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San Francisco Earthquake Snapshots, 1906

Overview of the Collection

Taylor, John Lorin, 1933
San Francisco Earthquake Snapshots
1906 (inclusive)
1 Box, (0.25 linear ft.)
Collection Number
25 black and white prints of the San Francisco earthquake and fire, taken between April 18 and April 20, 1906 by John Lorin Taylor. Included in the collection are snapshots of buildings (including the Emporium, James Flood, Examiner, Call, Merchant's Exchange, Hibernia Bank, City Hall, and the Central Bank) consumed in the disaster. Also included are scenes of people wandering through the ruined streets, watching from a ferry boat as the city burns, and looting.
Utah State University, Merrill-Cazier Library, Special Collections and Archives Division
Special Collections and Archives
Merrill-Cazier Library
Utah State University
Logan, UT
Telephone: 435-797-2663
Fax: 435-797-2880
Access Restrictions

No restrictions on use except: not available through interlibrary loan.


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Biographical NoteReturn to Top

In all likelihood these images were taken by John Lorin Taylor (a grandson of LDS Church President John Taylor). Taylor was born in 1882 or 1883 in Ogden, Utah, to Richard and Sarah Farr Taylor. He may have been serving as a Mormon missionary in San Francisco at the time of the earthquake, or possibly just travelling through the area. He married Genevieve Douglas in Salt Lake City, Utah, on the 9th of December, 1908. Taylor was a prominent businessman in the grain industry, serving as the president of the Inland Grain Company of Ogden for several years and helping to create the Ogden grain exchange. Around 1925, Taylor moved to Los Angeles, California, with his wife and five children to pursue work in the brokerage business. He died there on November 24, 1933, of perionitis, at the age of 51.

Content DescriptionReturn to Top

Photograph Collection P0346 consists of 25 black and white prints of the San Francisco earthquake and fire, taken between April 18 and April 20, 1906 by John Lorin Taylor. Included in the collection are snapshots of buildings (including the Emporium, James Flood, Examiner, Call, Merchant's Exchange, Hibernia Bank, City Hall, and the Central Bank) consumed in the disaster. Also included are poignant scenes of people wandering through the ruined streets, views from a ferry boat of the city burning, and looting.

Other Descriptive InformationReturn to Top

On the morning of April 18, 1906, the people of San Francisco awoke just after 5:00 am to one of the worst natural disasters in American history. Estimated to be about an 8.5 on the Richter Scale, the San Francisco earthquake devastated the city and eventually contributed to an estimated 3,000 deaths. The earthquake created a rift in the ground along the San Andreas fault for nearly 270 miles along the California coast, causing the west side of the fault to slide northwards. Tremors from the earthquake's epicenter, just off the coast of San Francisco, were felt from Oregon to Southern California and as far inland as Nevada. Several buildings such as the Palace Hotel, reputed to be earthquake and fire proof, were destroyed in the aftermaths of the quake by raging fires that burned for several days. Women, unaware of the damage done to their chimneys by the quake, started breakfast in the morning. The ruined chimneys caused the massive "ham and egg" fires that swept through residential neighborhoods. Gas and water mains were ruptured leaving no defense against the engulfing flames. More people were killed by the massive fires than from the actual earthquake. An estimated 225,000 people (out of 400,000 living in San Francisco) were left homeless by the devastation. The massive exodus to the ferry became a problem as people scrambled to get out of the burning city. Others took up residence outside of the Ferry Building or in parks and public squares. Looting became such a problem that Mayor E. E. Schmitz issued an order for police officers to shoot any looters or others breaking the law. All told the earthquake and fire caused an estimated $350,000,000 to $500,000,000 in damages.

Other Descriptive InformationReturn to Top

The description listed next to each image is transcribed directly from the information written on the back of each photograph. Note that the date on the back of the photographs incorrectly date the earthquake as March.

Use of the CollectionReturn to Top

Restrictions on Use


It is the responsibility of the researcher to obtain any necessary copyright clearances.

Permission to publish material from the San Francisco Earthquake Snapshots must be obtained from the Special Collections Photograph Curator and/or the Special Collections Department Head.

Preferred Citation

Initial Citation: P0346; San Francisco Earthquake Snapshots; Photograph Collections; Utah State University Special Collections and Archives, Merrill-Cazier Library, Utah State University.

Following Citations: P0346, USUSC.

Administrative InformationReturn to Top

Detailed Description of the CollectionReturn to Top

Container(s) Description Dates
1.1 1:01"Market looking west, Emporium and other building ruined." 1906 March 20
1.2 1:02 Result of shock, right track sunk 4 feet on new line between Oat. and Ala." 1906 March 18
1.3 1:03"Showing Frisco in distance and smoke, crowd on ferry boat." 1906 March 18
1.4 1:04"Looking at the Hall from Market showing people in camp in square." 1906 March 18
1.5 1:05"Crowd being driven back by soldiers on Market St." 1906 March 18
1.6 1:06"Pine St. looking south from Kearny." 1906 March 20
1.7 1:07"Quarter mile from ferry showing entire waterfront on fire and the only remaining building of any size in town, the Ferry Building." 1906 March 18
1.8 1:08"Looking towards G.G. (Golden Gate) Park on Larkin St. opposite the Hall." 1906 March 20
1.9 1:09"New Key Boat results of shock." 1906 March 20
1.10 1:10"Skeleton of Examiner, Call Market and 3 (rd) St." 1906 March 20
1.11 1:11"Looking north on Kearny St. from Pine." 1906 March 20
1.12 1:12"Looking up Market St. from Ferry. fire view (?)." 1906 March 20
1.13 1:13"Refugees camped in front of the Ferry Buiding." 1906 March 20
1.14 1:14"Result of earthquake. City Hall dome, which cost the city $32,000,000." 1906 March 20
1.15 1:15"Market and Elis looking east. Fireman at work, man taking boxes of cigars away." 1906 March 18
1.16 1:16"O'Farrell and Larkin St. More ruins." 1906 March 20
1.17 1:17"Crowd watching fire of Grand Rapids Furniture Co." 1906 March 18
1.18 1:18"Showing John Taylor, no. 2, on extreme left and Church." 1906 March 19
1.19 1:19"Looters at work, the remains of the Merchant's Exchange when I left #1.25 no. showing virlfrt (?)." 1906 March 20
1.20 1:20"Frisco's strongest Bank, Hibernia Bank. Gutted by fire." 1906 March 20
1.21 1:21"Looking toward Ferry. City Hall in the way showing ruin." 1906 March 20
1.22 1:22"Result of shock. Central Bank, Oakland." 1906 March 19
1.23 1:23"Looking south Kearny and Pine toward Call, on Kearny." 1906 March 20
1.24 1:24"Destruction on all sides. Van Ness Ave. and Sutter Sts." 1906 March 20
1.25 1:25"During fire. Emporium and James Flood buildings doomed. Market St. looking east." 1906 March 18