Environment

Throwback Thursday: San Francisco 1906 earthquake

1906 San Francisco earthquake
Looking down Sacramento Street. Arnold Genthe photo.

It was 113 years ago today when San Francisco was rocked and rolled by a massive earthquake, with the temblor and subsequent fire destroying large swaths of the city.

The earthquake threat is no less today, as noted by this MTC map. But there are ways to prepare and ABAG has developed a program to help homeowners look at potential dangers. 

The fascinating image above was taken by Arnold Genthe looking down Sacramento Street. 

He gave this account that was published in "As I Remember" in 1936, 30 years after the earthquake:

"I found that my hand cameras had been so damaged by the falling plaster as to be rendered useless. I went to Montgomery Street to the shop of George Kahn, my dealer, and asked him to lend me a camera. 'Take anything you want. This place is going to burn up anyway.'

I selected the best small camera, a 3A Kodak Special. I stuffed my pockets with films and started out.... Of the pictures I had made during the fire, there are several, I believe, that will be of lasting interest. There is particularly the one scene that I recorded the morning of the first day of the fire  which shows, in a pictorially effective composition, the results of the earthquake, the beginning of the fire and the attitude of the people.

On the right is a house, the front of which had collapsed into the street. The occupants are sitting on chairs calmly watching the approach of the fire. Groups of people are standing in the street, motionless, gazing at the clouds of smoke. When the fire crept up close, they would just move up a block.

It is hard to believe that such a scene actually occurred in the way the photograph represents it." A larger version of Genthe's photograph can be found here.

 

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