Regional History from the National Archives

In the aftermath of the earthquake and fire over 250,000 people--more than half of

San Francisco's population--became homeless. Refugee camps sprang up around the city. Hospitals were filled with the injured, many of whom did not survive.

Telegram from George Torney, Chief Sanitary Officer, U.S. Army Hospital, Presidio of San Francisco, to the Surgeon General of the U.S. Army, Washington, D.C., April 20, 1906.

By Friday, April 20th, first responders began to gain some control of the fires that devastated the city. Attention quickly turned to the living conditions of those left homeless by the disaster.

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Report from George Torney, Chief Sanitary Officer, U.S. Army Hospital, Presidio of San Francisco. April 20, 1906.

The U.S. Army quickly set up refugee camps and assumed control of the receipt and distribution of food, clothing, and other supplies. Twenty-one official refugee camps were set up in city parks and squares including Golden Gate Park, the Presidio, Fort Mason, and Harbor View (Marina District).

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Report on Coast District camp conditions, May 1, 1906.

Despite the best efforts of camp organizers, conditions in the camps were less than ideal. This inspection report noted that the camp kitchen had "no eggs, milk, or fresh meat." Clothing for women and children was also in short supply.

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Patient case file, Letterman Hospital, April 18, 1906.

Earthquake victim Alberta deSaeghier died precisely 12 hours after the first shockwaves spread through San Francisco. It remains unclear exactly how many people died as a result of the San Francisco earthquake and fire although estimates range from 500 to 5000 fatalities.

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The documents selected for this exhibit are primary sources that historians and other researchers study when they write about historical events. They are a selection from the files created or received by Federal agencies in or near San Francisco at the time of the disaster. They contain eyewitness testimony of the damage of the earthquake, the ensuing fires, and the desolation that was left in their wake.

The exhibited documents and other records concerning the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and fire are available for research at the
National Archives-Pacific Region (San Francisco) 1000 Commodore Drive
San Bruno, California 94066
Tel: 650-238-3500
Directions: By Car or Public Transport
Hours: Mon. thru Fri., 7:30 am to 4:00 pm

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