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Victor H. Metcalf, President Roosevelt's secretary of labor and commerce, served as his personal representative in San Francisco. Nine days after the earthquake he sent a lengthy telegram to the president that detailed conditions in San Francisco.
Headquarters Pacific Division,
April 26, 1906
To the President, White House, Washington, D.C.

Dear Sir: Have practically completed inspection of the ruined districts. I do not believe the loss of life as great as was anticipated. In my judgment it will be impossible to determine the exact number of deaths, but conservative estimates place the number not to exceed three hundred.

There are about one thousand sufferers in local hospitals, and not over four hundred are seriously injured. No necessity exists at the present time for nurses or doctors, and they should not be sent except on recommendation of General Greely or Dr. Devine.

As regards industrial and commercial losses, the conditions are appalling; figures and distances convey slight conceptions or realities. Not only have the business and industrial houses and establishments one-half million people disappeared, leaving them destitute financially and their means of livelihood temporarily gone, but the complicated system of transportation indispensable to the daily comfort and interest of one- half million of people, has been almost totally destroyed.

The hilly configuration of San Francisco made movements by street railway almost indispensable. Over the city's area of 25 square miles the entire system of railways was damaged or destroyed. The scanty supply of animals and carriages remaining after the fire had been largely impressed into Civil and Military service, in order to prevent starvation. The entire telegraphic and telephonic systems were destroyed, making communications impossible.

Practically every municipal building is destroyed, forcing the city officials into scanty quarters, necessarily situated in localities difficult of access, owing to distance and lack of transportation.

Three hundred thousand people were rendered homeless, and their ordinary methods of providing themselves with food, clothing and shelter, being entirely destroyed, their feeding and sheltering demanded extraordinary action and engrossed the attention of every one as soon as the ravages of the fire were checked. Remedial methods adopted and prosecuted with great efficiency have relieved this unprecedented disaster. The Citizens' Committee, appointed by Mayor Schmitz, is composed of the ablest businessmen of the city, and their efforts united is harmonious to an astounding degree, speedily brought order out of chaos, and introduced systems of relief, which have accomplished wonders.

The efforts of the Mayor and municipal officials of the Citizens' Committee, and of the regular army and the State Guard of California have been practically as efficient as though the separate authorities were under one head. Neither friction nor reflections have at any time appeared, and the work of relief has proceeded harmoniously, continuously and efficiently.

The street railway is rapidly approaching such state of repair as to promise partial renewal of operations very soon. The Signal Corps has established a military telegraphic and telephonic line, connecting the headquarters of the army and the Mayor, which are at Fort Mason, with the Mint, Hall of Justice, District Headquarters and the Ferry, and every point of special importance. Without this system communication about the city would have been impossible, and communication with the National and State authorities would have been greatly delayed.

General Greely returned from leave, re-assumed command Sunday evening, and commends in the highest terms, the efficient and tireless efforts of General Funston, whose orders and actions utilized and inspired the army to most efficient action in staying the progress of the flames, and saving the remnant of the city. General Greely's opinion is concurred in by the Mayor and the Citizens' Committee.

Most threatening conditions existed, as regards the water supply, but extraordinary efforts on the part of the water company have remedied the situation which is improving from day to day so that physical sufferings from the lack of water is impossible although it cannot be delivered in sufficient quantities for proper sanitation and fire purposes for some time. It would appear impossible, but I am assured by General Greely and others, that the methods of relief and restoration were so efficient that no person has suffered from lack of food, water or shelter.

The question of sanitation is receiving special attention. The entire city is inspected daily by four trained mounted officers who report regularly the situation and necessities.

The fortifications are practically uninjured. Considerable damage was done to the military buildings at the Presidio and Angel Island. Reports indicate there was no damage to the buildings on Alcatraz Island. The army warehouses in the city were entirely destroyed. The Mint and Appraisers' building are practically intact. Opinions differ as to the extent of injuries to the Post Office. It is not believed that any vaults in the Sub-Treasury have suffered any material damage.

It is almost impossible to give an accurate estimate of the cost of repairs to public buildings, but from personal inspection of the buildings and from figures given me by competent builders I would say the Appraisers' building would cost for repairs about $10,000, Mint $15,000 and the Post Office not to exceed $500,000.

Dr. [Edward] Devine [of the Red Cross] arrived Tuesday and co- operative action is already initiated insuring harmony between the Citizens' Committee, the Red Cross agents and the military authorities as to lines of action to be followed in the future. General Greely has agreed in writing to take over, as asked by the Mayor, by the Citizens' Committee and Dr. Devine, the responsibility of handling the relief supplies and their delivery under suitable regulations to the needy and destitute.

It is reported to me that no discrimination of any kind has been shown against anyone on account of race or color. The spirit has been and is to assist the suffering whoever or wherever they may be. Cases of violence and crime have been exceedingly rare.

The health of the city is remarkably good, everything considered. Stories regarding pestilences and epidemic are destitute of foundation. Every care is being taken to prevent epidemics or extended sickness in the future, especially by providing against contamination of water supply and for the proper disposal of refuse of all kinds.

At the meeting of the Citizens' Committee this morning at which were present Governor Pardee, Mayor Schmitz, Dr. Devine, Generals Greely and Funston and other officers of the army, it was determined to move the Chinese to the Military Reservation at the Presidio where they will be under the direct control and supervision of the army and where especial attention can be paid to matters of sanitation. The Chinese Consul called upon me today and when informed of this arrangement, expressed his gratification. I shall visit the Chinese camp this afternoon for the purpose of ascertaining their exact condition from personal inspection and examination.

It is almost impossible to describe the ruin wrought by the earthquake and especially the conflagration. The conflagration was due entirely to the absolute lack of water supply. The people however, are confident and hopeful for the future and have not in any sense lost their courage. They feel under deep obligations to you and the national Government for the prompt and efficient assistance rendered them.

I strongly urge that Congress at once appropriate sufficient money to repair the damage to the public buildings and for the building of another Sub-Treasury in place of the one destroyed.

I shall report to you later the damage caused in other sections of the State.


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