First The Shaking, Then the Flames

Even after 83 years, the Great Quake reverberates in San Francisco's memory

In 1906 San Francisco with its 400,000 souls was the undisputed gem of the Pacific Coast, a bustling, pungent, polyglot city enjoying corrupt government, splendid libraries and wonderful restaurants. As a hub of international finance and society, it rivaled New York City and Paris, and it took perverse pride in its reputation, well earned by the depravity of the carnal Barbary Coast, as "the wickedest city in the world." The evening of April 17, when the nonpareil Enrico Caruso sang in Carmen at the Grand Opera House before repairing to the fabulous Palace Hotel (a telephone and bath for every room,...

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