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From the Archives: The 1933 Long Beach earthquake

From the Archives: The 1933 Long Beach earthquake
March 11, 1933: The heavily damaged Masonic Temple in Compton, following the March 10, 1933, Long Beach earthquake. (Los Angeles Times Archive / UCLA)

At 5:54 p.m., on March 10, 1933, the Long Beach earthquake struck. About 115 people died. Hundreds of buildings collapsed.

Some 230 school buildings alone around Southern California were destroyed, heavily damaged or judged unsafe to occupy.

In a March 20, 2008, Los Angeles Times article, Molly Hennessy-Fiske reported:

...The great quake of 1933 helped define the region's reputation as "earthquake country." It was the first destructive quake to occur in the region after a period of rapid growth in the early 20th century. The violent shaking traumatized newcomers — many of them transplants from the less seismically active Midwest — and caught government unaware. In the end, the 1933 quake changed the landscape, leading to improved school construction standards and a heightened awareness of earthquake risks.

"It was a very big political event and a very big event in terms of the development of California seismology," said Lucy Jones, a seismologist with the U.S. Geological Survey in Pasadena.

The 1933 quake, which occurred on the 46-mile-long Newport-Inglewood fault, was estimated at magnitude 6.3, far weaker than the estimated 8.3-magnitude earthquake that devastated San Francisco in 1906. …

Had the earthquake struck earlier in the day, the death toll would have been much higher: Among the scores of buildings destroyed were 70 schools. …

California legislators ... reacted swiftly. Within a month of the earthquake, they passed the Field Act, legislation that would become the earthquake's major legacy.

The Field Act required tougher building standards for new schools, from elementary schools through community colleges, and retrofitting for older schools.

As a result, subsequent earthquakes have caused fewer deaths, even compared with other countries with stringent building standards such as Japan, said Richard Little, director of the Keston Institute for Public Finance and Infrastructure Policy at USC. …

Workers going through the rubble of a ruined building after the March 10, 1933, Long Beach earthquak
March 10, 1933: Workers going through the rubble of a ruined building after the Long Beach earthquake. Los Angeles Times Archive / UCLA
Building destroyed by the March 10, 1933, Long Beach Earthquake. No other information currently avai
Building destroyed by the March 10, 1933, Long Beach earthquake. Los Angeles Times Archive / UCLA
March 10, 1933: Building and automobile on Beacon Street in San Pedro damaged by the Long Beach eart
March 10, 1933: Building and automobile on Beacon Street in San Pedro damaged by the Long Beach earthquake. Los Angeles Times
Damage to Alexander Hamilton Junior High School in Long Beach following the March 10, 1933, Long Bea
Damage to Alexander Hamilton Junior High School in Long Beach following the March 10, 1933, Long Beach earthquake. Los Angeles Times
March 13, 1933: Hungry are fed in Compton after the March 10, 1933, Long Beach Earthquake. On the le
March 13, 1933: Hungry people are fed in Compton after the Long Beach earthquake. On the left is a news camera vehicle with "Pathe News" sign in front window. Los Angeles Times Archive / UCLA
Navy sailor patroling Long Beach following the March 10, 1933, earthquake. This photo appeared in th
A sailor patrols Long Beach following the March 10, 1933, earthquake. Los Angeles Times
Earthquake-damaged building occupied by the Rossmore Hotel, Santa Ana, 1933. View of the earthquake-
Earthquake-damaged building occupied by the Rossmore Hotel located at 406 N. Sycamore St., Santa Ana. Los Angeles Times Archive / UCLA
March 1933: Earthquake-damaged Huntington Hotel, Pasadena. Huntington Hotel damaged by the Long Beac
March 1933: Exterior of the Huntington Hotel in Pasadena after damage after the Long Beach earthquake. The hotel, built in 1907, was repaired and in use until 1989. Los Angeles Times Archive / UCLA
People in line holding plates of food after the March 10, 1933, Long Beach earthquake. Appears to be
Troops serve food after the March 10, 1933, Long Beach earthquake. Los Angeles Times Archive / UCLA
Victims of the March 10, 1933, Long Beach Earthquake find temporary shelter in a tent. This photo ap
March 16, 1933: Victims of the March 10, 1933, Long Beach earthquake find temporary shelter in a tent. Los Angeles Times
Unknown school damaged by the 1933 Long Beach Earthquake.
Unknown school damaged by the 1933 Long Beach earthquake. Los Angeles Times
March 11, 1933: The Wess Barber Shop in Florence section of Los Angeles was destroyed by the March 1
March 11, 1933: The Wess Barber Shop in Florence section of Los Angeles was destroyed by the March 10, 1933, Long Beach earthquake. Owner Wesley Boyts, left, and barber Ernest Lentz cut hair on the sidwalk. Los Angeles Times
Cleanup of damage caused by the March 10, 1933, Long Beach Earthquake. No other information availabl
Cleanup of damage caused by the March 10, 1933, Long Beach earthquake. Location is unknown but this may be in Compton as one store sign is "Compton Hardware." Los Angeles Times Archive / UCLA
March, 1933: Steam shovel clearing building debris after the Marach 10, 1933, Long Beach earthquake.
March, 1933: A steam shovel clears building debris after the March 10, 1933, Long Beach earthquake. Los Angeles Times Archive / UCLA
March 13, 1933: Barbara Jean McMannis get a cup of milk from American Legionaire volunteer at City H
March 13, 1933: Barbara Jean McMannis gets a cup of milk from an American Legion volunteer at City Hall Square in Compton, following the Long Beach earthquake. Los Angeles Times

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