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Newlands believed the quake caused only 3 percent of the destruction, though how he arrived at that figure is unclear. Twenty percent is now the accepted number. “Earthquakes mean nothing,” explained the quake-defying senator. “A little shake in the earth’s crust, resulting in a crack here and there of a few inches, constitute no real source of danger. ”30 On the one hand, the business class was selecting among dangers, that is, making a political decision about what San Franciscans should and should not fear—fire versus earthquake.

Ultimately, a view of the seismic shock as only a natural disaster amounted to little more than a thinly veiled attempt to return the poor back to the city’s economic treadmill. 54 Many of the city’s timepieces malfunctioned in the disturbance, including the clock in the spire of the badly damaged St. m. ”56 The quake occurred at a point when Americans were still adjusting to the notion of arbitrary clock time. As historian Michael O’Malley explains, prior to industrialization, time had originated with God and expressed itself in nature—the passing of seasons and the rising and setting of the sun.

On the following day, however, no paper appeared, as Dawson came into class conflict with his compositors, too few of whom reported for work. This prompted him to criticize the men for their cowardice. Why they failed to report is not entirely clear. ”38 If they and other members of the white working class were off attending the open-air religious meetings, no evidence survives to confirm it. In any case, such an obsessive concern with work, despite all odds, was in fact quite in character for Dawson (and other men of his station), who had an abiding commitment to encouraging economic progress.

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Acts of God by Steinberg T


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