The Great Earthquake and Firestorms of 1906: How San Francisco Nearly Destroyed Itself by Philip L. FradkinThe Great Earthquake and Firestorms of 1906: How San Francisco Nearly Destroyed Itself by Philip L. Fradkin

The Great Earthquake and Firestorms of 1906: How San Francisco Nearly Destroyed Itself

byPhilip L. Fradkin

Paperback | April 3, 2006

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The first indication of the prolonged terror that followed the 1906 earthquake occurred when a ship steaming off San Francisco’s Golden Gate "seemed to jump clear out of the water.” This gripping account of the earthquake, the devastating firestorms that followed, and the city’s subsequent reconstruction vividly shows how, after the shaking stopped, humans, not the forces of nature, nearly destroyed San Francisco in a remarkable display of simple ineptitude and power politics. Bolstered by previously unpublished eyewitness accounts and photographs, this definitive history of a fascinating city caught in the grip of the country’s greatest urban disaster will forever change conventional understanding of an event one historian called "the very epitome of bigness.”

Philip Fradkin takes us onto the city’s ruptured streets and into its exclusive clubs, teeming hospitals and refugee camps, and its Chinatown. He introduces the people#151;both famous and infamous#151;who experienced these events, such as Jack and Charmian London, Enrico Caruso, James Phelan, and Abraham Ruef. He traces the horrifying results of the mayor’s illegal order to shoot-to-kill anyone suspected of a crime, and he uncovers the ugliness of racism that almost led to war with Japan. He reveals how an elite oligarchy failed to serve the needs of ordinary people, the heroic efforts of obscure citizens, the long-lasting psychological effects, and how all these events ushered in a period of unparalleled civic upheaval.

This compelling look at how people and institutions function in great catastrophes demonstrates just how deeply earthquake, fires, hurricanes, floods, wars, droughts, or acts of terrorism can shape us.
This is the third book inPhilip Fradkin'strilogy on earthquakes. The first two areMagnitude 8: Earthquakes and Life Along the San Andreas Fault(California, 1999) andWildest Alaska: Journeys of Great Peril in Lituya Bay(California, 2001). Fradkin, who has lived adjacent to the San Andreas Fault for thirty years, is also the author of th...
Title:The Great Earthquake and Firestorms of 1906: How San Francisco Nearly Destroyed ItselfFormat:PaperbackDimensions:448 pages, 9 × 6 × 1.28 inPublished:April 3, 2006Publisher:UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA PRESSLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0520248201

ISBN - 13:9780520248205


Read from the Book

From the lower section of the town the mass of people were already moving westward. All that day and all that night they passed, the inhabitants of a cosmopolitan city: French, Spanish, Italians, the dark children of African origin; Oriental, Chinese, and Japanese. They came pushing trunks, wheeling baby carriages full of household goods, carrying babies, carrying canaries in cages, carrying parrots; pushing sewing machines and trunks until the sickening sound of grating on the concrete entered so deep into my brain that I think it will never leave it.--An observer on Pacific Avenue

Table of Contents


The Tale of Two Cities
Science, Politics, and San Francisco
The Hotel and the Opera House

Wednesday, April 18, 1906
Thursday, April 19, 1906
Friday, April 20, 1906

The Relief Effort
The Upbuilding of San Francisco
The Search for Understanding
The Culture of Disaster
Disaster and Race
The Politics of Disaster
The Fat Lady Sings


Editorial Reviews

"In this well-researched book, Fradkin contends that it was the people of San Francisco, not the forces of nature, who were responsible for the extent of the destruction and death. . . . In fascinating detail, Fradkin tells the story of the quake and reconstruction that followed, and he goes on to analyze more recent history, concluding that San Francisco is in nearly as much danger now as it was a century ago. Some may find harsh his insistence on blaming people, not nature, for natural disasters; but he defends his position forcefully."--"Booklist"