Time and History 5:12 A.M. The San Francisco Earthquake

About major and minor historical events around the clock such as the San Francisco earthquake which occured at 5:12 in the morning.


5:12 in the Morning

Apr. 18, 1906. San Francisco was close to the epicenter of an earthquake that for 55 sec. rocked 50,000 sq. mi. of California at a force of 8.3 on the Richter scale. With commendable composure philosopher William James turned to his wife and said, "This is an earthquake, there is no cause for alarm," then slowly dressed himself. Enrico Caruso reputedly sang a few notes to make certain he hadn't lost his voice; then he wrapped a towel around his throat and ran down Market Street, clutching an autographed photograph of Theodore Roosevelt and vowing never to return to San Francisco--which he never did. For the 400,000 residents of San Francisco, each of the two major shocks spelt death and destruction.

The final toll: 4 sq. mi.--520 blocks with 28,000 buildings--were utterly devastated; more than 450 people were dead, 300,000 homeless. The total damage estimate was $500 million. There were only 38 horsedrawn fire engines to cope with the 52 fires in the city. One man, trapped beyond hope of rescue, begged a policeman to shoot him before the flames could reach him. Unwilling to carry out the man's request, the policeman asked a man in the crowd to do it. With amazing courage and fortitude San Francisco rose from the rubble to reassert itself as one of America's most beautiful cities--near the same San Andreas fault that sooner or later will growl again.

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