The full measure of the catastrophe can probably never be taken. The summary cannot be made amid the panic, the confusion, the removal of ancient landmarks, the complete subversion of the ordinary machinery of society. When chaos comes, as it did in San Francisco, and all the channels of familiar life are closed, and human anguish grows to be intolerable, compilation of statistics is impossible, even if it were not repugnant to the feelings. And when order is once more restored, after the lapse of many weeks, months and perhaps years, the details of the calamity have merged into one undecipherable mass of misery which defies the analyst and the historian. It is the purpose of this book faithfully to record the story of these awful days when years were lived in a moment and to preserve an accurate chronicle of them, not only for the people whose hearts yearn in sympathy today, but for their posterity.