The Bright Side of Disaster

You want positive and life-affirming? How about these items from 1906 editions of the Chronicle, showing the upside of the great San Francisco earthquake and fire.

April 26
To the hoboes and tramps that infest San Francisco in large numbers throughout the year, the earthquake came as the forerunner of a time of plenty. Amid the general destitution that the country is doing its utmost to relieve, the tramps are passing themselves off as sufferers of the disaster and are living much better than they usually fare.


April 28
Social note: The town is on the level in every sense of the word. No more ghouls are shot because there is nothing to steal. Yet the smashed buildings and desolate streets do not represent the significant leveling. The material loss is overwhelming, but it does not stagger the imagination. A few hundred millions will mend the hurt and there are many people here today who think the shakeup is worth it. The leveling that they are willing to pay for is social. Society is on the ground, face to face, jowl to jowl. Every artificial barrier is swept away. The conventions, the pride, the show and the ease which these people have been erecting for 50 years have been swept away with the same swiftness and finality shown by the flames toward the property.

The loss of life is small; the loss of social position colossal. Now nothing counts but human love. Money has momentarily lost its purchasing power. Servants, luxury, habits, prestige — yes, and enmity, feuds, hatreds, jealousies and contempt have disappeared. Humanity is on the flat and everyone is on the level.

It's a free start, everyone beginning over again, rich and poor alike.

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