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Monday, April 11, 2011

Market Street, San Francisco, 1906

The following film is of San Francisco's Market Street in 1906 just 4 days before the great quake. It was sent to us by our friend Steve Rapa. Neither Steve nor I are sure who wrote the text describing the film, so, aside from a little editing, I have left it as I received it.


Film Description

This film was "lost" for many years. It was the first 35mm film ever. It was taken by camera mounted on the front of a cable car 104 years ago (1906). It is perhaps the oldest "home movie" that you will ever see. This film was originally thought to be from 1905 until David Kiehn, with the Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum, figured out exactly when it was shot (from New York trade papers announcing the film showing to the wet streets from recent heavy rainfall & shadows indicating time of year & actual weather and conditions on historical record, even when the cars were registered (he even knows who owned them and when the plates were issued!)). It was filmed only four days before the Great California Earthquake of April 18, 1906, and shipped by train to NY for processing.

Look at the hats the ladies were wearing and the long dresses. Some of the cars had the steering wheels on the right side. I wonder when they standardized on the left? Sure were still a lot of horse drawn vehicles in use. Mass transit looked like the way to get around. Looks like everybody had the right of way.

Watch the beginning carefully. At the 33 second mark and immediately after an oncoming trolley clears the screen, a well dressed policeman walks across the street from left to right. Notice his right hand that he's carrying a truncheon (26 inch police baton), and although he appears walking his beat, he looks ready to use it. Imagine the police of today walking down the street carrying a 26 inch club in their hand...???

The number of automobiles is staggering for 1906. The clock tower at the end of Market Street at the Embarcadero wharf is still there. How many "street cleaning" people were employed to pick up after the horses? Talk about going green!

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