City across center totally under flames at its far left. Ships and passengers in row boats in river lower foreground.
One year after the destructive fire in Chicago, Boston experienced the largest conflagration in its history. The fire was so intense that the glow of the flames was noted by ships off the coast of Maine. The fire destroyed 776 buildings in Boston’s downtown, caused over $73 million in damage, killed 20 people and led to stricter building regulations in Boston. Fires were a constant source of anxiety for city dwellers. Buildings were constructed quickly and often with no attention to safety. Flames spread quickly from rooftop to rooftop as merchants were not taxed on inventory in their attics and the wooden spaces often contained a majority of the seller’s goods. Boston’s low water pressure greatly hampered the efforts to control the blaze. Currier & Ives recorded the destruction of many cities through fire, thus providing documentation of these destructive disasters of the 19th century.