Learning Exercise

The 1906 San Francisco Earthquake and Fire

The devastating earthquake and fire that hit San Francisco in 1906 remains a seminal event in United States History. Using extensive contemporary photographs, historical records, newspaper clippings, eyewitness accounts, and public records, this site introduces students to primary sources for use in researching the truth behind an historical event.
Course: U.S. History

An extensive annotated photographic record of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and fire is one of the features of this... see more


When the web site comes on screen click April 18-23 Earthquake Timeline and
answer Questions 1-6.
1. When did the earthquake occur?
2. What caused the fire?
3. What were the results of these twin diasters on the people of San Francisco?
4. What happened to the San Francisco skyline?
5. How far away from San Francisco was the earthquake felt?
6. Identify important events in San Francisco from April 18-23, 1906.

Click Return to Exhibit. Click Newspaper Clippings. Scroll down to the eleven
articles about the Treatment of the Chinese. Answer Questions 7-12.
7. How were the Chinese treated in San Francisco?
8. How much damage did the earthquake and fire cause in Chinatown?
9. Why did the government of San Francisco plan to relocate the Chinese
10. Did the Chinese want to leave Chinatown?
11. Where did the Chinese attempt to live after the earthquake and fire?
12. Describe the living conditions of the Chinese after the quake and fire.

Return to the Exhibit. Click Eyewitness Accounts. Read these accounts and
summarize the commentary in Questions 13-20.
13. Memories of the Earthquake, Dewitt C. Baldwin.
14. Donaldina Cameron's Account of the Flight from Chinatown.
15. How the Army worked to save San Francisco, General Frederick Funston.
16. Wreck of the buildings awful, Fred J. Hewitt.
17. Caruso on the Earthquake, Enrico Caruso.
18. Story of an eyewitness, Jack London.
19. Thousands flee from blazing city, Bailey Millard.
20. Heroic San Francisco, Louise Herrick Wolf.

Return to Exhibit. Click 1906 Earthquake Relief and Recovery Efforts.
Summarize the information for the sites listed in Questions 21-25.
21. Report to the President on San Francisco Conditions.
22. Helping Chinese Victims of the 1906 Earthquake and Fire.
23. James D. Phelan's telegram to Secretary of War Taft.
24. Financing the Reconstruction of San Francisco.
25. Red Cross Thugs, Beware of Arrest.

Return to Exhibit. Click Photographs of the 1906 disaster. After viewing the
photographs answer Questions 26-29.
26. Describe the damage.
27. How were the refugees housed?
28. How many people died?
29. How did the San Francisco earthquake and fire affect the United States?
Additional Information: None


Technical Notes

Basic computer skills


Knowledge about U.S. History in the transition period of 19th to 20th century.


Americas: United States 20th Century, Public History, Popular Culture, Race/Ethnicity, Social.

Learning Objectives

To acquaint students with a seminal event in U.S. History that left a scar on the national psyche.

To acquaint students with issues of discrimination against San Francisco's Asian population.