The San Francisco Earthquake and Fire

On 18 April 1906, a severe earthquake occurred just three miles offshore from San Francisco. The earthquake and the resulting fires caused the deaths of more than three thousand people, making it one of the deadliest natural disasters in US history. Because it was one of the first disasters to be captured by photographers and featured in print media, images of the event quickly reached international audiences. The mayor’s claim that there had been “nothing destroyed that cannot speedily be rebuilt” inspired a swift and comprehensive reconstruction of the city.

Shifting plates along the San Andreas Fault continue to pose a threat to California in terms of earthquakes. The likelihood of another “big one” by 2050 is 50 percent.

Further Readings: 
  • Rozario, Kevin. The Culture of Calamity: Disaster and the Making of Modern America. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2007.
  • Steinberg, Ted. Acts of God: The Unnatural History of Natural Disaster in America. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006.
  • Thomas, Gordon, and Max Morgan Witts. The San Francisco Earthquake. New York: Saint Martins Press, 1980. First published 1971 by Stein and Day.
  • Winchester, Simon. A Crack in the Edge of the World: America and the Great California Earthquake of 1906. New York: Harper Collins Publishers, 2005.