1868 Earthquake

The 1868 San Francisco earthquake occured on October 21, 1868 in the San Francisco Bay Area of Central California.

  • Date: October 21, 1868 at 15:53 UTC (October 21, 1868 at 7:53 AM local time)
  • Location: 37.7 -122.1
  • Magnitude: 7.0
  • Faulting: This earthquake ruptured the southern segment of the Hayward Fault, from Berkeley to Fremont. The estimated right-lateral strike-slip motion for this event is 1.9 meters.
  • Deaths: 5
  • Injuries: 30
  • Property Damage: In excess of $300,000 in 1868 $$$$

The earthquake was felt all over northern California and Nevada. The following description is taken from the paper by Dr. William Ellsworth in USGS Professional Paper 1515 - "The San Andreas Fault System, California".

Known as the "great San Francisco earthquake" until 1906, one of California's most destructive earthquakes occurred on October 21, 1868, resulting from slip on the Hayward Fault. Heavy damage occurred in communities situated along the fault and in San Fransico and San Jose. Sadly, many of the engineering lessons learned from this earthquake and openly discussed at the time, such as the hazards of building on "made ground" reclaimed from the San Francisco Bay or the admonition to "build no more cornices," were long forgotten by the time of the 1906 quake.

On-line Information

Earthquake Photographs


  • Aldrich, M., B. Bolt, A. Leviton, and P. Rodda, The "Report" of the 1868 Haywards earthquake, Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America, 76, 71-76, 1996.
  • Lawson, A. C. (ed.),The California Earthquake of April 18, 1906, 1908, Reprinted 1969 by the Carnegie Institution of Washington.
    This is a comprehensive report on the 1906 earthquake, published by the State Earthquake Investigation Commission, and comprises two volumes and an atlas. It contains a discussion of the 1868 earthquake and its effects.
  • Prescott, W., Circumstances surrounding the preparation and suppression of a report on the 1868 California earthquake, Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America, 72, 2389-2393, 1982.
  • Wollenberg, C., Life on the Seismic Frontier: The Great San Francisco Earthquake (of 1868), California History, Winter 1992/93, California Historical Society, San Francisco, California, 1992.
  • Yu, E., and P. Segall,Slip in the 1868 Hayward Earthquake from the analysis of historical triangulation data, Journal of Geophysical Research, 101, 16101-16118, 1996.
    On-line abstract