April 18, 1906, 107 years ago, the ground shook here in California in the City of San Francisco. It was an earthquake estimated to be of a magnitude of between 7.5 and 8.25 in today’s measurements.
Jack London and his wife Charmian were at their ranch in Sonoma when the quake hit. They were contacted by Collier’s Magazine to visit the devastated city, write about it and take pictures.
They rode to the city on horseback. Here is some of what he wrote and some of the pictures he and Charmian took. They are archived in the Huntington Library in San Marino, California.
“The earthquake shook down in San Francisco hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of walls and chimneys. But the conflagration that followed burned up hundreds of millions of dollars worth of property. There is no estimating within hundreds of millions the actual damage wrought. Not in history has a modern imperial city been so completely destroyed.”
“San Francisco is gone. Nothing remains of it but memories and a fringe of dwelling houses on its outskirts. Its industrial section is wiped out. Its business section is wiped out. Its social and residential section is wiped out. The factories ands warehouses, the great stores and newspaper building, the hotels and the palaces of the nabobs, are all gone. Remains only the fringe of dwelling houses on the outskirts of what was once San Francisco.”
London was a skilled photographer. He and Charmian took the images on this blog. At the time, London was trying to build his boat, The Snark, in the Hunters Point boatyard, just outside the city border. While he doesn’t really mention it in his book, “The Cruise of the Snark,” it is likely that the earthquake was responsible for the many delays in construction.