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Mark Twain
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The Trouble Starts At Eight 1865-1866
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Descriptions of San Francisco

Earthquake Almanac:

Oct. 17—Weather hazy; atmosphere murky and dense. An expression of profound melancholy will be observable on most countenances...

Oct. 18—Slight earthquake. Countenances grow more melancholy.

Oct. 19—Look out for rain. It would be absurd to look in for it...

Oct 22—Light winds, perhaps. If they blow, it will be from the “east’ard, or the nor’ard, or the west’ard, or the suth’ard,” or from some general direction approximating more or less to these points of the compass or otherwise...

Oct. 23—Mild, balmy earthquakes.

Nov. 1—Terrific earthquake. This is the great earthquake month. More stars fall and more worlds are slathered around carelessly and destroyed in November than in any other month of the twelve...

Nov. 2—Spasmodic but exhilarating earthquakes, accompanied by occasional showers of rain, and churches and things...

Nov. 6—Prepare to shed this mortal coil.

Nov. 7—Shed.

Nov. 8.—The sun will rise as usual, perhaps; but if he does he will doubtless be staggered some to find nothing but a large round hole eight thousand miles in diameter in the place where he saw this world spinning serenely the day before.—Mark Twain, Earthquake Almanac, 1865 (reprinted in George Fields ed. The Washoe Giant in San Francisco, 1938)

Russ House on Montgomery Street, San Francisco, 1865
Russ House on Montgomery Street,
San Francisco, 1865

Courtesy of The Mark Twain Project, Bancroft Library, Berkeley
Audio Real Audio: 56k  
“Slinking” through San Francisco
Video Real Video: 56k | 220k  
William Styron, “A Dark, Depressive Streak”
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Illustration by Edward Jump, October 8, 1865
Illustration by Edward Jump, October 8, 1865
Courtesy of the California Historical Society
Portrait, c. 1865
Portrait, c. 1865

“I remember one day I was walking down Third Street in San Francisco. It was a sleepy, dull Sunday afternoon, and no one was stirring. Suddenly as I looked up the street about three hundred yards the whole side of a house fell out. The street was full of bricks and mortar. At the same time I was knocked against the side of a house, and stood there stunned for a moment.

I thought it was an earthquake. Nobody else had heard anything about it and no one said earthquake to me afterward, but I saw it and I wrote it. Nobody else wrote it, and the house I saw go into the street was the only house in the city that felt it. I’ve always wondered if it wasn’t a little performance gotten up for my especial entertainment by the nether regions.”—Mark Twain, “The San Francisco Earthquake” speech, 1906

San Francisco - Home again. No - not home again - in prison again - and all the wild sense of freedom gone. The city seems so cramped, & so dreary with toil & care & business anxiety. God help me I wish I were at sea again. Mark Twain, Notebook, 1866.