Wednesday, April 19, 2006

San Francisco earthquake

Yesterday marked the 100th Anniversary of the San Francisco earthquake. On April 18, 1906, at 5:12 a.m., the earth shook for almost a minute and was followed by a series of catastrophic fires that burned for three days and destroyed more than 500 blocks in the heart of the city.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, conservative estimates have put the quake’s death toll at more than 3,000 — with some estimates as high as 6,000 — mostly in the city of San Francisco. Between 225,000 and 300,000 people were left homeless with property damage estimated then at $400 million (about $8.2 billion in today’s dollars).

According to the Postal Service, as soon as the fire was under control Post Office employees were back at work — selling postage and offering money order services to the beleaguered city. Telegraphic services were so badly crippled that 10,000 telegrams were deposited with the Post Office for delivery.

"A letter from then San Francisco Postmaster Arthur Frisk to the Postmaster General recounts the extraordinary efforts of ordinary employees to help get their city back on its feet. Perhaps nothing sums up the tradition of community service exhibited by USPS employees as this excerpt from Fisk’s opening paragraph: 'Immediately after the shock, I visited the main Post Office and found the building considerably damaged . . . and the clerks of the night shift on duty and willing to continue to work.” Click here to read the full text.

The San Francisco District is offering two items in honor of the centennial — a limited quantity commemorative envelope for $5, and a copy of Frisk’s letter with a 39-cent Liberty stamp and centennial cancellation for $15. Or get both for $20. To order, send check or money order to: Earthquake Centennial, PO Box 880188, San Francisco, CA, 94188-0188.
Bookmark and Share
posted by Don Schilling at 12:01 AM