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1906 Earthquake Centennial Alliance

Activities & Events

Earthquake: The Chinatown Story

Chinese Historical Society of America

The Chinese Historical Society of America ’s (CHSA) 1906 Earthquake Centennial Project revealed stories about Chinese Americans and their families. These stories illustrate the complexity of Chinese American society and the relationships between individual Chinese Americans and mainstream San Francisco society.

CHSA’s “Earthquake: The Chinatown Story” exhibit uses anecdotes collected from survivors and their descendants, newspaper accounts, photographs, and other artifacts.

The 1906 San Francisco earthquake was a defining moment for Chinese America. The destruction caused by the quake and fire rekindled a debate by city authorities to relocate Chinatown to Hunter’s Point. Despite months of politicking, the result was that Chinatown was allowed to rebuild within the same boundaries.

The quake awakened the realization by Chinese community leaders of the need to fully engage in the economic life of San Francisco. Post-quake buildings were designed to emphasize the exotic allure of the Orient, thus bolstering Chinatown’s role in the City’s tourist economy.

The destruction of public records at City Hall opened the door for many Chinese to claim citizenship and allowed the immigration of “paper sons.” Prior to the earthquake, the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 effectively cut off Chinese immigration to the United States. By 1906, the Chinese population had diminished considerably, with no prospect of growth. The influx of newcomers after the quake revitalized San Francisco’s Chinatown and other Chinese American communities for decades after the quake.

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April 3 - September 18, 2006

Museum Hours:
Tues – Fri: 12 noon to 5 pm
Sat – Sun: 12 noon to 4 pm
Mon: Closed
Please call for holiday schedule.

Free admission on first Thursday of every month.


Philip P. Choy Gallery
Chinese Historical Society of America
965 Clay Street
San Francisco, CA 94108


This exhibit illustrates the impact of the Earthquake & Fire on the Chinese American community.


General public. Admission fee


Marisa Louie, (415) 391-1188 ext. 101

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