Joanna Dyl

Seismic City

An Environmental History of San Francisco’s 1906 Earthquake

University of Washington Press 2017

New Books in American StudiesNew Books in Environmental StudiesNew Books in HistoryNew Books in Peoples & PlacesNew Books in Politics & SocietyNew Books in Science & TechnologyNew Books in the American WestNew Books Network August 27, 2018 David Fouser

In Seismic City: An Environmental History of San Francisco’s 1906 Earthquake (University of Washington Press, 2017), Joanna Dyl documents the course and effects of...

In Seismic City: An Environmental History of San Francisco’s 1906 Earthquake (University of Washington Press, 2017), Joanna Dyl documents the course and effects of the 7.8-magnitude earthquake and subsequent fire that destroyed significant portions of America’s Pacific metropolis. She argues that the earthquake temporarily broke down many of the social divisions that had ordered San Francisco’s society for the previous half-century, bringing individuals from diverse racial and socio-economic backgrounds together in the wreckage. However, the city leaders and administrators worked to rebuild San Francisco–including the very social divisions of race, class, gender that were so disrupted by the earthquake. In addition, San Francisco was demonstrably a “Seismic City,” shaped by and subject to the tectonic forces of Northern California, and yet it was rebuilt in ways that downplayed, ignored, or actively concealed this fact.

Dr. Joanna Dyl is an environmental historian and author, and winner of the Rachel Carson Prize for the best dissertation in American environmental history. Her research interests include natural disasters, urban history, and coastal environments. She currently teaches in the Department of Environmental Analysis at Pomona College, and her next project explores American beaches.


David Fouser is an adjunct faculty member at Santa Monica College, Chapman University, and American Jewish University. He completed his Ph.D. in 2016 at the University of California, Irvine, and studies the cultural and environmental history of wheat, flour, and bread in Britain and the British Empire.

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