Great 1906 San Francisco Earthquake

5:12 AM - April 18, 1906

The California earthquake of April 18, 1906 ranks as one of the most significant earthquakes of all time. Today, its importance comes more from the wealth of scientific knowledge derived from it than from its sheer size. Rupturing the northernmost 296 miles (477 kilometers) of the San Andreas fault from northwest of San Juan Bautista to the triple junction at Cape Mendocino, the earthquake confounded contemporary geologists with its large, horizontal displacements and great rupture length. Indeed, the significance of the fault and recognition of its large cumulative offset would not be fully appreciated until the advent of plate tectonics more than half a century later. Analysis of the 1906 displacements and strain in the surrounding crust led Reid (1910) to formulate his elastic-rebound theory of the earthquake source, which remains today the principal model of the earthquake cycle.

At almost precisely 5:12 am, local time, a foreshock occurred with sufficient force to be felt widely throughout the San Francisco Bay area. The great earthquake broke loose some 20 to 25 seconds later, with an epicenter near San Francisco. Violent shocks punctuated the strong shaking which lasted some 45 to 60 seconds. The earthquake was felt from southern Oregon to south of Los Angeles and inland as far as central Nevada. - USGS

I forgot the doomed city as I gazed at The Fairmont, a tremendous volume of white smoke pouring from the roof, every window a shimmering sheet of gold; not a flame, nor a spark shot forth. The Fairmont will never be as demonic in its beauty again.Writer Gertrude Atherton

Refugee Camps

In the aftermath of the earthquake, an estimated 75000 citizens simply left San Francisco. The remaining homeless population of 250000 established makeshift camps in park areas and amidst the burnt-out ruins of city buildings. As fires burned across the eastern side of the city, refugees migrated west towards Golden Gate Park and the Presidio seeking food and shelter. Eventually, the Army would house 20,000 refugees in military-style tent camps-including 16000 at the Presidio.

The Army managed 21 of the city's 26 official refugee camps. Four camps were located on the Presidio, including an isolated camp for refugees from Chinatown. At the Presidio camps 3000 tents were arranged in orderly street-grid formation complete with numbers and corner directories. - NPS



Y/M/D Description Place
1906/04/18 At 5:12 AM the San Andreas fault experiences a foreshock northwest of San Juan Bautista San Juan Bautista, California
1906/04/18 20 to 25 seconds after the initial foreshock, The Great Earthquake hits with an epicenter near San Francisco. San Francisco, California
1906/04/18 Northernmost 296 miles (477 km) of the San Andreas fault ruptures. Violent shocks punctuate the strong shaking which lasted some 45 to 60 seconds. San Andreas Fault,
1906/04/18 Northernmost 296 miles (477 km) of the San Andreas fault ruptures. Violent shocks punctuate the strong shaking which lasted some 45 to 60 seconds. Offset Fence, Point Reyes National Seashore, CA
1906/04/18 5:15 AM Jack and Charmian London are routed out of bed at their Glen Ellen ranch Jack London State Historical Park, Glen Ellen
1906/04/18 Old City Hall, largest municipal building west of Chicago (25 years to build), collapses. The wreckage of the dome 300 feet high held up by the skeletal remains of a building, were sold as postcards. Demolished in 1909, the site is near 100 Larkin St. San Francisco Civic Center Historic District, San Francisco
1906/04/18 Before his bank building burns down, Amadeo Giannini uses a vegetable wagon to move the vault's money and records to his home in San Mateo, allowing him to continue making "handshake" loans immediately after the earthquake. Seven Oaks, San Mateo
1906/04/18 Ansel Adams falls and breaks his nose when an aftershock knocks him to the ground as he was running to dinner. Western Addition,
1906/04/19 Mark Twain gives a "Farewell" lecture at Carnegie Hall for the benefit of the Robert Fulton Memorial Association. Seats cost $1.50, $1.00 and $.50. He begins the lecture with a plea for donations for the citizens of San Francisco. Carnegie Hall, New York City
1906/04/19 The Fairmont's windows begin to crack from the heat from the devastating fires. Fairmont Hotel, San Francisco
1906/04/25 Amadeo Giannini operates the Bank of Italy on planks laid across two barrels on Washington Street Wharf. A P Giannini ask the local business owners what do they need to rebuild and gives them a loan. San Francisco Ferry Building, San Francisco
1906/05/00 Jack London reports on the San Francisco earthquake for Collier's Weekly
1906/05/00 Calvary Presbyterian only loses plaster in the earthquake that destroyed much of SF. After the quake, St Luke's Episcopal Church, Old First Presbyterian Church and Temple Emanuel hold services in Calvery's sanctuary and Superior Court uses the basement. Calvary Presbyterian Church, San Francisco
1906/05/00 After the San Francisco earthquake, Temple Sherith Israel houses the Superior Courts of the City and County of San Francisco Temple Sherith Israel, San Francisco
1906/05/09 Damage from the San Francisco Earthquake on 18 April 1906 is recorded on film
1906/06/00 US Army houses 20000 refugees from the 1906 earthquake, 16000 camped at the San Francisco Presidio from April to June 1906 1906 Earthquake Cottages, San Francisco
1906/06/00 Ross Faxon, an investor in Hotel Patten, backs out because of property damage to his wife's real estate holdings in San Francisco after the earthquake. Patten Towers, Chattanooga
1906/10/00 Frederick Ives arrives in San Francisco. During his stay at the Hotel Majestic, he takes color photographs of the damaged city from the roof of the Hotel Majestic and other locations in town. The photos are preserved at the Smithsonian Institution. Hotel Majestic, San Francisco
1907/00/00 The steel framed, brick curtain walled Flood Building survives both the 1906 earthquake and great fire. The building is restored and opens in 1907. The Southern Pacific Railroad maintain its headquarters in the Flood Building from 1907 until 1917. Flood Building, San Francisco
1907/04/18 The Fairmont celebrates its opening with a grand banquet of 600 pounds of turtle, 13000 oysters and $5000 worth of California and French wines. Original opening was delayed by the need to restore damage from San Francisco earthquake. Fairmont Hotel, San Francisco
1908/06/00 Last refugee camp for the 1906 earthquake victims closes

Data »

Seismic Event: Earthquake

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