Depicting ‘Natural’ Disasters in U.S.-American History and Culture: San Francisco’s City Hall as an Icon of the 1906 Earthquake and Fire


  • Susanne Leikam



The article examines the role that visual representations of San Francisco’s first City Hall played in the aftermath of the 1906 Earthquake and Fire. Not only did they offer a projection screen for the collective trauma but they also provided a starting point for recollection and re-enactment. With the City Hall vicinity as an example, it is further shown that what was perceived at the time as nature’s obliteration of the metropolis was rather a man-made disaster. 

Author Biography

Susanne Leikam

Susanne Leikam received her M.A. in American Studies and Geography from the University of Regensburg, Germany, in 2007. Her studies took her to the University of Colorado, Boulder, USA, and the Universidad de Buenos Aires, Argentina. She is currently writing her doctoral thesis on the topic of natural disasters and their visual representations in the United States around the turn of the twentieth century. Her research interests include concepts of space, visual representations of memory, and the processes as well as the technologies of memorialization. In addition, she focuses on varying conceptualizations and interplays of technology, nature, and natural disasters in American history and culture.




How to Cite

Leikam, Susanne. “Depicting ‘Natural’ Disasters in U.S.-American History and Culture: San Francisco’s City Hall As an Icon of the 1906 Earthquake and Fire”. Current Objectives of Postgraduate American Studies, vol. 10, Mar. 2012, doi:10.5283/copas.109.