The story of San Francisco's catastrophic earthquake and fire in 1906, and its aftermath, is often told as a tale of heroic survival a new, less-divided, city rising like a phoenix from the ashes of its nineteenth century past. In the new book Saving San Francisco: Relief and Recovery after the 1906 Disaster, historian Andrea Rees Davies tells a more nuanced and complex story.
In this recounting of the relief efforts and rebuilding of the city, Davies analyzes scores of documents, personal accounts, and city records. Each chapter looks at a different aspect of the relief effort, like the class makeup of the refugee camps set around the city. Davies outlines the intense political wrangling that occurred over rebuilding, and how existing lines of class and race were strengthened rather than eradicated. This is in opposition to the narrative of many of the "instant histories" published right after the disaster would have readers believe.
Davies' past as a San Francisco firefighter gives her a unique appreciation of San Francisco's geography and neighborhoods. Saving San Francisco is an able assessment of the relief efforts and rebuilding after the 1906 earthquake. San Francisco recovered in particular ways, as this book shows, that shaped its makeup throughout the rest of the twentieth century.
Details: Saving San Francisco: Relief and Recovery after the 1906 Disaster, by Andrea Rees Davies. Temple University Press, 2012.