Forgotten bits of earthquake history

Think you know everything there is to know about the massive earthquake that devastated northern California 106 years ago?

Think again.

SFBay has rounded up some intriguing trivia surrounding the 1906 earthquake. Take a gander:


Tsunami wiped out Berkeley pier

In 2005, local historian Richard Schwartz recovered information about a little-known five-foot-high tsunami that wiped out part of the wharf in West Berkeley following the earthquake. USGS guesses that the tsunami was probably caused by part of Yerba Buena Island falling into the Bay.

Even more interestingly, a man named B.J. Rose happened to be on the wharf at that fateful time. After the wave knocked him into the water along with half a million feet of lumber, he miraculously lived to tell the story.


Keeping it real

ROTC cadets from Cal were mustered into service and ferried to San Francisco to prevent looting after the earthquake. Schwartz told the Oakland Tribune:

“At first, they treated it like a joke. But all the laughing stopped when boxes of live ammunition were brought out on deck, and they realized they might be forced to shoot their fellow citizens.”


Show me the money

Bank of America, formerly known as Bank of Italy, became famous following the 1906 quake because they were the only bank that could provide money to customers immediately following the quake. Other San Francisco banks had locked their money in steel vaults and had to wait weeks for them to cool so they could be safely opened.


A lot of bull

Following the earthquake a stampede of a herd of cattle at Sixth and Folsom Streets led to as many as three hundred animals running wild in the city. Many Chinese believe that the world is supported on the backs of four bulls, so when a bull appeared roaming through Chinatown days after the earthquake, many people felt that since this one had left its post, the earthquake had occurred. The bull was eventually shot dead.


Ham and eggs fire

One of the fifty-two devastating fires to cover the city in the days following the earthquake was started at Gough and Hayes streets by a family cooking breakfast on a wood stove. The chimney was damaged from the quake, and sparks from the stove set the house on fire. They dubbed it the “ham and eggs fire” and it ultimately set the ruins of City Hall and the Hall of Records on fire.


Tree hugger No. 1

During rebuilding efforts there was great pressure to take lumber from Redwood Canyon. This prompted William Kent to seek permanent protection for what later became Muir Woods National Monument.


Future first family

Schwartz goes on to tell the story of the Italian-American fishing boat captain who was ferrying refugees from North Beach to Berkeley:

“As they were crossing the Bay he noticed a young woman who looked really scared. He put his hand on her shoulder and said, ‘It’s going to be OK.’ They fell in love, got married and had a son. That son’s name was Joseph L. Alioto, the future mayor of San Francisco.”