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The Great San Francisco Earthquake
Gallery: People in the Rubble

An earthquake measuring a cataclysmic 7.8 on the Richter scale hit San Francisco in the early hours of Wednesday, April 18, 1906. Broken gas mains and destroyed chimneys immediately started fires. By mid-day on April 19, 250,000 citizens were homeless. After the fires finally subsided two days later, the city was unrecognizable.

San Francisco native and newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst wrote: "The hills rolled to the seas as bare as when the pioneers landed in '49. But now they are a blackened waste. North to the bay, west to the Mission -- nothing but ruins. The wholesale district is destroyed, the manufacturing district, the financial district, and the waterfront section -- all destroyed."

See photographs of San Franciscans in the earthquake's aftermath.

Driven from their homes, refugees gather on a hilltop to watch the city burn African Americans stand in the street in front of their homes as fires rage in the background A U.S. Army pack mule train arrives in San Francisco with supplies
Tent cities sprung up in city parks Refugees line up to get water Three women enjoy a cup of coffee in their makeshift kitchen
Horse-drawn wagons were pressed into service as makeshift trolleys Workmen clear rubble from a building Two women sift through the rubble in the aftermath of the earthquake

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The Great San Francisco Earthquake American Experience

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