San Francisco Earthquake of 1906 - THE CITY IN RUINS

In this image, we see San Francisco the month after the Great Quake and Fire of 1906.  George Lawrence took this shot about 1,000 feet above the city with a camera suspended from the bottom of a series of kites (which he called an "airship").  Click here to examine a greatly enhanced version and to learn more about the picture-taking process. Image online, courtesy Library of Congress.  PD 


San Francisco, the bustling seaport and (at the time) most-populous city on the West Coast, was in ruins. Adding to the natural disaster, fires erupted throughout town.

The devastated city burned for three more days and, it is now estimated, about 3,000 people died. Preserved in the Library of Congress, actual film footage depicts the disaster and reveals how people (those who were homeless and those who helped) reacted to it.

Photographs maintained by the U.S. National Archives also show enormous damage after the earth shook the city:

Water pipes were broken, adding to the hardship. All surviving houses were completely dark at night until April 22nd when the city allowed home lighting between "Sunset and 10 p.m. only."

To avoid looting problems, the mayor issued a "shoot-to-kill" order.

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Author: Carole D. Bos, J.D. 5190stories and lessons created

Original Release: Apr 01, 2006

Updated Last Revision: Jul 27, 2019

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"THE CITY IN RUINS" AwesomeStories.com. Apr 01, 2006. Feb 28, 2020.
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