burn down.
No less a coincidence was the presence
of Georee K. Fitch, the veteran editor, at
yesterday's tire. Taree years ago, on
Christmas day, he went to visit a «ick
friend at Berkeley, and on his return was
astonished to find the Bulletin composing
and editorial rooms, now part of The
Call's quarters, badly damaeed by fire
and the rear buildings entirely destroyed.
He was at Berke ley again yesterday and
when he came back printers' row was
again ablaze, just as it was three years
The Fireman Dropped Sixty Feet
From the Roof of the Burning
Bhortly before the fire was placed under
control, Peter McCabe, a fiieman in
The Fireman Who Was Injured at Yesterday's Fire.
Engine Company 2, fell from tbe roof of
the three- story building to the sidewalk, a
distance of over thirty feet. The wonder
is that his life was not crushed out of him
the minute he struck the sidewalk ; but be
lived, and tbe doctors at the Receiviug
Hospital ■tat.art annaa time after the poor
| fellow's arrival there that there was a
chance that he might recover.
Almost as remarkable was the fact that
not a bone was broken. This may In a
measure be accounted for by tbe fact that
:"i'ab.» »{-t:»k on the top of a street l&Bn;<
before tie landed in the street
At the time Commercial street was well
filled with tire wagons and apparatus, and
the sidewalks were covered with people
watching the firemen at work on the
street, ladders and roof.
McCabe was seen to step to tbe edge of
the roof of the three-story building, and a
second later bis feet flew out from the cor
nice and his hands clutched wildly at a
telephone wire. He fell.
A cry of horror went up from the crow
below and many a strong man turne I
aside so as not to witness the frightful fall
A second later there was a loud crash of
glass as the bi^r street lamp was shattered
into a thousand pieces, followed by the
sound of the fireman's body as it struck
on the sidewalk and street, where it lay
apparently lifeless.
A dozen firemen sprang forward, fol
lowed by many citizens who were anxious
to be of service.
Poor McCabe, who is a very large man,
presented & most pitiful sight. Blood
streamed from a dozen cuts on his head
and face, ami his clothes were torn and
cut to tattars. The word passed along
that the fireman was dead. Nevertheless
the inanimate form was hastily placed in
a hack and hurried off to the Keceiving
There, to the surprise of all, McCabe
showed signs of life.
A careful examination showed that none
of the man's bones were broken. This fact
is probably explained in this way: In fall
ing McCabe's body struck on the side of
tbe lamp instead of directly upon it, and
the force of the fall was thus lessened.
Had the body struck six inches farther to
the right it would have been impaled upon
the lamn-nosL
He Passed Away Unexpectedly From a Stroke of
Heart Disease, With Which Ailment He Had
Been Ten Years a Sufferer.
After his wounds were dressed McCabe
was put in tbe -ward, and in an hour or so
he recovered consciousness and spoke a
few words with friends at tbe bedside.
•The doctors say that the extent of the
man's injuries cannot be ascertained until
to-day. It is feared that he was injured
internally. At any rate it was a miracu
lous escape from death.
From Daniel McKenzie, foreman of en
gine 2, an account of how the accident
happened was given. He said:
"McCabe and several cf our company
were on the roof, an^l we wanted one of
the small lines of hose passed up the lad
der. I toid Pete to go to tbe edge of the
roof and lend a hand in passing up the
line. When he stepped upon the cornice
his feet struck an electric light or tele
phone wire and tripped him up. His feet
shot out and down the poor fellow went
I hope that be will live. He was one of
the best firemen and he never shirked his
duty. Even in tbe big sulphur fires we
have had Pete would stay and fight fire
when all others would leave. He did not
know what it was to be afraid."
McCabe has been in the Fire Depart
ment abont two years. He was one of the
new men in 29 when that company was
organized. For the last year McCabe has
been with 2on Bush street near Kearny.
His only relative is a crippled brother
named John, whom he supported.
McCabe was removed from the Receiv
ing Hospital to the German Hospital late
in the afternoon by his fellow-firemen.
He was conscious and appeared to be hold
ing up even better than was expected.
Flre Breaks Out Again.
At 6 o'clock there was an explosion ol
gasoline or benzine in the rear of the Val
entine Company's pressroom. A large
quantity of the dangerous material was
stored there for cleaning presses and type.
Tbe explosion lighted up the whole place
and it seemed that a bigger fire was
coming, wben an alarm was given from
box 76 — that popular Christmas box. A
stream of water and three chemical
streams extinguished the blaze in a lew
Courtesies to " The Ca!l."
The Chronicle, through Joseph B. Eliot,
and the Bulletin, througn Mr. Crothers,
very generously offered their presses and
offices to The Call when a rumor went
out that The Call building had been
burned. __^____^______
Gratitude of a Man Who Was Pardoned
After Being Wrongfully Imprisoned
for Sixteen Years.
LEAVENWORTH, Kans., Dec. 25.—
Governor Morrill issued a pardon for W.
J. Jackson, which was handed the latter
this morning.
"God bless the Governor," was all Jack
son could fay at first, but presently he ex
pressed a wish to rejoin his wife and chil
dren in Texas as soon as practicable. Ac
cordingly he was dressed in citizen's
clothes, shook hands with Warden Lynch
and others in the Warden's office and
without a backward glance walked out of
the prison in which he was wrongfully
confined for sixteen years. His earnings
during that time, which amounted to $193,
were oven to him and he bought a ticket
to Nockenat, Tex., where he will arrive for
a family reunion Sunday.
Jackson was charged with a marder
committed near Wellington, Kans., in
1873, but was not convicted till 1880. He was
a Texan, but herded cattle in Kansas.
His was a death sentence, which in this
State, as is well known, amounts to life
imprisonment He claims that J. J.
Eikins, who died three years age, left a
confession of the murder, but that it was
not in form to do tbe prisoner any good.
Jackson has a wife and tive children, the
eldest of whom was 9 years old when last
seen by the father, and will, therefore, be
25 at tbeir next meeting. The "baby"
was 2 and is i.ow 18. Mrs. Jackson has
educated tbe children on the proceeds of a
40-acre cotton plantation and has been un
remitting in her efforts to secure her hus
band's pardon, her belief in his innocence
beinz still unshaken.
Tbe Adventurous and Highly
Romantic Career of the
He Assisted at the Raising of the
American Flag at Monterey
by Commodore Sloat.
Captain William F. Swasey, one of the
most noted of the older pioneers, a man
full of erudition concerning tbe argonauts
of '49, died suddenly of heart disease at
the Hillsdale House, 33 Sixth street, last
He had been a sufferer from heart disease
for ten years and had lately been attended
by Dr. C. J. Patton, who informed him
last week that he had not long to live.
The captain complained of pains in his
chest late yesterday afternoon, and be
fore the landlord couid get a physician
the old pioneer was dead.
The first persons on the scene were Drs.
Patton and Krotosyner, both o! whom at
once pronounced tbe cause of death heart
disease. Tne Coroner's deputies investi
gated the case and at once conenrred in
tbe verdict and left the body at tbe hotel.
Officers eJf the Pioneer Society consulted
Mrs. Swasey and her sons without delay
and proposed to take charge of the fu
neral. The Dody was removed to the
California undertaking parlors and ar-
rangements for the luneral will be per
fected to-day.
Captain Swasey had an eventful career.
Leaving his home in Maine when a youth
of 16 he started for tbe West. At Cincin
nati he met a family friend, who, evi
dently captivated by his independence
and pluck, furnished him with some capi
tal. With this, in the course of two
months, he had established a flourishing
business in the provision line.
Next he formed a partnership and en
gaged in the fur business, having his
headquarters in St. Liouis. Things were
going on swimmingly when, through the
dishonesty of his partner, tbe young fur
trader found himself deprived of his sav
ings and almost destitute.
His next venture was to join a party of
trappers bound for Fort Laramie. Ar
rived there, he joined forces with a
French-Canadian named Chaumie, and
together they set out on a trapping expe
dition. They were captured by a band of
Arapahoes, who tortured Chaumie and
burned him at the stake.
The daughter of the chief fell in love
with young Swasey and induced her
father to save bis life. The prisoner was
placed in the front row and saw hit friend
tortured and burned. When the fagots
were lighted at the feet of the unfortunate
trapper Swasey ran forward to save his
friend, but the Indians held him back and
Indicate undue exposure and too little
vitality to resist the - cold. r Avoid < danger
by keeping the blood pure and system,
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The_best— in fact the One True Blood Purifier.
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