Talk:1906 San Francisco earthquake

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Former good article nominee 1906 San Francisco earthquake was a Geography and places good articles nominee, but did not meet the good article criteria at the time. There are suggestions below for improving the article. Once these issues have been addressed, the article can be renominated. Editors may also seek a reassessment of the decision if they believe there was a mistake.
June 6, 2008 Good article nominee Not listed


I've merged in some redundant material from the San Francisco Earthquake article, which I've now made into a redirect. Terry 18:51, 30 Sep 2004 (UTC)

"single worst single worst natural disaster" ???[edit]

Are we forgetting the Galveston Hurricane? At the very least, a disclaimer should be put in to read something like "It remains the worst natural disaster in US history in terms of property damage." Because the Galveston Hurricane in 1900 claimed anywhere from 6,000-12,000 deaths, while the fire 'only' claimed 3,000.

One other question, because it is somewhat ambiguous: Is the $400,000,000 in damage actual 1906 dollars, or adjusted to 2005 dollars. The Galveston Hurricane article has both. It should be noted if the figure given is in 1906 or 2005 dollars. JRath 13 September 2005 12:15 Central US time

The leading internet source for that figure is this, which is on Everything2. The people there say that $400m was the figure in 1906 money. $400m isn't much money nowadays, but then again San Francisco had fewer things to burn in 1906! I don't know if Everything2 is a good source. It would be good if the article could give some scale to that figure. How much could $400m buy in 1906? This article is going to get a lot of attention in the coming days. Lupine Proletariat 09:45, 10 April 2006 (UTC)
For what it's worth, if the $400m is a 1906 figure that amounts to about $8.2 billion in 2005 dollars [1] Stratosphere 02:42, 18 April 2006 (UTC)

I am doing a report on this topic, and I am in 6th grade. What details do you think would be most important to include in my 1-page report?

I guess the answer is, yes, we are forgetting the Galveston Hurricane. Why not? It isn't very famous. Gingermint (talk) 20:11, 21 October 2010 (UTC)

In essence, the hurricane and Katrina references at the top are somewhat distracting and not pertinent to the topic. It is inappropriate to have theme there. I've deleted them. Gingermint (talk) 20:20, 21 October 2010 (UTC)

Two omissions[edit]

Oddly, this article seems to have very little treatment of the actual earthquake. The first section is "Subsequent fires". It might be worthwhile to have a discussion of the geology, the fault, the liquefaction of the filled-in areas, and probably building codes and masonry construction (and weren't there some new steel structures? how did they fare by comparison?). The other is the "Aftermath" section which seems to devote more words (barely) to plans that were never realized, than to what was done. --Dhartung | Talk 04:03, 18 April 2006 (UTC)

Phoenix on seal: good call by recent editor[edit]

It is true that the seal of the City is a phoenix rising from fire; the earthquake, however, is only coincidental — because later than the seal by about 50 years. See the page on the seal at the official website of the City of San Francisco. Good call, anon! Bill 21:53, 23 April 2006 (UTC)

Relocation and housing of the displaced[edit]

Steve Zissou? As in the wes anderson movie? Cornell Rockey 15:22, 30 April 2006 (UTC)

Vandalism. Reverted. I didn't see it in the recent history, so I will chase it down and warn the vandal. The reliable source for John McLaren is [2]. MCB 23:48, 30 April 2006 (UTC)
ive found alot of vandalism can somone fix it??? —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 21:30, 3 May 2008 (UTC)

The Army's Rescue[edit]

The third paragraph of this section is worded like it describing the picture in this section. If so, it needs to be placed in the picture's caption, not made into a text paragraph. Thanks. Hmains 00:36, 31 July 2006 (UTC)

Death Toll[edit]

The article mentions a "conservative" death toll of 13,000 and some estimates of 27,000. However, I've never seen a credible estimate much higher than 3,000. Where do these numbers come from?--Paul 21:58, 29 August 2006 (UTC)

I changed the numbers and provided a source.--Paul 21:44, 15 November 2006 (UTC)

Actually, I've seen a conservative death toll of 3,000 and estimates of 5,000. There was actually a cover-up after the quake. (Nick31091 05:00, 27 February 2007 (UTC))

There is no death toll listed in the article now. Rsduhamel (talk) 05:37, 22 March 2008 (UTC)

How can you not have a death toll from a disaster in a city? Isn't it rather odd? (talk) 09:27, 18 April 2008 (UTC)
I have now added the 3000 estimate based on this website from The Virtual Museum of the City of San Francisco. Slideshow Bob (talk) 18:22, 19 May 2008 (UTC)
A recent edit to the infobox figure caused me to check around for the best estimates. The high figures (3,000 +) seem to come from a book called 'Denial of Disaster: The Untold Story and Photographs of the San Francisco Earthquake of 1906 by Gladys Hansen & Emmet Condon' that I don't have access to. I have found a partial copy of a paper in California Geology by Hansen [3] which gives a 1,500 estimate, but says that the work is ongoing and in review of the book at Amazon an estimate of 3,500 is mentioned. Does anyone have access to the book who can verify this? In any case a range should probably be in the article rather than a definitive figure IMO. Mikenorton (talk) 09:54, 21 October 2008 (UTC)

I've heard estimates has high as 35,000 in seminars but can't think of a printed source for this. Nevertheless, as a historian I am inclined to believe the high number. I would say at least 35,000. Gingermint (talk) 20:15, 21 October 2010 (UTC)

Subsequent fires section has gone missing[edit]

the entire section on the subsequent fires is now lost -- including all of the information on Eastwood and Jacobs -- through vandalism. The reverts missed that. The fires created the greatest damage.

Reverted further to restore the lost section. Thanks for mentioning that. -- Infrogmation 00:44, 7 November 2006 (UTC)
Do not know if there was more lost... It was just in the last two weeks, however. I just noticed that section was missing, Looks to be a full time job keeping this free of vandalism. Will keep a lookout on this every once in a while

thanks, Infrogmation, for replacing the S.F. subsequent fires section so quickly

Damage estimate[edit]

I've flagged the following statement as "cite needed": "The official estimate of $300 million in damage has been shown to be upward of $5 billion." The estimate on the National Geological Survey Web site is much lower, $400 million in 1906 dollars. (cf. ) Can someone verify the $5 billion figure and determine whether it's in 1906 or current dollars? Thanks. RickDC 18:15, 6 December 2006 (UTC)

$400 million in 1906 dollars is equal to over $8 billion in 2005 dollars. See The Inflation Calculator. I've reworded the statement in the article.--Paul 18:32, 6 December 2006 (UTC)
Well, I've not re-worded it. Damage could have been $5 billion, which is $100 billion in 2005 dollars. After all, the entire downtown of the city was destroyed. It does need a reference, however.--Paul 18:39, 6 December 2006 (UTC)

I've found a verification for the $5 billion figure (well, $4.9 billion), which makes clear it's in 2005 dollars and that it refers to insured losses; the 1906 equivalent was $235 million per the source, which is the Insurance Information Institute. A higher figure ($400 million in losses) is found on the US Geological Survery Web site. I'll reword the sentence to reflect these estimates and footnote the sources. Thanks, Paul. RickDC 18:55, 6 December 2006 (UTC)

I've deleted the sentence "The official estimate of $300 million in damage has been shown to be upward of $5 billion." It's now clear that it compares apples and oranges--1906 and present dollars. I've moved the damage estimates to the top of the section. RickDC 19:17, 6 December 2006 (UTC)

San Francisco cover-up[edit]

Why am I the first to mention this? Anyway, I saw a show on the Discovery Times channel called Unsolved History which shows that there was a massive cover-up of the quakes actual damage. Some examples:

1. Actual cost in money: $300 million to a few billion 2. Death toll from quake (not counting fire casualties in Chinatown and police shootings): 478 to upwards of 3,000; approaching 5,000 (counting done by San Fran. historians and geneologists) 3. Areas of great quake damage (most damage was blamed on fires) 4. # of police and army shootings: just a few to 500+ 5. Alteration of photos (durastic changes in hue to origional images revealed multiple pencil marks and airbrushing) (on one image about 30% was retouch) 6. "spin" in publications etc.

Why is this not mentioned in the article? Many areas that today are considered quake-safe were in fact disaster areas. For more info, try to catch Unsolved History: The 1906 Earthquake Cover-up on Doscovery Times channel (Nick31091 05:16, 27 February 2007 (UTC))

Yeah, I was wondering about this, as well. It's hardly a conspiracy theory, and even if it was it would still be worthy of addition. —The preceding unsigned comment was added by (talk) 02:12, 28 February 2007 (UTC).

Claiming that was a massive cover up and that the police and army shot people isn't a conspiracy theory? Sorry, Pop Docs intended to sensationalize and juice up drama to attract viewers does not count as a good or unbiased source. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 10:27, 24 January 2011 (UTC)

I heard somewhere that the cover up was supported by local businessmen in order to attract further immigration to SF. Even the event was called SF Great Fire, to omit the quake... (talk) 09:30, 18 April 2008 (UTC)

Subsequent fires[edit]

According to the books I have read, the initial fires were almost all put out with the available water, but then a new fire started (Ham and Eggs Fire). That fire raged for more than a day and did most of the damage. It could run unchecked because most pounded water was gone and water mains were broken, also the firefighters were worn out. One house survived since the owner fought for it with the watertanks in the house. He saved his whole flag-collection. The insurance companies mostly blamed the fire on the earthquake since it was that or going belly up. A few insurance companies which had few insurances in California paid up. Since my memory of the books is somewhat faulty I will wait until I can get hold of the books again before I change the chapter about fire. Seniorsag 17:28, 27 March 2007 (UTC)

Fire Prevention[edit]

I am reading a book called "Life after Doomsday" by Bruce Clayton, and on page 8 he wrote, "the local fire chief had insisted to the city council that San Francisco was inadequately protected against fire. For one thing, the water mains all crossed the San Andreas Fault, and no provisions had been made for the possibility that they would break in an earthquake and leave the city without water." It is an interesting bit of trivia and might be interesting enough for the main page. - cymbol


I'm surprised that this isn't Top priority for the SFBA project. Stepheng3 (talk) 06:09, 30 January 2008 (UTC)

Raised to Top priority. Stepheng3 (talk) 02:25, 8 February 2008 (UTC)

awsome photos[edit]

Actually they are so awsome and high quality, it makes me feel they faked and photoshoped. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 20:20, 13 March 2008 (UTC) It was 1906! —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 20:23, 13 March 2008 (UTC)

Impact of Gold Rush[edit]

"There were decades of minor earthquakes - more than at any other time in the historical record for northern California - before the 1906 quake. Widely previously interpreted as precursory activity to the 1906 earthquake, they have been found to have a strong seasonal pattern and were found to be due to large seasonal sediment loads in coastal bays that overlie faults as a result of the California Gold Rush.[6]"

This seems like an incredible assertion; only backed up by a 2004 paper which we are unable to read, aside from the abstract. Is there any independent analysis or reaction to this paper, which would indicate its premise is widely accepted? —Preceding unsigned comment added by Aepryus (talkcontribs) 15:13, 15 May 2008 (UTC)

GA Push and WikiProject Earthquakes[edit]

I have started the GA push of this article. Also, anyone interested is welcome to join WikiProject Earthquakes. ~Meldshal42 19:25, 4 June 2008 (UTC)

  • Although I admire your audacity in pushing for GA at this stage, I can't help feeling that this is premature. The article has a long-standing "more citations needed" tag on the Aftermath and reconstruction section; I have just added another to an earlier section which is also woefully short on references. There are probably at least 30 more citations necessary across the article. Moreover, the quality of some references is suspect. For example, [9] doesn't appear to relate to the sentence at whose end it is placed. [11] is a pretty thin source for the statement it supposedly verifies - a soldier reports that he is told by a fireman that people were setting fire to their houses for insurance purposes. I'd want more verification than that.
  • If I were the GA reviewer I might query the following:
    • The opening sentence, which reads: "The San Francisco earthquake of 1906 was a major earthquake that struck San Francisco..." This is somewhat repetitive and clumsy. There is later close repetition in the lead of the phrase "the earthquake and resulting fires"
    • The lead does not summarise the whole article.
    • In the Geology section, rather than give the Modified Mercelli intensity scale values of VIII and IX, forcing the reader to use the link, you could easily say "destructive" and "ruinous".
    • "There were decades of minor earthquakes..." doesn't actually make sense, though I know what you mean (minor earthquakes had been occurring for decades). You should reword.
    • You have a sentence beginning with two adverbs: "Widely previously...", which is ugly. The sentence is itself too long and twisty and needs reworking.
    • I didn't get further reading through, because of the citation problem, but there may be other prose issues.
    • You appear to be ignoring WP:MOS, at least as far as dashes and nbsps ae concerned.
    • The images are brilliant. One question - how do we know that the "looting soldiers" were actually looting? Couldn't they have been collecting abandoned property? Unless there is very specific evidence, beyond "reports", I'd alter the caption to say "allegedly looting".

I hope this helps, and that the GA quest eventually prospers. Brianboulton (talk) 12:26, 5 June 2008 (UTC)

Thanks for the suggestions. I will quickly comment that the picture of soldiers looting is titled similarly on the original site [4], which is part of the University of California library system [5]. Sχeptomaniacχαιρετε 17:42, 5 June 2008 (UTC)

GA Review[edit]

This review is transcluded from Talk:1906 San Francisco earthquake/GA1. The edit link for this section can be used to add comments to the review. I am quick failing this nomination because of the lack of references in the article. It currently contains 19 "citation needed" tags, and there are other statements that should also be sourced. There are also two cleanup banners. I realize that much of this tagging was done after the nomination, but one cleanup banner has been in place since October 2007. Please ensure that the article is thoroughly sourced before it is renominated. Please also note that citations need to be properly formatted with at least a title, publisher, URL, and accessdate; see Wikipedia:Citing sources for the {{cite web}} template.

Because this is a quick fail, this is not a thorough review. I recommend making the necessary changes and then putting the article up for peer review before renominating. GaryColemanFan (talk) 05:34, 6 June 2008 (UTC)

What about areas not in the 7x7 square of SF[edit]

This article completely fails in one very important area. The article has an almost complete lack of any effects of the earthquake outside the limits of San Francisco County. There are throw away mentions of 296 miles of fault rupture, the quake being felt up to several hundred miles away, and the destruction of Santa Rosa. Then nothing of other regional effects. Exactly what in Santa Rosa was destroyed. Why no mention of the destruction of San Jose State, San Jose High School, St. Patrick's Church, the main Post Office, the Hotel Vendome, and other major buildings in Downtown San Jose. What about the 100 patients killed when Agnews State Hospital collapsed in Santa Clara? The article as it stands is woefully incomplete. Gentgeen (talk) 09:49, 22 June 2008 (UTC)

In line with this objection, I am placing a Template:"bias" tag today. --Zeamays (talk) 14:36, 16 July 2010 (UTC)

Salinas River diversion in Monterey County. It was erroneously stated that the river was diverted north to a new river mouth between Moss Landing and Watsonville. In fact this is the previous river bed. The present course of the Salinas River is straight to sea just north of Marina. This was also in error on the Wiki Salinas River page. I have corrected it there also and posted a link to an on-line resource that contains ariel photography from the 1930s and charts from before the 'quake to reflect this. ThomasH95039 (talk) 01:26, 10 March 2009 (UTC)

I've never heard of any damage besides the destruction of San Francisco so maybe the bias is not that significant. Why not simply start a section on damage outside of San Francisco? —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 22:15, 17 July 2010 (UTC)

I'm sorry, but it is a well-known fact that the entire northern end of the San Andreas slipped . You should consult the Carnegie Institution of Washington report (see [6]). It is also true that the earthquake had a major impact on the development of the East Bay, which is not mentioned. --Zeamays (talk) 02:07, 18 July 2010 (UTC)

Hello there Zeamays :) After reading the article, looking at its history for conflicts, and the reasons given here for the neutrality tag it looks like this is a misunderstanding of our neutrality policy. The reason no mention has been made of damage outside SF is because nobody has bothered to add anything about it, which is not actually bias. An example of bias by omission would be if there had been a section about damage elsewhere citing the Carnegie Institution of Washington report which had been removed. I totally understand why it could look like active POV pushing given the source and reasons you cited, but since nobody is stopping you from adding info about other areas damaged in this quake there isn't actually a POV dispute.
Go ahead and add what you feel is missing, make sure to cite the report and if someone starts deleting what you've added then put the neutrality tag back. Anynobody(?) 20:20, 18 July 2010 (UTC)

Dear Anynobody, You are wrong about my understanding of the meaning of POV. I agree this is not a POV problem, but I simply couldn't find a tag that exactly captured the fact that in the article damage outside of SF is not given sufficient weight. Even if you remove the tag, the problem remains. The article needs a re-write to give all localities affected by the earthquake proportional attention. --Zeamays (talk) 01:15, 19 July 2010 (UTC)

Citation offered for building codes information please add[edit]

I apologize that while I am a Wikipedia user I am not familar with how to properly edit a page. A request was made for a citation about the post 1906 building codes. It should fall about citation number 21

That information can be found here: (talk) 00:46, 3 August 2008 (UTC)Jim

Use of it's vs. its[edit]

In the 4th paragraph of the "Aftermath and Reconstruction" section, the improper use of the contraction "it's" is used at least twice when discussing banks. Please change to "its". —Preceding unsigned comment added by MeganLindsay (talkcontribs) 17:47, 18 December 2008 (UTC)

I fixed the two I found, and a quick search of the page finds no more occurrences of "it's". Thanks for bringing it up, and feel free to fix those kinds of things in the future, if you're so inclined (some might say to be WP:BOLD, but I'm fine with whatever method gets it fixed, if you prefer to just point problems out for others to take care of). Sχeptomaniacχαιρετε 21:44, 18 December 2008 (UTC)

I'd have fixed them myself, but apparently you have to be a "trusted" user of Wikipedia, and I'm not. I can only assume that's due to not being a user for long and not contributing much yet. Thanks for fixing them, though! —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 14:57, 29 December 2008 (UTC)


This page is not semi-protected but the symbol is there anyway. User:Daniel Christensen. (talk) 03:07, 17 January 2009 (UTC) Oh, I'm not signed in.

Rating Scales[edit]

Richter Scale(magnitude)- 8.25 (more recent rating is 7.7-7.9) MMI-Modified Mercalli Intensity Scale(intensity)-7-9 —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 18:22, 15 March 2009 (UTC) I am Corina and I was wondering was this the worst earthquake? —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 16:30, 19 May 2009 (UTC)

Deletion in Insurance company piece[edit]

I deleted these chunks without prejudice

Many insurance companies launched public relations campaigns right after the earthquake, claiming that they had paid all policyholder claims without discount – which was nothing else than their legal obligation. Some companies continue this to this day. For instance,


(about $1.31 billion in present-day terms[1]), an assertion which still needs full historical proof.

as being kinda POVish without any supporting evidence, cites, etc. i mean, we don't normally present a reference then say that it needs proof. Gzuckier (talk) 06:02, 26 October 2009 (UTC)

The army's role in the aftermath[edit]

I suggest that this section should be placed in Aftermath and reconstruction section.--Tranletuhan (talk) 08:58, 16 November 2009 (UTC)

This article needs to reassessment?--Tranletuhan (talk) 05:02, 30 November 2009 (UTC)

The army shot a lot of people. It is hard to say how many. Gingermint (talk) 20:17, 21 October 2010 (UTC)

Army Rescue??[edit]

We should add something about the treatment of Chinese during the aftermath. Many were forced away from their homes to new locations away from the city(but still close enough so they could pay taxes)....many were shot and pushed around by the Army's "Aid" Clonecommander (talk) 02:47, 16 December 2009 (UTC)

Again, prove it. Your evidence? Anecdotes don't count as evidence, either. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 10:22, 24 January 2011 (UTC)

General Pershing?[edit]

Didn't General Pershing play a major role in the martial law after the earthquake? -- (talk) 03:40, 8 May 2010 (UTC)

Perhaps you're thinking of General Funston, as the article explains? Infrogmation (talk)

Recent edits[edit]

Deletion of a section without explanation is unhelpful - please explain why, the section was well-sourced. Mikenorton (talk) 20:26, 21 October 2010 (UTC)

New color pictures[edit]

New pictures discovered of the aftermath of the earthquake. Since these are in color and appear to be in the public domain, perhaps the article would benefit from them? Cla68 (talk) 04:18, 10 March 2011 (UTC)

I agree with Cla68. These images should be added to the article, and I also believe them to be in the public domain. I believe the article would benefit from them because the color photos would give readers a better sense of the magnitude of the devastation. — Preceding unsigned comment added by Jjc16 (talkcontribs) 18:57, 10 March 2011 (UTC)

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This was a good article, but maybe someone should add something more about the fires. That was a very important part, and deserves more focus. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 14:27, 21 April 2012 (UTC)

I very much agree that we need a separate and early section (similar but different to the Subsequent Fires section) on the huge fire that occurred during the earthquake. The fire burned for out of control for over three days and did 10 times as much damage to property than the actual earthquake.
If you read the chronology on the spread of the fire over 3 days ( ), a very dramatic story is revealed on how the residents joined in to fight a vast fire, but with no water to use as a resource ( most water pipes had been destroyed by the earthquake ).
IMO, we should have an new section called 'Chronology' which summarizes the astounding events that we read about in that Timeline Link (06timeline.html).
Please discuss this proposed new section here, or on my talk page.James Carroll (talk) 17:52, 4 January 2015 (UTC)

Libra Armstrong[edit]

Did anyone heard something from Libra Armstrong, who was at age 103 in 2006, when she attended the 100th year memorial. Is she died or is she living? What happened to her? Nothing I can found about her since 2006. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 15:01, 11 September 2013 (UTC)

I found information about Libra Armstrong. Her name is correctly Libera Armstrong, and born in 1902 and died in 2007. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 12:35, 24 May 2014 (UTC)

Embedded panoramic pic glitch[edit]

Is there any way to move that pic so it doesn't overlap the other? I can't figure out how to do that. TySoltaur (talk) 18:08, 10 January 2015 (UTC)

More references[edit]

There are a disconcertingly large swaths of text that are lacking references. I would imagine that this should be fairly easy to rectify. howcheng {chat} 03:01, 16 April 2015 (UTC)

  1. ^ Consumer Price Index (estimate) 1800–2014. Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis. Retrieved February 27, 2014.