Earthquake Exodus, 1906: Berkeley Responds to the San Francisco Refugees

Earthquake Exodus, 1906 tells the story of the ten-week relief effort in the East Bay after the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and fire. Within hours of the earthquake, the people of Berkeley began to organize a citizens’ committee, knowing that terrified masses of stricken refuges would pour into their town within hours. By revisiting both their challenges—smallpox, fires, and keeping public order—and acts of grace, such as taking in the homeless, setting up temporary camps, and dispensing food, Richard Schwartz illuminates a nearly forgotten episode in Bay Area history. Containing many breathtaking photos and illustrations not seen for nearly one hundred years, this new visual history offers up singularly human details of one of the nation’s most infamous disasters.


“Even more compelling than the photos are the hundreds of stories of ordinary people doing extraordinary things.”—Martin Snapp, Berkeley Voice

About the Author

Richard SchwartzRichard Schwartz is a historian and the author of Eccentrics, Heroes, and Cutthroats of Old Berkeley; Earthquake Exodus, 1906; Berkeley 1900; and The Circle of Stones. An outdoor enthusiast and animal lover, he worked on a Pennsylvania Dutch farm before heading west to find higher mountains. He now lives in Berkeley, California, where he works as a building contractor and documents early Native American sites in the Bay Area. Visit his website at
Geographer and environmental historian Gray Brechin is the author of several books, including Farewell Promised Land: Waking from the California Dream (with Robert Dawson) and the recent Imperial San Francisco.