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31 May 2013
Tabloid journalism and manipulated photos have been around for a very long time, I discovered. They predate computers.
I worked at Logos today and didn't really feel like reading, amazingly. I did finish a Jon Katz Kindle book on dog training and played some games of Word with Friends and during a rare down time, I went walking around the store. I found a fascinating book called "Three Fearful Days," by Malcolm E. Barker. It's apparently Book 3 in a series of books he is writing (has written?) about early San Francisco history. This particular book is subtitled "San Francisco Memoirs of the 1906 earthquake and fire."
As a native San Franciscan, I am fascinated by new twists on the story of the fire. I wish I had been able to get my grandmother to talk about it. She was a young girl when the earthquake hit and for the rest of her life had a pathological terror of earthquakes. Hers was one of the thousands of families who lived in tent cities around San Francisco until housing was rebuilt.
I haven't gotten far into this book, the meat of which, apparently, will be personal memories of survivors, compiled from letters, journals, and whatever other forms of historical narrative the author was able to find. The book was published in 1998 and there may have been survivors still left, since I think the very last survivor just died a couple of years ago (he was an infant when the earthquake hit), but it was 92 years past the event so the likelihood of personal interviews is slim at best.
In just the little bit I've read so far, I've found some fascinating stuff I didn't know before. For one thing, we've always heard that it was a magnitude 8.3, but recent better data suggests that it was probably more a 7.8. Still a big jolt, but not as big as originally recorded.
Also, there were supposedly only 400-something who died, but it was actually closer to >2,000. Even that number may be low, since the fire burned so hot that if anybody had been trapped in the fire itself they would have been incinerated and thus not counted.
The San Francisco fire chief actually had a plan in mind for an event such as this, but sadly he was one of the first people killed, when the roof of his house tore a big hole in the floor of his house, the chief fell in and the roof collapsed on top of him. His plan had been to let all the residential fires burn and concentrate on saving the business district. That didn't happen.
The governor came to SF as soon as he realized there was no electronic communication and he set up a command center in Oakland, across the Bay, where he oversaw the mobilization of forces (apparently quite effectively) and sent out calls for help around the country. Help came in all forms from all over the country. There was somewhere in Idaho where residents couldn't get any bread because every loaf of bread that was baked was sent to San Francisco.
The organization of tents, food, health, sanitation and other things seems to have gone incredibly organized and San Franciscans were lucky that they kept big plague-type diseases under control.
It all sounds very similar to the kinds of things that happen when natural disasters hit now. And Americans around the country pull together to help the victims, only now there is the Red Cross and cell phons which make donating $10 to the relief fund so much easier.
But in addition to all that, the country had its own kind of tabloid journalism in 1906. One paper, eager to show the destruction of San Francisco, didn't wait for photos from local people, but doctored its own photo.
Not bad for 1906...and no access to photo manipulation software!
PHOTO OF THE DAY
Jeri with the shortest hair she's had in...well...in her life!
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