How Phoenix was affected by the 1906 San Francisco earthquake
Nowadays Phoenix and San Francisco don't seem to have much of a connection. The City by the Bay seems so very far away, both physically and culturally. But in territorial Arizona, San Francisco was very important to Phoenix. It was a lifeline.
Time travel with me to 1906. San Francisco is ultra-modern. It's a busy city, with a busy port. There's nothing else that compares to it. Los Angeles won't really be much of a city for quite a while, certainly not with a port that rivaled San Francisco. The world connected to the western United States through the port of San Francisco.
Now let's go to Phoenix in 1906. And if you're picturing tumbleweeds and a sleepy "old west" town, look again. Phoenix is as up to date as it can be. There is electricity, street cars, modern buildings. There are banks. You can get gourmet meals at the major hotels, including oysters. You can drink champagne, and cold beer. You could buy expensive furniture, and fancy clothes, including the latest hats and dresses for the ladies. And most of it came from San Francisco.
In 1906 the connections between California and Arizona were very strong. People traveled easily back and forth. They had friends and family. So the disaster that hit San Francisco wasn't just something people read about in the newspaper.
1906 was a long time ago. And from a modern perspective it's easy to wonder "what were they thinking?" when you read about the earthquake. You may have read that the fire department blew up buildings, and that the police shot looters. But San Francisco rebuilt. And they learned a lot. It's still a delicate balance, but now as then, people were doing the best that they could.
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Posted by Brad Hall