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1906 Earthquake & Fire


With sewer lines broken, there was an immediate loss of toilets. The Department of Public Works and the Army played important roles in re-establishing this aspect of sanitary conditions, to prevent disease outbreaks. Under such circumstances, a cholera outbreak might have occurred, but it was prevented. There was an increase in typhoid fever, but this outbreak was quickly controlled (see below).

Makeshi8ft toilet Street scene showing makeshift restroom (on left, behind the bicycle rider). Unidentified location. This makeshift restroom may have used a street access to an intact sewer line. Although there are many photos of the disaster, very few photographers pointed their cameras at subjects such as this. Photo courtesy of the California Historical Society, FN-35392 [photo info].

Signs warning of the perils of sewage contamination

Signs warning of the perils of sewage contamination. The top sign, most likely posted by soldiers, says "Sewers blocked. Do not use toilets. [SF health?] threatened. Obey orders or get shot." (from Collier's Weekly, permission pending)

Emergency sanitary engineering

Emergency sanitary engineering. [Women's lavatory, unidentified location.] Many latrines were quickly established in the temporary camps around the city. Initially they were unscreened, and flies carried fecal material to the communal kitchens -- a cause of typhoid fever that was discovered and controlled (see Department of Public Health Annual Report for 1906-1907). Photo courtesy of the California Historical Society, FN-33296 [photo info].

Temporary sewer mains

Temporary sewer mains (?) along unidentified street, Mission District. It took a while to re-establish sewage disposal. Photo courtesy of the Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley [photo info].