Justinian Caire Company

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Ruins of the Justinian Caire Co. building, 565 Market St.
after the San Francisco earthquake and fire
April 21, 1906

Justinian Caire Company (1851-1945), Incorporated 1895, a San Francisco-based hardware and vintners’ supply business, was begun by Justinian Caire soon after his arrival in San Francisco on March 29, 1851. Justinian Caire arrived had in San Francisco at the age of 24, going into partnership with his friend, Claude Long, with whom he had traveled aboard Aurelie around Cape Horn to San Francisco. The two friends brought with them a load of French hardware and luxury goods to be sold the booming mining community in San Francisco. They opened Caire & Long, a hardware store specializing in mining equipment, assayers’ equipment and imported luxury items from Europe including dolls from Germany and porcelains and perfumes sent from France by Caire’s brother, Adrien. Caire & Long first appeared in the 1852 San Francisco directory at 178 Washington Street between Montgomery and Kearney. In 1856 the partnership was dissolved, but the two men and their families remained close friends.

In 1856, two years after his marriage, Justinian Caire partnered with his older brother, changing the business name to Caire Brothers to reflect the role of his older brother in supplying merchandise from France. They prospered as many famous mining companies gave them business. The name was soon changed to the Justinian Caire Company. The Justinian Caire Company operated from a number of different locations throughout its more than half century in business. The San Francisco earthquake and fire destroyed the business and its building, located at 565 Market Street in 1906.

In November 1895 Justinian Caire incorporated his company, two years before his death. With the shares created, he placed a certain number of shares in the name of each of his children, but he had all the shares endorsed back to himself as sole owner of the corporation. In early 1896, Caire endorsed each stock certificate to his wife, Albina. At the same time, Caire endorsed all of the stock certificates in the Santa Cruz Island Company to his wife as well. Justinian Caire died on December 7, 1897 and management of the Justinian Caire Company passed to his sons, Arthur and Frederic. Arthur Caire died in 1942; the company was dissolved in 1945; and Frederic Caire died in 1950.

  • Caire & Long 178 Washington St. (1851-1853)
  • Caire & Long 142 Washington St. (1854-1856)
  • Caire Brothers 142 Washington St. (1856-1860)
  • Caire Brothers 530 Washington St. (1861-1865)
  • Justinian Caire Co. 530-532 Washington St. (1866-1880)
  • Justinian Caire Co. 521-523 Market St. (1881-1900)
  • Justinian Caire Co. 565-567 Market St. (1901-1906 earthquake)
  • Justinian Caire Co. 528 Mission St. (1907) [temporary]
  • Justinian Caire Co. 573-575 Market St.* (1908-1937)
  • Justinian Caire Co. 268 Market St. (1938-1942)

NOTE: Market St. was renumbered after the 1906 earthquake.

In the News~

March 25, 1897 [SFCall]: “Mayor Phelan and Lippman Sachs were especially active yesterday in a praiseworthy endeavor to arouse interest in the boulevard project among the businessmen of San Francisco… Tuesday’s contributions, other than money, consisted of tools and material. The Justinian Caire Company, I. S. Van Winkle and the George W. Gibbs Company made a substantial donation in the form of 9000 feet of pine lumber…”

April 1906 during the San Francisco earthquake and fire, the Justinian Caire Company building on Market Street was a total loss. Company records and contents of the safe were lost, as well as inventory. In August 1906 the company temporarily leased property on nearby Mission Street and reopened its office.

December 10, 1906 [www.sfmuseum.org]: “Strong winds toppled weakened walls in the fire zone. Walls of the Justinian Caire and Sterling Furniture buildings on Market Street [San Francisco] collapsed.”

January 7, 1908 [SFCall]: “The Justinian Caire Company has applied to the works board for permission to erect a four story class C building in Market Street east of Second. The building will be devoted to office purposes and will cost $34,500.”

October 8, 1909 [SFCall]: “Insurance companies to pay three claims. Verdicts returned by jury cover none disputes... The suits that were lost were: Justinian Caire Company against the Alliance Assurance Company for property at 565 Market Street, for $6,099.58...”

February 12, 1910 [SFCall]: “Futile attack on quake clause. Dismissals filed of numerous suits to recover on five insurance policies. Underwrites make successful defense to actions in Federal and State courts. In the clerk’s office of the United Stated circuit court and in the state superior court, dismissals were filed yesterday in a number of suits brought against the Alliance assurance… Justinian Caire Company…”

August 17, 1913 [SFCall]: “Frank L. Berry, cashier of Justinian Caire Company, cuts throat. The realization that he never would recover from injuries sustained many years ago in a powder explosion in Contra Costa county is believed to have prompted Frank L. Berry, cashier and entry clerk with the Justinian Caire Company, to commit suicide in a rear room of the establishment at 573 Market Street yesterday morning. Berry's body, with the throat slashed, was found huddled in a chair in an unused room by William Pentony, one of the clerks who participated in a search made when Berry's absence became noticed. Berry was seen on the floor of the place about 9:30 o'clock in the morning. As time went on and is absence was noted, several of the employees started to locate him. They failed. Shortly before the noon hour one of the girls noticed Berry's hat in its accustomed place and the search was renewed. According to fellow clerks, Berry many years ago was hurt in a powder explosion in Contra Costa county. He sustained a spinal injury, which at times became so painful that Berry became despondent. He resided at 704 Douglass Street. He was 45 years old and leaves a widow.”


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