San Francisco Earthquake and Fire, April 18, 1906 (1906)
This film shows the aftermath of the San Francisco earthquake of April 18, 1906, and the devastation resulting from the subsequent three-day fire. The 8.3 magnitude earthquake struck at 5:12am and was centered along the San Andreas Fault, which slices through coastal California. Most of the cities of central California were badly damaged. San Francisco, with thousands of unreinforced brick buildings - and thousands more closely-spaced wooden Victorian dwellings - was poorly prepared for a major fire. Collapsed buildings, broken chimneys, and a shortage of water due to broken mains led to several large fires that soon coalesced into a city-wide holocaust. The fire swept over nearly a quarter of the city, including the entire downtown area. Dynamite was used with varying success to prevent the fire from spreading westward. Over 3,000 people are now estimated to have died as a result of the disaster. For the surviving refugees, the first few weeks were hard; as aid poured in from around the country, thousands slept in tents in city parks, and all citizens were asked to do their cooking in the street. A severe shortage of public transportation made a taxicab out of anything on wheels. Numerous businesses relocated teporarily in Oakland and many refugees found lodgings outside the city. Reconstruction of the city proceeded at a furious pace and by 1908, San Francisco was well on the way to recovery. The scenes in the film are preceded by titles, many of which are sensationalized. One entire scene showing a family eating in the street was almost certainly staged for the camera. The film was probably made in early May, as one scene can be precisely dated to May 9, and another to sometime after May 1.