Anniversary of the Great San Francisco Earthquake

Great San Francisco Earthquake of 1906

Early in the morning of April 18, 1906, a major earthquake estimated to be between 7.8 and 8.3 magnitude hit the San Francisco area. The earthquake was caused by a rupturing of nearly 300 miles of the San Andreas fault, and it was felt across California, Nevada and Oregon. Fires soon broke out across the city, and burned for three days. Property damage from the earthquake and subsequent fires “has been estimated at $235-500 million 1906 dollars – equivalent to the entire 1906 federal budget – and which today would be between $4.8 and $10 billion[.]” In all, more than 3,000 people died and over 200,000 more were left homeless.

According to the U.S. Geological Survey, the Great San Francisco Earthquake “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.” The earthquake had a tremendous impact on scientific knowledge about such geologic occurrences, as well as on the insurance industry and building codes. Moreover, the Great Earthquake forever changed the way Americans think about disaster preparedness.

The HSDL has many documents concerning this earthquake, as well as resources on earthquake preparedness, response and recovery, and emergency management. Some of these documents can be found below:

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