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Letter written by Elsie Cross to Ruth (page 4 of 4)

A letter written by a twelve-year old girl to her friend, giving a firsthand account of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and fire. The letter (4 pages), dated May 17 and 18, describes the earthquake and her family's subsequent removal from their home in San Francisco's Western Addition to the Sunset district, where they stayed for several days to avoid the fire.

Cross, Elsie H.
1906 May 17 and 18

Letter written by Elsie Cross to Ruth, 1906; Elsie H. Cross letters, MS-3469; California Historical Society.

This primary source is a letter written by a 12-year-old girl named Elsie Cross. She wrote this letter to her family right after the huge earthquake and fire in San Francisco in 1906. She described many of the problems in the city. Have you ever sent a letter to your family? What sorts of things do you tell them? What do you think Elsie Cross hoped her family would think after they read this letter?

Written by 12-year-old Elsie Cross, this letter documents how a child witnessed the immediate aftermath of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake. The earthquake, and the fire that followed it, caused major damage to the city. Many residents were homeless. Communication with loved ones was limited during this time. This letter reveals how family members attempted to stay in touch with one another, and it suggests the reasons that people had to move as a result of the disaster. Students may make connections between this document and whether Cross moved for push or pull factors, potentially noting that environmental factors served as push factors.

[page 4]

She was right and that day it was put out. The water was low and unhealthy unless boiled, so we drank milk, beer, soda waters. That day passed and we slept on a mattress in the kitchen. I forgot again to tell you that my father is the supervising engineer of the city and had a board of Public Works badge which kept him from being impressed and also allowed him to go anywheres. The cadets from the California University did splendid duty and there were to each block marching up and down, not allowing anyone to light a candle and also protecting the houses from plundering. The next night we slept upstairs and had the courage to sleep there until a week after the earthquake. All this time, we slept with our clothes on and ate canned provisions as we could make no fire. The first few nights we could not have candles but the last few nights before we left we were allowed to burn them until 10 o'clock. Our house was not burned we were in the Western Addition. I will write you the rest of this there is so much to tell in a day or two hoping you have received my postal and remain yours affectionally Elsie H. Cross. 1301 Alice St. Oakland, Cal.