A “Trip down Market St.” four days before the SF Earthquake

I love these two videos of what’s reputed to be the first 35 mm video ever made. Anyone familiar with San Francisco will recognize Market St. with the familiar and still-standing Ferry Building on Embarcadero in the distance as the camera-toting street car rolls north.

The silent film was originally thought to be from 1905, but according to David Kiehn at the Niles Esanay Museum, it was probably shot four days before The Great San Francisco Earthquake which struck on April 18, 1906. That’s from a 2006 post in the SFgate.com (San Francisco Chronicle). The post explains how Kiehn sleuthed the time frame and a bit about the Miles Brothers who shot it.

Here’s two versions, the first and shorter  of the pair is to the strains of Airs’ Moon Safari album’ (the cut is La Femme D’argent – woman of money) is my favorite, offering a light-hearted and lyrical look back in time. Perhaps, a bit haunting, too, assuming a catastrophe was about to  level much and kill many in the scene here. For film purists, the second and longer version is almost 14 minutes and silent.

Pedestrians crossed the wide thoroughfare at their own peril!

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4 comments On A “Trip down Market St.” four days before the SF Earthquake

  • Thanks John, real comfort since I am currently staying the Sheraton Palace in SF. I guess I’ll just stand in the middle of the street for the rest of the day.

  • Have stayed there a bunch of times myself. If I had to guess, that building pre-dated the earthquake. BTW, stay off the Bay Bridge!

  • I remember my grandmother telling me about driving a carriage and avoiding streetcars in downtown Hartford around 1900. She said the biggest problem was making sure the narrow carriage wheels didn’t go into the tracks, trapping the carriage.

  • It looks treacherous. I love the kids running in front of the streetcar and hanging off the back of the cars. For all the horses, the street is fairly clean although dusty. U-turns and darting out in front of the street car? No problem. Very evocative video….maybe I was there in a former life!

    BTW, was the street car going slow enough for people to hop on? It never stops for people. Film is little bit in slow-mo so perhaps so riders could hop on and off.

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