110 Years Since the 1906 Earthquake and Fire
Monday, April 18, marks the 110-year anniversary of one of the nation's worst natural disasters - the 1906 earthquake and fire that destroyed most of San Francisco, leaving thousands without water, shelter or basic services.
To commemorate this anniversary, we've partnered with our photo archive counterparts at the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission to share some of their incredible glass plate photographs of the destruction alongside our own images on the SFMTA Photo Archive website.
The SFPUC's earthquake photos come from the Spring Valley Water Company, a private water utility that held a monopoly on San Francisco's water supply from about 1860-1930. Preserved through the combined efforts of the SFPUC's staff photographer and archivist, these plates have been digitized and rehoused in archival enclosures to ensure that they'll survive another 110 years and beyond.
Both the SFPUC and SFMTA images were taken by photographers employed by private companies (water and transit), sent out on the streets to document property damage wrought by the disaster. The photographic records of broken pipes and buckled rails they came back with now provide a compelling glimpse into life on the streets during some of San Francisco's darkest days.
Thanks to the SFPUC’s photographer and archivist for generously sharing these images for this post. You can dive deeper into the 1906 earthquake and fire on the SFMTA Photo Archive website, and follow us on Twitter and Instagram for more photos from the past.