This chapter excerpted from Mark Twain's Roughing It.
A month afterward I enjoyed my first earthquake. It was one which was long called the "great" earthquake, and is doubtless so distinguished till this day. It was just after noon, on a bright October day. I was coming down Third street. The only objects in motion anywhere in sight in that thickly built and populous quarter, were a man in a buggy behind me, and a street car wending slowly up the cross street. Otherwise, all was solitude and a Sabbath stillness. As I turned the corner, around a frame house, there was a great rattle and jar, and it occurred to me that here was an item!
One could have fancied that somebody had fired a charge of chair-
Every door, of every house, as far as the eye could reach, was vomiting a stream of human beings; and almost before one could execute a wink and begin another, there was a massed multitude of people stretching in endless procession down every street my position commanded. Never was solemn solitude turned into teeming life quicker.
Of the wonders wrought by "the great earthquake," these were all that came under my eye; but the tricks it did, elsewhere, and far and wide over the town, made toothsome gossip for nine days.
The destruction of property was trifling
The "curiosities" of the earthquake were simply endless. Gentlemen and ladies who were
sick, or were taking a siesta, or had dissipated till a late hour and were making up lost
sleep, thronged into the public streets in all sorts of queer apparel, and some without any at
all. One woman who had been washing a naked child, ran down the street holding it by the
ankles as if it were a dressed turkey. Prominent citizens who were supposed to keep the
Sabbath strictly, rushed out of saloons in their shirt-
A prominent editor flew down stairs, in the principal hotel, with nothing on but one
"Oh, what shall I do! Where shall I go!"
She responded with naive serenity:
"If you have no choice, you might try a clothing-
A certain foreign consul's lady was the acknowledged leader of fashion, and every time she
appeared in anything new or extraordinary, the ladies in the vicinity made a raid on their
husbands' purses and arrayed themselves similarly. One man who had suffered
considerably and growled accordingly, was standing at the window when the shocks came,
and the next instant the consul's wife, just out of the bath, fled by with no other
apology for clothing than
"Now that is something like! Get out your towel my dear!"
The plastering that fell from ceilings in San Francisco that day, would have covered several
acres of ground. For some days afterward, groups of eyeing and pointing men stood about
many a building, looking at long zig-
A crack a hundred feet long gaped open six inches wide in the middle of one street and then
shut together again with such force, as to ridge up the meeting earth like a slender grave. A
lady sitting in her rocking and quaking parlor, saw the wall part at the ceiling, open and
shut twice, like a mouth, and then-
The first shock brought down two or three huge organ-
"However, we will omit the benediction!"
After the first shock, an Oakland minister said:
"Keep your seats! There is no better place to die than this"
And added, after the third:
"But outside is good enough!" He then skipped out at the back door.
Such another destruction of mantel ornaments and toilet bottles as the earthquake created,
San Francisco never saw before. There was hardly a girl or a matron in the city but
suffered losses of this kind. Suspended pictures were thrown down, but oftener still, by a
curious freak of the earthquake's humor, they were whirled completely around with their
faces to the wall! There was great difference of opinion, at first, as to the course or
direction the earthquake traveled, but water that splashed out of various tanks and buckets
settled that. Thousands of people were made so sea-
The queer earthquake