Regional History from the National Archives

After the shockwaves ceased and the last flame was extinguished, San Franciscans banded together to rebuild their city as they had done in the past. It was neither coincidence nor foreshadowing that led San Francisco to adopt the phoenix, a mythological bird that arises reborn from its ashes, as its symbol in 1900. San Francisco had already been leveled by no less than six "great fires" between December 1849 and June 1851.

Letter from Professor Samuel Fortier, Irrigation Engineer, to his colleague, Dr. Elwood Mead, Washington, D.C., April 25, 1906.

In this letter, written just one week after the earthquake, Fortier reported that initial efforts to rebuild the city already had begun. “San Francisco is beginning to rise again out of its ashes...the people of San Francisco seem determined to begin at once to rebuild a new San Francisco . . . ”

Record Group 8

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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