Disaster at Dawn: San Francisco and the Great Quake of '06

Lecture by Gray Brechin
With Archival Actualities from the Library of Congress

Gray Brechin is a historical geographer who received his Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley. He has worked as a journalist and television producer, and is the author of Imperial San Francisco.

Though the film cameras weren't rolling at 5 a.m. that fateful morning when the big quake hit, the newsreel crews with their hand-cranked equipment would soon arrive. San Francisco historian Gray Brechin will set the scene, describing the bustling city by the bay circa 1906, then guide us through the debris-strewn devastation and conflagration, employing a rare collection of films recorded even while the fires still raged. You'll see the ruins of the Palace Hotel, City Hall, a cupola in collapse, a refugee camp in Jefferson Square, the U.S. Army distributing supplies, St. Patrick's Church toppling, even a scale model of the city burning with skewed authenticity. Provocative geographer Brechin will also broach the miraculous recovery, officially ending when the 1915 Panama-Pacific Exposition boldly declared that San Francisco was back.-Steve Seid

A trip down Market Street before the fire (9:36 mins). Scenes in San Francisco (no. 1) (American Mutoscope and Biograph Co., 1:57 mins). Scenes in San Francisco (no. 2) (American Mutoscope and Biograph Co., 4:10 mins). Army pack train bringing supplies (Thomas A. Edison, Inc., 1:33 mins). Exploded gas tanks, U.S. Mint, Emporium and Spreckels Bld'g (Thomas A. Edison, Inc., 1:58 mins). San Francisco disaster (American Mutoscope and Biograph Co., 2:37 mins). San Francisco earthquake and fire, April 18, 1906 (11:44 mins). Unidentified Staples & Charles. No. 1, San Francisco after the earthquake and fire of 1906 (7:16 mins).

• (Total running time: c. 41 mins @ 17 fps plus lecture, 1906, B&W, 35mm, Courtesy Library of Congress)

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