For collectors of historical memorabilia, April 18 is undoubtedly underlined on calendars--the 80th anniversary of the San Francisco earthquake.
The quake, which occurred at 5:12 a.m., killed about 1,200 people, destroyed about 28,000 buildings and devastated almost 500 city blocks.
If there had been a Richter Scale at the time, it's estimated the temblor would have measured a resounding 8.3. Among leading collectors of San Francisco earthquake items is Ron Ross, founder and chairman of the San Francisco History Collectors Assn.
In a recent interview, Ross said his 3-year-old group has about 65 members who pay $20 a year ($30 for a joint membership, $10 for students) and meet usually on the last Thursday of the month at San Francisco's main library at the Civic Center to swap information and earthquake items.
This year, because of the anniversary, Ross said he would be putting his own collection on display in two San Francisco exhibits--at the Sutro Library, 480 Winston Drive, April 1 to June 6 and in the lobby of the downtown office complex at 1 Market Plaza April 7 to May 16.
The exhibits, he said, will feature some of the original earthquake items from his vast collection, including photos, newspapers, magazines, personal letters, melted (from the earthquake) mason jars, ash-covered coins and even some dishes that survived the shaker.
The dishes, Ross said, were purchased from a 90-year-old woman "who is the oldest member of my association, my living history."
(Other examples of "living history" are scheduled to take an anniversary ferryboat ride from the city's Ferry Building on April 18, sponsored by the Golden Gate Bridge, Highway and Transportation District. Some 300 earthquake survivors took the boat trip last year. The oldest survivor was a 100-year-old woman.)
Among the newspapers in Ross' collection, which he says has grown in value to about $50,000, is a rare edition of the morning San Francisco Chronicle, printed the evening of April 17 and dated April 18, 1906, for morning distribution.
This April 18 edition, which contained a review of Enrico Caruso's performance at the San Francisco Opera House, never reached newsstands because of the quake, he said. As a result, Ross estimates the edition is worth about $400.
Ross said he also has a copy of the combined newspaper put out the day after the quake by the three San Francisco papers publishing at the time, the Chronicle, the Examiner and the Call. It was a four-page edition published in Oakland, he says, and estimates its current value at about $250.
Among other hard-to-find San Francisco quake items in Ross' collection are a pre-earthquake 1906 canvas map of the city showing city blocks and buildings, citizen passes signed by the governor to allow residents to return to their ravaged neighborhoods and a post-earthquake panorama photo more than six feet long displaying the city in smoldering ruins.
For more information about the association, write San Francisco 1906, 118A Liberty St., San Francisco, Calif. 94110.