Eyewitness jack london and

Words: 801-900

Skills: Context Clues Summary

Grades: 9th 10th 11th 12th

Topics: History and Journalism

Genres: Informational

Lexile Range:

Lexile Measure:

CCSS: History/Social Studies and Reading: Informational Text

Themes:

Eyewitness: Jack London and the San Francisco Earthquake


by Jack London

Jack London was known for his adventure novels such as "White Fang" and "Call of the Wild." London, however, was also a journalist and war correspondent. After news of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake broke, he was asked by "Collier's," a prominent news and literary magazine, to report on the aftermath of the earthquake. Student's will read the passage from London's report and respond to questions on the details and the vocabulary.

Reading Comprehension Passage

Eyewitness: Jack London and the San Francisco Earthquake

by Jack London
On April 18, 1906, a massive earthquake shook Northern California, including San Francisco, the fourth largest city in the U.S. at that time. Novelist and journalist Jack London was hired by Collier's, the National Weekly magazine to report on the event. The beginning of his report is below.

---------------------------------

THE STORY OF AN EYEWITNESS
By Jack London, Collier's special Correspondent

Upon receipt of the first news of the earthquake, Colliers telegraphed to Mr. Jack London–who lives only forty miles from San Francisco–requesting him to go to the scene of the disaster and write the story of what he saw. Mr. London started at once, and he sent the following dramatic description of the tragic events he witnessed in the burning city.

The earthquake shook down in San Francisco hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of walls and chimneys. But the conflagration that followed burned up hundreds of millions of dollars' worth of property. There is no estimating within hundreds of millions the actual damage wrought. Not in history has a modern imperial city been so completely destroyed. San Francisco is gone. Nothing remains of it but memories and a fringe of dwelling-houses on its outskirts. Its industrial section is wiped out. Its business section is wiped out. Its social and residential section is wiped out. The factories and warehouses, the great stores and newspaper buildings, the hotels and the palaces of the nabobs, are all gone. Remains only the fringe of dwelling houses on the outskirts of what was once San Francisco.

Within an hour after the earthquake shock the smoke of San Francisco's burning was a lurid tower visible a hundred miles away. And for three days and nights this lurid tower swayed in the sky, reddening the sun, darkening the day, and filling the land with smoke.

On Wednesday morning at a quarter past five came the earthquake. A minute later the flames were leaping upward In a dozen different quarters south of Market Street, in the working-class ghetto, and in the factories, fires started. There was no opposing the flames. There was no organization, no communication. All the cunning adjustments of a twentieth century city had been smashed by the earthquake. The streets were humped into ridges and depressions, and piled with the debris of fallen walls. The steel rails were twisted into perpendicular and horizontal angles. The telephone and telegraph systems were disrupted. And the great water-mains had burst. All the shrewd contrivances and safeguards of man had been thrown out of gear by thirty seconds' twitching of the earth-crust.

The Fire Made its Own Draft

By Wednesday afternoon, inside of twelve hours, half the heart of the city was gone. At that time I watched the vast conflagration from out on the bay. It was dead calm. Not a flicker of wind stirred. Yet from every side wind was pouring in upon the city. East, west, north, and south, strong winds were blowing upon the doomed city. The heated air rising made an enormous suck. Thus did the fire of itself build its own colossal chimney through the atmosphere. Day and night this dead calm continued, and yet, near to the flames, the wind was often half a gale, so mighty was the suck.

Wednesday night saw the destruction of the very heart of the city. Dynamite was lavishly used, and many of San Francisco proudest structures were crumbled by man himself into ruins, but there was no withstanding the onrush of the flames. Time and again successful stands were made by the fire-fighters, and every time the flames flanked around on either side or came up from the rear, and turned to defeat the hard-won victory.

An enumeration of the buildings destroyed would be a directory of San Francisco. An enumeration of the buildings un-destroyed would be a line and several addresses. An enumeration of the deeds of heroism would stock a library and bankrupt the Carnegie medal fund. An enumeration of the dead will never be made. All vestiges of them were destroyed by the flames. The number of the victims of the earthquake will never be known. South of Market Street, where the loss of life was particularly heavy, was the first to catch fire.

Remarkable as it may seem, Wednesday night while the whole city crashed and roared into ruin, was a quiet night. There were no crowds. There was no shouting and yelling. There was no hysteria, no disorder. I passed Wednesday night in the path of the advancing flames, and in all those terrible hours I saw not one woman who wept, not one man who was excited, not one person who was in the slightest degree panic stricken.

Before the flames, throughout the night, fled tens of thousands of homeless ones. Some were wrapped in blankets. Others carried bundles of bedding and dear household treasures. Sometimes a whole family was harnessed to a carriage or delivery wagon that was weighted down with their possessions. Baby buggies, toy wagons, and go-carts were used as trucks, while every other person was dragging a trunk. Yet everybody was gracious. The most perfect courtesy obtained. Never in all San Francisco's history, were her people so kind and courteous as on this night of terror.

Passage Only

Reading Comprehension Questions

1. What time did the earthquake strike San Francisco?



2. What caused the destruction of San Francisco -- the earthquake or the fire? Use a quotation from the text to support your answer.



3. What does enumeration mean here: "An enumeration of the buildings destroyed would be a directory of San Francisco"?



4. How does London describe those who were fleeing the fire?