San Francisco Earthquake, 100 years on

(updated) San Francisco: 5:12am, April 18, 1906. The quake. The big quake and fire. Lots of historic commemoration taking place in San Francisco for the 100th anniversary, as Frances Dinkelspiel (the great great granddaughter of the then-president of Wells Fargo Bank) notes on her weblog. She tells the story of waiting two weeks after the fire to open the bank’s vault, to let the temperature subside down to normal.

Frances notes all the places where there are exhibits and special commemorative events. (Update: I inquired, and alas, she has found no voice recordings of relatives recalling stories from that era.). I’m located 400 miles south of San Francisco, and right now I’m wishing to visit all the places, and to see which of the archives have any recorded recollections. The Bancroft Library at Berkeley has a whole bunch of personal narratives.

UPDATE: Why yes, there are oral histories as part of the exhibit—This Berkeley Daily Planet article describes items on display at the Bancroft Library (including descriptions from its oral history collections). Also, some some earthquake film footage will be screened by the Pacific Film Archive (four nights: April 6 - April 9). But you don’t have to travel to Berkeley to read the oral history transcripts—-here are online Oral History narratives on Bancroft’s website. Text transcriptions, no digital audio files.

Consider it now, from our perspective, some of us having lived through earthquakes (most notable personal quake events: Whittier, 1987, Northridge, 1994, plus others felt in Southern California). We who are alive 100 years later stop to consider what it was like back on that day and in the days afterwards. Now think ahead 100 years to August, 2105, when the anniversary of that hurricane that devastated New Orleans and the Gulf. The people of that day will be looking at exhibits looking back to 2005, and what they’ll see will be part of the ongoing collections of memories from Katrina/Rita/Hurricane post-disaster interview projects that are currently taking place, in order to capture recollections while they are fresh.

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Posted by Susan A. Kitchens on March 15, 2006 in • History
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