You are hereBack to top
The Longest Minute: The Great San Francisco Earthquake and Fire of 1906 (Hardcover)
A New York Times Book Review Editor's Choice
Matthew J. Davenport’s The Longest Minute is the spellbinding true story of the 1906 earthquake and fire in San Francisco, and how a great earthquake sparked a devastating and preventable firestorm.
At 5:12 a.m. on April 18, 1906, a 7.9 magnitude earthquake struck San Francisco, catching most of the city asleep. For approximately one minute, shockwaves buckled streets, shattered water mains, collapsed buildings, crushed hundreds of residents to death and trapped many alive. Fires ignited and blazed through dry wooden ruins and grew into a firestorm. For the next three days, flames devoured collapsed ruins, killed trapped survivors, and nearly destroyed what was then the largest city in the American West.
Meticulously researched and gracefully written, The Longest Minute is both a harrowing chronicle of devastation and the portrait of a city’s resilience in the burning aftermath of greed and folly. Drawing on the letters and diaries and unpublished memoirs of survivors and previously unearthed archival records, Matthew Davenport combines history and science to tell the dramatic true story of one of the greatest disasters in American history.
About the Author
Matthew J. Davenport's first book, First Over There, a finalist for the 2015 Guggenheim-Lehrman Prize in Military History, was acclaimed as “a brilliant work for every library” by Library Journal and was heralded by Pulitzer-Prize winning historian James McPherson as "military history at its best." Davenport has been a contributing writer for the Wall Street Journal Book Review and salon.com and is a member of the Authors Guild. A native of Missouri and a former prosecutor, he practices law in North Carolina where he lives with his wife and two sons.
"A remarkably granular account of the city’s most devastating tremor and its aftermath, beginning seconds before the disaster and chronicling the decades-long road to recovery." ― New York Times Book Review
"A vivid and meticulous recounting of one of America’s largest natural disasters." ― Publisher's Weekly (starred review)
"This is heroic writing that balances the big picture with minute details. Davenport has written an essential piece of San Francisco history, damning and necessary, that shines important light on a disaster known mostly in general terms." ― San Francisco Chronicle
"Davenport brings fresh insights to the 1906 earthquake and devastating, city-wide fires in San Francisco... A tale both captivating and cautionary." ― Booklist
"The Longest Minute represents extraordinary research that weaves a thousand stories — from Jack London's to a ten year old child's — into one. Every page is intense. You can feel the buildings shake and the earth open, and feel the terror that accompanied it. You feel almost burned by the description of the fire that destroyed the city, and you retreat block by block with the firemen. Perhaps more importantly, you learn why these things happened — from geology to building codes to water pressure." — John M. Barry, #1 New York Times Bestselling author of The Great Influenza
"Matthew J. Davenport’s reimagining of the 1906 earthquake and fires is narrative history of the highest order. Told in striking, visceral prose, the reader feels the horrific shaking underfoot, hears the cacophony of collapsing buildings and splintering timbers, and feels the heat of the dreaded conflagrations that follow in the quake’s aftermath. Deeply-researched, The Longest Minute is a vital contribution to the history of the American West, a book that resurrects the courageous firefighters, first responders, military, and everyday citizens who risked their lives amid the rubble, flames and smoke. A stirring telling of a terrible event." — Buddy Levy, bestselling author of Empire of Ice & Stone and Labyrinth of Ice
"Davenport’s superb narrative, meticulously researched and written with quiet respect for the multiple experiences of the San Franciscans he follows, presents a sweeping portrait of a city as it endures a devastating earthquake and fire. Avoiding the hyperbole and hysteria which pervades disaster literature, he builds his story by listening intently to the voices of many and combing through city documents to give both a kaleidoscopic and a comprehensive view of what happened and why." — Dr. Stephen Tobriner, Professor Emeritus of Architectural History, University of California Berkeley