Wednesday, November 18, 2015

1906 Earthquake saved his life - rare discovered first-hand account

Photo: Bob Bragman
A colleague of mine, who is another passionate collector, told me of a book about the 1906 San Francisco earthquake that she had just gotten. She knows of my love for early San Francisco memorabilia, and asked me to take a look at her latest find. She had a book called "The Earth Shook, The Sky Burned," a first edition published in 1959.

This alone is an OK find. The illustrations are great. But the book is not a rare one.

I started thumbing through it and saw a firsthand account of the 1906 quake, handwritten by the book's owner in 1961. It's not a long account. But it's rare to find new ones after so many decades. It was a little difficult to transcribe the story. I tried to do it as written. 

The thing that got me was his recollection of the temblor shaking him out of bed, just in time to avoid having the skylight above come crashing down on him in the very spot he lay. The Napa earthquake that occurred in August of 2014 shook me out of bed. But, luckily nothing came falling down. The other thing that got me was his family being trapped in the apartment. Doors were no longer plumb. A neighbor had to chop a hole in the door with an ax so they could all escape. The building was burnt to the ground within two hours. 

Along with the book was a section of an Overland Monthly Magazine, published in 1906, showing the devastation from the quake and fire.  I've included photos of the pages where the survivor, John Ashley Tyson, made annotations in the book, although a bit yellowed and worn with age. I've also included several photos and illustrations from the Overland Monthly Magazine. 

To see more images click here.
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