Monday, November 28, 2011

Book Delivery on Day of 1906 SF Earthquake

Natural disasters obviously impact libraries if they are in the vicinity of the disaster. Libraries certainly have not escaped untouched by the multitude of disasters that have occurred in this country in recent years. The San Francisco Earthquake of 1906, more accurately described as the California Earthquake of 1906, was especially disastrous to libraries. Some libraries were completely destroyed and many more were negatively impacted by the earthquake and the related fires. It is always interesting to come across an artifact that places a library in the context of a major historical event. I recently acquired a postal card that documents the receipt of a book by the library of the Chabot Observatory (now the Chabot Space & Science Center) in Oakland, California on the day of the 1906 California earthquake.  The postal card was mailed to Robert Schindler in Lucerne, Switzerland on Charles Burckhalter, Assistant in Charge at the Chabot Observatory, on May 3, 1906. The card acknowledges receipt of Schindler's book The Mechanic of the Moon (Published by the author, 1906). Burckhalter writes, "Your little book came the same day as our earthquake, so I have not had time to read, but only to glance over it. It seems, however to be a work of merit." Although Oakland suffered extensive earthquake damage, it escaped the devastating fire that followed in San Francisco. Ironically, Bruckhalter who later became Director of the Chabot Observatory died in September, 1923 shortly after a fire that destroyed nearby homes and threatened the Observatory.

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