Twentieth century American writing can never be discussed without including Jack London, whose contributions have positioned him among the finest fiction writers of his time. Known best for short stories such as White Fang and The Call of the Wild, London also wrote novels, his most prolific being The Sea Wolf, a story based on his experiences at sea. Born John Griffith Chaney in San Francisco in 1876, London remained a resident of California until his death in 1916.
London, 30, and his wife, Charmian, lived at their ranch in Glen Ellen, California, some 40 miles from San Francisco. The Call of the Wild was published just three years prior to the earthquake.
London and his wife were awakened by the earthquake, and within half an hour, were on horseback, making their way to San Francisco. Upon arrival to the city, the couple was confounded and saddened by the destruction they encountered. Jack told his wife,
Iíll never write about this for anybody, no, Iíll never write a word about it. What use trying? Only could one string big words together and curse the futility of them.
However, shortly after the earthquake, Collierís Magazine of New York asked London to report what he saw in San Francisco for a price of 25 cents per word. At that time, this was a sizeable amount to be paid, especially for London, who was in serious debt. As the fires were overtaking the city, he penned his 2500-word commentary. It was published in the May 5, 1906 edition, just two weeks after the disaster.
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.
San Francisco, at the present time, is like the crater of a volcano, around which are camped tens of thousands of refugees. At the Presidio alone are at least twenty thousand. All the surrounding cities and towns are jammed with the homeless ones, where they are being cared for by the relief committees. The refugees were carried free by the railroads to any point they wished to go, and it is estimated that over one hundred thousand people have left the peninsula on which San Francisco stood. The Government has the situation in hand, and, thanks to the immediate relief given by the whole United States, there is not the slightest possibility of a famine. The bankers and business men have already set about making preparations to rebuild San Francisco.