A major earthquake—later estimated to be between 7.7 and 7.9 on the Richter scale—struck San Francisco at 5:12 a.m. The devastation grew as broken gas lines caused widespread fires and much of the city was destroyed. As many as 3,000 people were killed, and more than half of the survivors found themselves homeless.
The Great Chicago Fire of 1871 killed nearly 300 people, left 100,000 homeless, destroyed over $190 million worth of property, and leveled the entire central business district of city. John R. Chapin, an illustrator for Harper’s Weekly, wrote this first-hand account and created two sketches for his employer shortly after the fire.