In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

70 Western American Literature ite running accounts are those of the industrial wars fought and lost by Italian charcoal-burners at the smelters around Eureka, and the nationalistic silliness of German Nevadans and French Nevadans at the time of the Franco-Prussian war. A single ex­ ample of the work of Louis Monaco, a youthful Italian photogra­ pher who also was the main spokesman of the charcoal burners, makes me wish that somebody around Reno would get together an album of his pictures. Misshapen as it is, the book is a necessary purchase for all li­ braries of the West, and will undoubtedly serve as a point of de­ parture for other and more elegant studies. It contains very inter­ esting old photographs, some apparently printed for the first time. Many people will make good use of its very extensive bibliography of Nevadiana. Though it is badly produced, with an amateurish physical design and many misprints, it is reasonably priced, and when all is said it is a book worth having. Robert Brainard Pearsall, University of Ruhr, Bochum, Germany The San Francisco Earthquake. By Gordon Thomas and Max Morgan Witts. (New York: Stein and Day Publishers, 1971. 316 pages, biblio., appendix index. $7.95.) Despite the legion of books published on it, the great San Fran­ cisco earthquake and fire of 1906 continues as both an interesting subject and a bonanza for publishers. It transcends popular move­ ment for it can be approached from any angle; a spate of recent volumes has used the horror of 1906 as a matrix for predicting future disaster, and has jibed well with the growing turn toward the occult. This is true because the destruction of a major city breeds countless stories along with enough confusion to make trac­ ing them night impossible. Uncertainty allows creative history. Thomas and Witts, if their publishers’ claims are to be believed, have discovered many previously untold tales and have demolished dozens of myths. In fact, they have done some of both in this chronologgical account of the 1906 tragedy. This is a well-written account of the events of that April morning over 65 years ago and of the days that followed. There are actually three or four separate tales, it seems, in the volume: a narrative of the quake itself; a generous collection of anecdotes (with considerable debunking) concerning well-known Reviews 71 figures; a tracing of the role of Brigadier General Frederick Funston and his imposition of unauthorized martial law on the city; for dessert there is the usual— and probably accurate— prediction of impending doom for present-day San Francisco. Both the story of the quake and the prediction of future shakes add precious little new knowledge, save information on Chinatown and its citizens. They produce evidence, for example, that rats in the Chinese quarter carried bubonic plague, and had for some years prior to the quake. Thomas and Witts illustrate not only prostitu­ tion, but chattel slavery in Chinatown, tacitly condoned by city fathers, many of whom had pieces of the action. Mostly, the authors show how intense was the suffering among the Chinese trapped in their wooden ghetto when flames engulfed the city. The anecdotes, on the other hand, are fascinating. Enrico Caruso, according to the authors, certainly was in The City on that fateful morning, gripped by a strange combination of hubris and panic; he got away as quickly as he could. John Barrymore stayed drunk for forty hours, which demolishes his own story of his activi­ ties. A. P. Giannini, called a “dago banker” by his rivals, did in­ deed distribute money from a wagon. Mayor Eugene Schmitz and boss Abe Reuf, the two men who ran San Francisco, found them­ selves deposed by the Army (and exposed by the poor-quality structures constructed by crooked contractors with whom they had arrangements). Arnold Genthe saw rats eating still-warm bodies, and many sources claimed that both undressed and overdressed citizens wandered the streets dazed. But the authors save their heavy guns for Frederick Funston and his military men. Indeed, so strong is their indictment of the Army that one wonders if scars of contemporary consciousness don’t color the author...


Additional Information

Print ISSN
pp. 70-72
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.