The San Francisco calamity by earthquake and fire eBook

Charles W. Morris
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 368 pages of information about The San Francisco calamity by earthquake and fire.

Professor A. O. Louschner, of the students’ observatory of the University of California, thus records his observations: 

“The principal part of the earthquake came in two sections, the first series of vibrations lasting about forty seconds.  The vibrations diminished gradually during the following ten seconds, and then occurred with renewed vigor for about twenty-five seconds more.  But even at noon the disturbance had not subsided, as slight shocks are recorded at frequent intervals on the seismograph.  The motion was from south-southeast to north-northwest.

“The remarkable feature of this earthquake, aside from its intensity, was its rotary motion.  As seen from the print, the sum total of all displacements represents a very regular ellipse, and some of the lines representing the earth’s motion can be traced along the whole circumference.  The result of observation indicates that our heaviest shocks are in the direction south-southeast to north-northwest.  In that respect the records of the three heaviest earthquakes agree entirely.  But they have several other features in common.  One of these is that while the displacements are very large the vibration period is comparatively slow, amounting to about one second in the last two big earthquakes.”

If we seek to discover the actual damage done by the earthquake, the fact stands out that the fire followed so close upon it that the traces of its ravages were in many cases obliterated.  So many buildings in the territory of the severest shock fell a prey to the flames or to dynamite that the actual work of the earth forces was made difficult and in many places impossible to discover.  This fact is likely to lead to considerable dispute and delay when the question of insurance adjustment comes up, many of the insurance companies confining their risk to fire damage and claiming exemption from liability in the case of damage due to earthquake.

Among the chief victims of the earth-shake was the costly and showy City Hall, with its picturesque dome standing loftily above the structure.  This dome was left still erect, but only as a skeleton might stand, with its flesh gone and its bare ribs exposed to the searching air.  Its roof, its smaller towers came tumbling down in frightful disarray, and the once proud edifice is to-day a miserable wreck, fire having aided earthquake in its ruin.  The new Post Office, a handsome government building, also suffered severely from the shock, its walls being badly cracked and injury done by earthquake and fire that it is estimated will need half a million dollars to repair.


One observer states that the earthquake appeared to be very irregular in its course.  He tells us that “there are gas reservoirs with frames all twisted and big factories thrown to the ground, while a few yards away are miserable shanties with not a board out of place.  Wooden, steel and brick structures hardly felt the earthquake in some parts of the city, while in other places all were wrecked.

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The San Francisco calamity by earthquake and fire from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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