San Francisco, Market Street, 1905

A few months before the great San Francisco earthquake and fire, someone mounted an early movie camera on a street car and filmed as the car rolled down Market Street toward the Ferry Building.

Pretty much everything in this movie was destroyed on April 18-19, 1906. It’s a lost world.

I find this movie to be almost hypnotic. The policeman in his helmet … lots of free-range kids about … oh my god, they’re going to hit that horse … no, they didn’t… there goes Martin Eden himself, crossing the street with his manuscript.

Part of the same movie is here, but with period music of the early 1900s. Seems less elegiac and more long-ago.

4 thoughts on “San Francisco, Market Street, 1905

  1. Robert Mathiesen

    What a magical Hallows’ gift, Chas. Many thanks. I had not known that this film existed.

    Many of my ancestors were in that city on the day that this film was made, so it took me back to the real world in which the stories I heard about them happened so long ago. (I still have the books of before-and-after photographs they bought after the earthquake and fire, and the army pass that got one of them through the cordon around the destroyed city.) I think now that I must get them all out and look through them again this Hallows.

    BTW, those are cable cars going up and down Market Street. You can see the slot between the two rails where the grip goes down under the street to catch hold of the strong ever-moving cable.

  2. Fascinating connections, Robert. And, yes, I can see the cable slot, but I was using “street car” in a sort of generic sense. They were not trolley cars, at any rate.

  3. Pitch313

    Interesting that you notice change in this little movie and that I (born and raised in the SF Bay Area and whose great grandparents and grandparents had a house or two in SF when this movie was shot) see continuity.

    Except for the horse-drawn transport wagons, folks can take this ride from Upper Market Street down to the Ferry Building today, on a historic trolley rather than a cable car. And they will see many of the same buildings (masonry or concrete earthquake survivors) and technologies (automobiles, bicycles, electric lights, billboards, printed publications, etc.) and folks bustling about.

    Of course, San Francisco in 1905 is not the same city as a century later. But most of the telling change in the region took place beyond
    The City’s limits. I’d say, although I was only a little kid then, that many of the particular qualities that marked San Francisco as a
    unique cultural center didn’t begin to fade until the late 60s.

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