Salvation Army’s Historic Role in the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake

The view of San Francisco following the earthquake of 1906. Photo: Salvation Army National Archives

On April 18, 1906, 125 years ago today, the city of San Francisco was shattered by a magnitude 8.25 earthquake. Three days of fires followed, as many as 3,000 people lost their lives, and 225,000 of the city’s 400,000 citizens were left homeless. All but two of the Salvation Army’s buildings in San Francisco were destroyed in the earthquake.

Despite their own losses, The Salvation Army was a major part of the recovery and revival of the city following the historic disaster. Salvation Army personnel established feeding stations and shelters throughout San Francisco and into Oakland, meeting refugees as they ferried over. Chinese Salvationists from San Francisco played a major role in feeding thousands of survivors.

The Salvation Army serves hot meals to refugees in Golden State Park. Photo: Salvation Army National Archives

News of the efforts reached The Salvation Army’s National Commander Evangeline Booth, daughter of founder William Booth. She appealed to the public in New York for assistance, encouraging them with her father’s words, “Do something! Do the most you can – do it well – do it now!” She raised an astounding $12,000, which would equal more than $300,000 today.

Salvationist spent several weeks caring for those in need and continued to be a part of San Francisco’s long term recovery. Yet, their resolve never faltered.

This photo of Commander Evangeline Booth in front of the New Provincial Headquarters Building was published in the June 30, 1906 edition of War Cry. Photo: Salvation Army National Archive

Commander Evangeline Booth reflected on the experience, saying, “The natural hopefulness, I was going to say sunniness, of the California disposition has stood them in good stead; all their troubles and privations have not been able to keep them under. They have spirits like corks and come up with a bounce every time.”

For more information on The Salvation Army’s long history of emergency disaster response, please click here.

One Comment on “Salvation Army’s Historic Role in the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake

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