Sydney Tyler.

San Francisco's great disaster; a full account of the recent terrible destruction of life and property by earthquake, fire and volcano in California and at Vesuvius .. online

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appeal to the people of the United States, to all cities,
chambers of commerce, boards of trade, relief committees,
and individuals to express their sympathy and render their
aid by contributiins to the American National Red Cross.
They can be sent to Jacob H. Schiff, New York, Red Cross
treasurer, or other local Red Cross treasurers, to be for-
warded by telegraph from Washington to the Red Cross
•gents and officers in California.


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SAN Francisco's great disaster. 359

The respcHise was what could have been expected.
San Francisco might have had many millions more had she
iiOt called a halt when the outpouring of funds had met her
immediate needs.- The millions that were placed at the
disposal of the Red Cross absolutely assured her that there
could be no famine and that many of the dreaded sequences
of the disaster could not come. The greatest service to San
Francisco, perhaps, on account of the vast sums available
there was that the city officials and citzens had opportunity
to devote effort and imagination toward grasping some-
thing of the extent of the disaster and centering thought
and attention on the broad problem of the rehabilitation of
their city. They knew that the immediate needs were be-
ing attended to through the generosity of the government,
the good loyalty of fellow Americans and the efficiency
of the Red Cross, and the Citizens' Committee and the
army officers. It was a fairly blessed privilege to feel this.
It will tell in the speed and thoroughness with which the
city rises again in beauty and greatness. There can he
no doubt that American cities had come to the rescue with-
out the splendid action of the President. On the other
hand there can be no doubt that this action quiclcened the
work, gave it national scope and went down to the honor
of the whole people. It also added another to the many
reasons for which Theodore Roosevelt will be held in ven-
eration by Americans as long as the Republic endures.


As has been said, the Congress took action, even be-
fore the appeal of the President had been made. The
House of Representatives was first to act. On Wednes-
day, April 18, this body adjourned as an expression of sor-

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26o SAN Francisco's great disaster.

row and sjrmpathy for San Francisco after adopting reso-
lutions authorizing the Secretaries of War and the Navy
to place all available equipment at the service of the stricken
city.- Representative Kahn, of California, presented the
resoluticMi, which was as follows:

"Resolved, By the Senate and House of Representa-
tives of the United States of America, in Congress assem-
bled, That the Secretary of War be, and he is hereby,
authorized and directed to loan to the mayors of San Fran-
cisco, Berkeley, Oakland, Alameda an3 such other cities on
the Pacific coast as have sustained damage, under such reg-
ulations and restrictions as he may deem proper, a suffi-
cient number of tents to temporarily shelter such persons
as may have been rendered homeless and lost property by
the earthquake of this date, and attending conflagration,
and to issue rations, supplies and render such other aid to
such as are destitute and unable to provide for themselves.

"Be it further provided, That the Secretary of the
Treasury and the Secretary of the Navy are also hereby
directed to co-operate with the Secretary of War in ex-
tending relief and assistance to the stricken people herein
referred to to the extent of the use of the naval vessels,
revenue cutters and supplies under their control on the
Pacific coast."

Coupled with this was a further act, indicative of the
deep feeling which pervaded the House of Representatives
as the result of the appalling news, which at this time only
reached the nation's capital in fragmentary form. Mr.
Gill, of Maryland, who offered the resolution of sympathy
of tfie House to the people of Baltimore after the terrible
conflagration which destroyed that city, presented the fol-
lowing resolution :

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SAN Francisco's great disaster. 261

"Resolved, by the House of Representatives, That the
sympathy of the House is hereby extended to the people
of the State of California in this, the hour of their great
disaster and suffering, caused by the extraordinary revolu-
tion of nature in that State, and that as an expression of
our profound sympathy we do now adjourn."

By the following day the whole country had learned
of the extent of the original disaster and was aware that
the beautiful city was at the mercy of flames. In both the
Senate and House of Representatives further steps were
taken to show that the catastrophe to San Francisco was to
be regarded as a national catastrophe. The Senate adopted
a resolution, carrying an appropriation of $500,000, for
relief. In the House of Representatives news of this ac-
tion resulted in a substitute which doubled the sum that had
been named by the Senate, and the next day by similar ac-
tion^ the million, likewise, was doubled by a second resolu-
tion. The following resolution was unanimously adopted
and stands as the part the Congress played in the patriotic
effort made to help San Francisco :
"Joint resolution for the relief of sufferers from earthquake

and conflagration on the Pacific coast.

"Resolved, by the Senate and House of Representatives
of the United States of America in Congress assembled.
That the Secretary of War is hereby authorized and di-
rected to procure in open market or otherwise subsistence
and quartermaster supplies belonging to the military estab-
lishment and available, and issue the same to such destitute
persons as have been rendered homeless or are in needy cir-
cumstances as a result of the earthquake which occurred
April 18, and the attending conflagration, and in executing
this joint resolution the Secretary of War is directed to co-

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operate with the authorities of the State of California and
the mayors of the cities of San Francisco, Berkeley, Oak-
land, Alameda,and such other cities on the Pacific coast as
may have sustained damages.

"Be it further resolved, That the Secretary of the
Treasury, Secretary of the Navy, and the Secretary of Com-
merce and Labor are hereby directed to co-operate with the
Secretary of War in extending relief and assistance to the
stricken people herein referred to to the extent of the use of
the naval vessels, revenue cutters, and other vessels and gov-
ernment supplies under their control on the Pacific coast.

"Be it further resolved, That to enable the Secretary of
War to execute the provisions of this joint resolution there
is hereby appropriated out of any money in the Treasury
not otherwise appropriated the sum of $1,000,000, to be
expended under the direction and in the discretion of the
Secretary of War."


With millions of Americans the President was shocked
beyond expression at the first reports of the disaster and
hoped against hope that they would prove to have been

His first message was to Mayor Eugene E. Schmitz,
in which he said : —

"Hear rumors of great disaster through an earthquake
at San Francisco, but know nothing of the real facts. Call
upon me for any assistance I can render.


Later in the day he sent this despatch to Mayor
Schmitz : —

"I share with all our people the horror felt at the

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SAN Francisco's great disaster. 263

catastrophe that has befallen San Francisco, and the most
earnest sympathy with your citizens. If there is anything
that the Federal government can do to aid you it will be

He also sent this message to Governor Pardee : —

"It was difficult at first to credit the news of the ca-
lamity that had befallen San Francisco. I feel the greatest
concern and sympathy for you and the people, not only of
San Francisco, but of California, in this terrible disaster.
You will let me know if there is anything that the national
government can do."

Once the President had grasped the fact that the catas-
trophe was real, he went to work for San Francisco with
characteristic energy. Within twenty-four hours he had
formulated an appeal to Congress, had issued the above
appeal to the nation, had directed the National Red Cross
to direct the rescue work, had named Secretary of Com-
merce Metcalf to go to San Francisco as his personal rep-
resentative, had inspired the War and Navy Departments
to redoubled activity and in every act demonstrated a grasp
of the situation, of the needs of the hour, all in keeping with
what the nation has come to expect of one of the greatest
of its executives.

The original appropriation by Congress of $1,000,000,
which, as has been recounted, was increased to $1,500,000,
was swelled to the magnificent sum of $2,500,000 by a fur-
ther action. The President's appeal went far toward setting
the whole nation to raising money and to him some of the
credit must be given for the amazing outpouring of gold,
which, before it had stopped, had netted $20,000,000 for
the work of relief.

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264 SAN Francisco's great disaster.


Of the several messages of the President, one sample
may be given to show the sympathetic, yet calm business-
like tone pervading them, eloquent of the man who is master
of himself and the crisis confronting him :
"To THE Senate and House of Representatives: —

"I submit herewith a letter of the Secretary of War,
with accompanying documents, including a form of a res-
olution suggested for passage by the Congress.

"This letter refers to the appalling catastrophe which
has befallen San Francisco and neighboring cities, a catas-
trophe more appalling than any other of the kind that has
befallen any other portion of our country during its history.
I am sure that there is need on my part of no more than a
suggestion to the Congress in order that this resolution may
be at once passed. But I urge that instead of appropriating
a further sum of $1,000,000, as recommended by the Secre-
tary of War, the appropriation be for $1,500,000. The
supplies already delivered or en route for San Francisco
approximate in value $1,500,000, which is more than we
have the authority in law as yet to purchase. I do not think
it safe for us to reckon upon the need of spending less than
a million in addition.

"Large sums are being raised by private subscription in
this country, and very generous offers have been made to
assist us by individuals of other countries, which, requests,
however, I have refused, as in my judgment there is no need
of any assistance from outside our own borders — this re-
fusal, of course, in no way lessening our deep appreciation
of the kindly sympathy which has prompted such offers.

"The detailed account of the action of the War De-
partment is contained in the appendices to the letter of the

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SAN Francisco's great disaster. 267

Secretary of War. At the moment our concern is purely
with meeting the terrible emergency of the moment. Later
I shall communicate with you as to the generous part which
I am sure the national government will take in meeting the
more permanent needs of the situation, including, of course,
rebuilding the great governmental structures which have
been destroyed.

"I hope the action above requested can be taken to-day.


"The White House, April 21, 1906."


The President's first plan was to have the Red Cross
in absolute control of the situation but it developed that no
single agency could undertake the vast task, particularly as
the contributions, being sent from thousands of sources,
could not be turned into a single channel. The President
had named Dr. E. T. Devine as special agent of the Red
Cross. His arrival at San Francisco was followed by mis-
understanding which threatened to embrace all concerned
whereupon the President, grasping the fact that he had
made a mistake, made this public announcement:
"To the Public:—

"When the news of the dreadful disaster at San Fran-
cisco first came it was necessary to take immediate steps to
provide in some way for the receipt and distribution of the
sums of money which at once poured in for the relief of
the people of San Francisco. At the moment no one could
fortell how soon it would be possible for the people of San
Francisco themselves to organize; and to tide over the in-
terval the American National Red Cross Association was
designated to receive and disburse the funds. But the peo-

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268 SAN Francisco's great disaster.

pie of San FrandscJo, with an energy and self-reliant
courage, a cool resourcefulness and a capacity for organ-
ized and ordely endeavor which are beyond all praise have
already met the need through committees appointed by
the mayor of the city, former Mayor James D. Phelan being
chairman of the finance committee. The work of these com-
mittees has been astonishing in its range, promptness and

"As I am informed by Major General Greely, although
all local transportation was destroyed, as well as practically
every supply store in the city, these local committees, with
the help of the army, have succeeded in caring for three
hundred thousand homeless people in the last five days.
Thanks to their efforts, no individual is now suffering se-
verely for food, water or temporary shelter. This work has
been done with the minimum of waste and under conditions
which would have appalled men less trained in business
methods, endowed with less ability, or inspired with any
but the highest motives of humanity and helpfulness.

"The need of employing the Red Cross, save as an aux-
iliary, has passed, and I urge that hereafter all contributions
from any source be sent direct to James D. Phelan, chair-
man^ Finance Committee, San Francisco. Mr. Devine, of
the Red Cross, will disburse any contributions sent to him
through former Mayor Phelan and will work in accord with
him in all ways."

This tactful action, coupled with its tribute to San
Francisco, relieved the monetary tension and all thereafter
went smoothly. The President throughout his action in
the gravest hour that ever has confronted an American city
added to the high esteem in which he is held, irrespective of
political differences of opinion, from ocean to ocean.

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San Francisco is rising from ashes through the faith
and valor of her people, but much of the success of their
efforts is to be traced to the enormous assistance which
came from the millions poured into the city by the world's
insurance companies. The principle of insuring valuables
had its birth in a small risk, assumed exclusively against
the lives of individuals. Probably no business venture,
launched in the history of the world, provoked so great a
storm of ridicule and abuse as this. It was attacked from
the practical standpoint as an impossible undertaking; it
was attacked from every possible worldly point of view,
and the discussion, pro and con, finally, in some sections,
became a matter of religious controversy. Its opponents
found texts for their attacks in Holy Writ. The wonder
is that the business of insuring had not died a homing.
Despite the volcanic character of its reception the principle
survived. Probably in all of the history of the develop-
ment of enterprise there is no chapter to equal that which
recounts the tremendous growth of this business. Its story
is worth many volumes, devoted to the romantic aspects
of the development with never a reference to figures. Per-
haps, one day, a chronicler will rise, to embalm the story
of a once derided, now a universally applied principle.
Indeed it would take several volumes alone to describe the
endless field now covered in insurance risks, too long to be
even roughly treated here. Enough to say that the under-
lying principle of insurance has been proved to be sound;
that every man accepts the onetime ridiculed dogma that he
can be made secure against loss by pajmient of a mokJest
premium against, thfB. full' extent o£ ^ny ^ssible calamity ;.


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270 SAN Francisco's great disaster.

and that this can be accomplished with a margin of profit
for the insuring company, which has been the marvel and
the envy of seekers of fortune in almost every other field.

San Francisco, by dint of fire and earthquake, has
heretofore learned the value of insurance. The present
catastrophe has taught the lesson, once more, not only to
San Francisco, but universally. The companies involved
will, beyond doubt, get back their losses in the increased
business that will accrue as a result of this appalling object
lesson. They have done generously by the stricken city.
From the moment that the tremendous extent of the disas-
ter became apparent there was manifested this spirit. Few
conflagrations have been complicated by the double work
of destruction of fire and earthquake and this fact opened
the way for endless technicalities. San Francisco was
cheered, while the great fire was still sweeping through the
city by the announcement that technicalities would be
waived. The great companies which made this announce-
ment are to be accounted among the notable factors in the
rehabilitation. When San Francisco stands again, with the
awful events of April, 1906, only memories a tremendous
share of the credit will belong to these great business con-
cerns, which put no quibble in the way of payment of losses,
despite the fact that jointly tens of millions could havt been
saved to their treasuries. In the case of ^me of the com-
panies involved, payment for damage by earthquake was
prcculded by the terms of their charters, on a basis of the
standard fire insurance policy, which is that of New York.
These companies, by accepting the havoc of the fire as final,
without heeding the work of the earthquake, manifested
a spirit of generosity in keeping with the attitude of the
whole nation toward San Francisco in her hour of trial.

Premiums paid on insurance in San Fancisco, in 1905,

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SAN Francisco's great disaster. 271

amounted to $2,986,540. On an estimated average rate
of 70 cents this represented a total amount of insurance
carried of $426,648,571. One-half less than this amount
proved to be the amount of the liabilities, a total of $250,-
000,000. Fortunately the insurance on the Pacific Coast
is carried only in the large concerns. This fact proved to
be important.

The extent of the liabilities is represented in the follow-
ing table, which gives the premiums paid by the insured of
San Francisco for the year of the fire. The face value of
the policies is readily obtainable on a basis of seventy cents
as the average rate :


Net San


Name of Company and Location. Premiums.

California, San Francisco $22,585

Fireman's Fund, San Francisco 77,6o8

Home Fire and Marine, San Francisco 31,103

Pacific Underwriters, San Francisco 20,632

TotaJ, California $151,928


Aetna, Hartford $44,789

Agricultural, Watertown, N. Y 16,343

Alliance, Philadelphia 15,801

American, Boston 12,348

American Fire, Philadelphia 27,559

American, Newark 18,962

American Central, St. Louis 19,881

Atlanta-Birmingham Fire, Atlanta 6,289

Austin Fire, Austin, Texas 4,337

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British-American, New York 3fOi3

Caledonian-American, New York 8,836

Calumet, Chicago 13,824

Citizens', St. Louis 17,588

Colonial Fire Underwriters, Hartford 12,245

Commercial Union Fire, New York 4,110

Concordia Fire, Milwaukee , 6,345

Connecticut Fire, Hartford 34,i97

Continental, New York 33,936

Delaware, Philadelphia 12,551

Dutchess, Poughkeepsie 14,167

Eagle Fire, New Yoric 1 1,968

Equitable Fire and Marine, Providence 5,817

Fire Association, Philadelphia 28,778

Franklin Fire, Philadelphia 20,919

German-American, New York 44,589

Germania Fire, New York 46,552

German Alliance, New York 7,384

German, Freeport, 111 52,802

German Fire, Peoria, 111 14,752

German National, Chicago 15,706

Girard Fire and Marine, Philadelphia 1 3,747

Glens Falls, Glens Falls, N. Y 15,483

Globe & Rutgers, New York 16,028

Hanover Fire, New York 23,167

Hartford Fire, Hartford 72,236

Home, New York 39,779

Indemnity Fire, New York 4,781

Insurance Company of North America, Philadel-
phia 48,938

Mercantile Fire and Marine, Boston 13,020

Michigan Fire and Marine^ Detroit ^ 7,935

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Milwaukee Mechanics, Milwaukee 34>269

Nassau Fire, New York 7>39i

National Fire, Hartford 30,201

National Union, Pittsburg 20,936

New Hampshire Fire, Manchester 8,928

New York Underwriters, Hartford 73>SS2

New York Fire, New York 6,903

Niagara Fire, New York 33,126

Northwestern National, Milwaukee 11,039

North German Fire, New York 1 1,627

North River, New York 9,030

Orient, Hartfod 14,373

Pelican, New York 7,253

Pennsylvania Fire, Philadelphia 55,189

Phenix, Brooklyn , 61,844

Phoenix, Hartford 28,049

Philadelphia Underwriters, Philadelphia 8,921

Providence- Washington, Providence, R. I., 15,75^

Queen Insurance Company of America, N^w

York 24,054

Queen City Fire, Sioux Falls, S. D 1,992

Rochester German, Rochester, N. Y 10,701

Security New Haven 6,151

Security Fire, Baltimore 7,817

Springfield Fire and Marine, Springfield, Massa-
chusetts 26,160

Spring Garden, Philadelphia 9,5^9

St. Paul Fire and Marine, St. Paul 18,705

Teutonia, New Orleans 5,3^5

Traders', Chicago 58,096

Union, Philadelphia 8,729

United Firemen's, Philadelphia 11,045

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Westchester Fire, New York i7»573

Williamsburgh City Fire, Brooklyn 18,036

Total Other-State $1,493,782

Total American $1,645,710


Aachen & Munich Fire, Aix la Chapelle 49,421

Alliance Assurance, London 43,749

Atlas Assurance, London 39,79^

Austrian Phoenix, Vienna 30,558

British America Assurance, Toronto 1 3,333

Caledonian, Edinburgh 47,325

Commercial Union Assurance, London 49,002

Hamburg, Bremen Fire, Hamburg 56,180

Law Union & Crown, London 28,030

Liverpool aod London and Globe, Liverpool . . . 56,878

London Assurance, London 87,719

London and Lancashire Fire, Liverpool 68,558

Manchester Assurance, London 5,639

New Zealand, Auckland 29,299

North British & Mercantile, London 44,569

North German Fire, Hamburg 58,946

Northern Assurance, London 53,690

Norwich Union Fire, Norwich 30,395

Palatine, London 34,209

Phoenix Assurance, London 53,830

Prussian National, Stettin 17,934

Rhine & Moselle, Strasburg 59,649

Royal, Liverpooll 83,601

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Royal Exchange Assurance, London 56,529

Scotch Underwriters, Edinburgh 4,698

Scottish Union & National, Edinburgh 21,916

State Fire, Liverpool 15,491

Sun Insurance Office, London 40,019

Svea Fire, Gothenburg 25,955

Transatlantic Fire, Hamburg 73>947

Union Assurance Society, London 43>302

Western Assurance, Toronto I7>4S8

Total foreign $1,340,830

Grand total for 1905, 105 companies $2,986,540


The total loss was estimated at $250,000,000, and the
loss to the insurance companies at $175,000,000.

Below are presented the amounts the respective fire
insurance companies estimated they would lose by the San
Francisco conflagration, compiled from official statements
by the companies :

Net Amount
of Loss.

Aetna Insurance Co. of Hartford, Conn $2,700,000

Agricultural Insurance Co. of Watertown,

N. Y 500,000

Alliance Insurance Co., of Philadelphia 500,000

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Online LibrarySydney TylerSan Francisco's great disaster; a full account of the recent terrible destruction of life and property by earthquake, fire and volcano in California and at Vesuvius .. → online text (page 15 of 25)