Online Exhibit: The 1906 San Francisco Earthquake and Fire Online Exhibit: The 1906 San Francisco Earthquake and Fire
Room Three

A State of Emergency: Martial Law

Two individuals came forward immediately to take control of the chaos: General Frederick Funston and Mayor Eugene Schmitz.

Brigadier General Frederick Funston was the commander of the army garrison stationed at the Presidio. Although a man small in physical stature, he possessed an overwhelming ego supplemented by his heroic exploits during the Spanish-America War. Funston ordered all available troops into San Francisco and implemented martial law without consulting either Mayor Schmitz or the US Congress.

City and military officials took extreme action to tame the chaos that enveloped San Francisco immediately following the earthquake. In anticipation of lawless behavior and continued fire hazards after nightfall, Mayor Eugene E. Schmitz issued his famous proclamation just hours after the earthquake struck: an all-city curfew with greatly expand police power to "shoot to kill" any looters.

While martial law governed San Francisco during the following days, the efforts of both military troops and police officers did do much to save the city. In addition to helping police maintain the peace, troops distributed food and clothing, set up refugee camps, demolished ruined buildings, and cleared the streets of debris. Funston's opponents, including Secretary of War William Howard Taft, decried the decision to summon troops, but most people agreed that extraordinary times called for extraordinary measures.

Proclamation by the Mayor, April 18, 1906
Eugene Schmitz, mayor of San Francisco
F869 S3 93 S164 x
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