April 18 - 1906 - The San Francisco Earthquake
In the early morning hours of April 18, 1906, the city of San Francisco was awoken to intense shaking. That shaking was the result of one of the most destructive earthquakes in American history. Although very large, much later estimated at 7.8 magnitude, the key thing about the San Francisco earthquake was that it hit the city almost directly and that it created a large number of fires as well as destruction from the quake. Some 3,00 people died, although the exact number is unknown because the Chinese dead were not counted. More strikingly, three quarters of the city were destroyed, while almost 300,000 people were left homeless. The fires burned for three days, and the insurance claims totaled over $250 million in 1906 money. Yet the city rebuilt quite quickly, largely along the same city plan as existed before. Additionally, the entire world heard about it almost instantly, and relief efforts were helped by the fact that many people offered up contributions. The devastation of the earthquake also brought about major changes in the approach to understanding earthquakes.