1906 San Francisco Earthquake Archive

Dedicated to Andrew Cowper Lawson and Harry Fielding Reid

1906 4/18 13:12 UTC,  38.0N  123.0W  Mw = 7.9, San Francisco, California

This earthquake archive is dedicated to Prof. Andrew C. Larson and Prof. Harry F. Reid, who carried out extensive geological, and seismological studies of this earthquake, respectively.

According to C. F. Richter (“Elementary Seismology”, 1958, p. 467): “For our scientific knowledge of the great earthquake of 1906 we are heavily indebted to Andrew C. Lawson, who prevailed upon the Governor of California to appoint a State Earthquake Investigation Commission. … Lawson, as chairman, organized the work of investigation; he acted as general editor for the report, to which he contributed much of the material [of Volume I]”.

Harry F. Reid was the sole author of Volume II, “The Mechanics of the Earthquake”, with a collection and reproduction of the seismograms which is so extensive that such a seismogram compilation in publication has never been attempted since 1910.  

We welcome contributions of digital files of materials relating to the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and financial donations to the endowment fund so that more materials can be scanned and made available online.  In addition, an archivist is needed to edit and maintain this Archive. If you are interested, please contact W.H.K. Lee at lee@usgs.gov (office).

Archivist: A volunteer is needed.
Contributors of Files: William H. K. Lee (who scanned and edited the seismogram files).

1. Seismograms of the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake:

Please click the above link to view the seismograms published by Reid (1910).   link to original scanned file directory (either .jpg or .tif format)

2. References:

Lawson, A. C. (Chairman) (1908, 1910). The California Earthquake of April 18, 1906: Report of the State Earthquake Investigation Commission in Two Volumes and Atlas:

Volume I by Andrew C. Lawson in collaboration with G. K. Gilbert, H. F. Reid and others, published by the Carnegie Institution of Washington, Washington, D.C., 1908.

Volume II by Harry F. Reid, published by the Carnegie Institution of Washington, Washington, D.C., 1910.


3. A Brief Note about Andrew C. Lawson (1861-1952)1:

Scottish-born American geologist. He published widely on the geology of California and other regions and on isostasy. He was chairman of the State Earthquake Investigation Commission appointed to investigate the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, and a principal author and editor of its report published by the Carnegie Institution of Washington. Lawson was born at Anstruther, Scotland and received the A.B. (1883) and A.M. (1885) degrees at the University of Toronto and the Ph.D. (1888) at Johns Hopkins University, the LL.D. (1935) from the University of California, Berkeley, and the D.Sc. (1936) from Harvard University. After early field work in Canada, he accepted a professorship at Berkeley in 1890 and was head of the Department of Geological Sciences from 1901 to 1925 and dean of the College of Mines from 1914 to 1917. He was the second president of the Seismological Society of America in 1909-1910. He was vice-president of the Geological Society of America in 1908, president in 1926, and received the GSA’s Penrose Medal in 1938. [Vaughan (1970); Britannica (2003)]


4. A Brief Note about Harry Fielding Reid (1859-1944)1:

American geophysicist who originated the elastic rebound theory of earthquake occurrence. Reid was born in Baltimore and received the A.B. (1880) and Ph.D. in physics from Johns Hopkins University. He was professor of mathematics at Case University from 1886 to 1889, then moved in 1890 to Johns Hopkins University, where he became professor of geological physics in 1901. He was in charge of earthquake records for the U.S. Geological Survey. He represented the United States at International Seismological Association meetings starting in 1906. He was a member of Lawson’s California State Earthquake Investigation Commission and author of Volume 2 of its report on the 1906 San Francisco earthquake. He was also an authority on glaciers. He published on the theory of isostasy and the theory of the seismograph. He was president of the Seismological Society of America from 1912 to 1914 and of the American Geophysical Union from 1924 to 1926. [NAS Biog. Mem. *25*:1-12, 1947]

1 From Howell, B. F. (2003). Biographies of interest to earthquake and engineering seismologists, in “International Handbook of Earthquake and Engineering Seismology, Part B”, edited by W. H. K. Lee, H. Kanamori, P. C. Jennings, and C. Kisslinger, p. 1725-1789, Academic Press, Amsterdam.

(Last Updated: April 9, 2006)