Today, the Large Cent Coin remembers the San Francisco earthquake of October 8, 1865.
The next day, the Daily Alta California newspaper printed the following description:
Our city and State had a great sensation yesterday in the way of an earthquake. It was undoubtedly the most severe shock felt in San Francisco since the American conquest. The coast was well shaken from Petaluma to Santa Cruz, and probably farther north, but we have no news from the Humboldt region.
The interior of the State, so far as we have heard, was comparatively but little affected, and we know that it is usually not affected by earthquakes which are felt near the ocean.
In Santa Cruz, according to a telegram, all the brick buildings were ruined. In San Jose a little damage was done.
In Petaluma and Stockton the shock was severe, but no damage was done. It was not felt in Visalia or Los Angeles.
In San Francisco several walls were thrown down, many others were cracked, a number of heavy cornices and firewalls fell, various buildings on made ground sank several inches, plastering fell from ceilings, a little furniture and much window glass was broken, several persons were cut and bruised by falling bricks, and many people made a great hurry to get into the streets.
That is a summary of the consequences of the great earthquake, the particulars of which will be found in full in another part of the paper.
The earthquake has come and gone, and San Francisco still stands, with her people, her enterprise, her skill, her knowledge, her wealth, and her houses of brick and wood. No house well built on hard ground has suffered, or the damage, if any, is too slight to deserve notice.
Along Montgomery street, where the houses are substantial, we have not seen a crack in a wall. The Occidental, with its five stories of brick, stands without a flaw. The tall spires and chimneys preserve their perpendicular direction.
In those parts of the city which were formerly part of the Bay, and have been filled in with earth, few of the foundations are firm, and there the most damage has been done. The falling of the few walls in the solid-ground part of the city was, we doubt not, chargeable to bad material or bad construction.
The escape of still higher buildings uninjured, proves that the shock— which must have been equally severe all over the city, though felt most on the made ground— is not alone to blame.
Every noteworthy earthquake demoralizes somebody.
People who are more scared than hurt are anxious to leave a city and a country that is shaken so mysteriously.
No doubt a few persons have been demoralized by the shock of yesterday, but there is no reason for it.
Whither will they go?
In Spain, Portugal, Italy, Greece and the Valley of the Mississippi, on the South Atlantic seaboard, among the West India Islands, Mexico, India, China and South America, earthquakes are felt more frequently than here.
In France, Germany and the Atlantic States, the percentage and the danger of death by lightning is ten times greater than that from earthquakes here.
In England and Oregon there is rain for nine months of the year and fog the other three months.
In no place are we secure from danger or death. And, after all, the proportion of those who die by the extraordinary convulsions of nature is very small.
Bad whiskey, gluttonousness, neglect of soap, lack of fresh air, and irregular habits, kill their hundreds every year in San Francisco, and will continue to do so.
It is eighty-nine years today since the Mission of San Francisco was founded, and in all that time not a person has been killed by an earthquake; nor do we expect to witness the funeral of anyone who shall die from such a cause in this city, although we regard it as our permanent home.
Whatever apprehension man may have, he cannot alter the inexorable decree of Nature, that a great city is to stand here.
While the Golden Gate keeps an open way to the Ocean; while the Sacramento and its bays keep an open way to the interior; while the remainder of the coast continues iron-bound from Mazatlan to Victoria; while California, Nevada. Oregon, Washington and Idaho continue to possess a fertile soil, a genial sky, rich mines, great forests, extensive fisheries, and an intelligent and industrious population, so long the metropolis of the Pacific slope of this continent must stand on the shore of San Francisco bay, ready and competent to transact the commercial business necessary for our comfort, and demanded by our civilization.
One satisfactory fact has been demonstrated by the late visitation: tall brick buildings need no longer be considered hazardous during the prevalence of earthquakes, for the five and six story hotels, covering the frontage of an entire block, large banking houses, factories, theatres, churches, public halls, and elegant private dwellings have received the shock without injury, while the buildings of poor construction, even if no higher than two stories, have alone been affected.
History shows the newspaperman’s conclusions about earthquakes were optimistic.
The Large Cent Coin shows against images of damage of the San Francisco earthquake of October 1868.