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Saving San Francisco

Relief and Recovery after the 1906 Disaster

Andrea Rees Davies

Publication Year: 2012

Combining the experiences of ordinary people with urban politics and history, Saving San Francisco challenges the long-lived myth that the 1906 disaster erased social differences as it leveled the city. Highlighting new evidence from San Francisco’s relief camps, Andrea Rees Davies shows that as policy makers directed various forms of aid to groups and projects that enjoyed high social status before the disaster, the widespread need and dislocation created opportunities for some groups to challenge biased relief policy. Poor and working-class refugees organized successful protests, while Chinatown business leaders and middle-class white women mobilized resources for the less privileged. Ultimately, however, the political and financial elite shaped relief and reconstruction efforts and cemented social differences in San Francisco.

Published by: Temple University Press

Contents

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pp. vii-

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Acknowledgments

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pp. ix-x

It took a village to create this book. I thank my colleagues, friends, and family, all of whom are entwined in these pages. so many helped me to make sense of raw ideas, while a brave few read along as I forged, and sometimes forced, thoughts into sentences. It all started with my dissertation at Stanford University, guided by Estelle Freedman and shaped by my peers...

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Introduction

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pp. 1-10

Before I was a historian, I was a firefighter in San Francisco. I learned to climb hundred-foot aerial ladders, slice holes through burning roofs with a chain saw, rescue panicked swimmers from the surf, and provide basic life support to unconscious victims. The fire academy instilled confidence that i could handle any emergency scenario. But I was unprepared...

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1. Points of Origin: Crises across the City

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pp. 11-41

No one could fully realize what was in store when a 7.8-magnitude earthquake pulsed through San Francisco at a little past five in the morning on April 18, 1906. some San Franciscans, seasoned by past tremors, dismissed the event. Roland Roche, a letter carrier for the U.S. Postal Service who lived with his family outside what would soon become the disaster zone,...

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2. Disaster Relief: Local Troubles, National Solutions

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pp. 42-62

San Francisco became a city of the homeless in a matter of days. Residents scattered everywhere; the 100,000 who refused to leave the city camped in their yards or dragged their belongings to parks, vacant lots, and beachfronts. some of those without family and friends nearby took refuge in old trolley cars, voting booths, and empty cisterns. The mayor declared...

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3. Disastrous Opportunities: Unofficial Disaster Relief

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pp. 63-84

Disaster relief flooded the city with money and conferred a newfound authority on policy makers as they apportioned millions of dollars in relief funds among those they deemed the most productive and promising citizens. The weeks spent in organizing and streamlining official disaster relief left most refugees in dire straits. local residents—middle-class...

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4. Disaster Relief Camps: The Public Home of Private Life

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pp. 85-111

The 1906 catastrophe removed physical boundaries between public and private property in San Francisco and literally pushed domestic life into public space, giving both politicians and progressive reformers unforeseen access to private life. if the public is, as mary Ryan argues, “situated analytically so as to exercise decisive authority over the private world and...

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5. The New San Francisco

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pp. 112-142

Like disaster relief, reconstruction widened the economic divide between the city’s social classes. Rebuilding also exacerbated racial divisions when political and business leaders demanded Chinatown’s permanent removal from the city. Despite the loss of land titles and insurance records as well as buildings in the fires, the power-hungry mayor—armed with new land...

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Epilogue: Disaster Remnants

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pp. 143-148

This book begins with a brief description of disaster narratives, those vital accounts that make sense out of wide-scale destruction. San Francisco, of course, had its own disaster narrative that defined the catastrophe for both the city and the nation. But that story was not entirely truthful. Rather it was a fictive yarn spun by business and political leaders,...

Appendix: Tables

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pp. 149-153

Notes

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pp. 155-200

Bibliography

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pp. 201-214

Index [Includes About the Author]

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pp. 215-221


E-ISBN-13: 9781439904343
Print-ISBN-13: 9781439904336

Page Count: 220
Publication Year: 2012

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Subject Headings

  • Earthquakes -- California -- San Francisco -- History -- 20th century.
  • Fires -- California -- San Francisco -- History -- 20th century.
  • Disaster relief -- California -- San Francisco -- History -- 20th century.
  • San Francisco Earthquake and Fire, Calif., 1906.
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