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In April 1906 San Francisco was “the Queen City of the Pacific,” the largest city in California and the busiest port on North America’s Pacific Coast. It was a city of superlatives, most banks, best entertainment, richest rich, and greatest ethnic diversity. Then the earth moved and San Francisco lay in ruins.
“The Longest Minute: The Great San Francisco Earthquake and Fire of 1906,” by Matthew J. Davenport, tell the story of the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake. It describes the pre-earthquake city and how it became what it was. It then recounts the events of the earthquake and what followed in the immediate aftermath.
Davenport takes readers into the ethnically-diverse streets of San Francisco of the late 1800s and the first half-decade of the 20th century. Readers visit Chinatown, the Italian, Russian, and Mexican enclaves in the city and the homes of the very rich and very poor. He shows how San Francisco grew from an obscure Mexican town to the economic dynamo of the West Coast. He shows how rapid growth created a town ripe for disaster. Poorly-built, crowded buildings were common. Infrastructure was neglected. Much of what existed was shoddy.