February 22, 2010

San Francisco, April 14, 1906

This nearly 14-minute film of San Francisco's Market Street as seen from the front window of a cable car was originally thought to be from 1905, but some detective work from David Kiehn and the Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum --
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 knows who owned them and when the plates were issued)
-- put the exact date at Saturday, April 14, 1906 -- only four days before the infamous earthquake. (The film rolls/flutters in a couple of spots but it clears up.)


There are several clips of the quake's destruction, including one that takes the same route as the one above, here.

10 comments:

L-girl said...

Cool!

johngoldfine said...

Amazing!

You probably already know about:

http://www.shorpy.com/

johngoldfine said...

Anarchy in the streets! U-turns, jaywalking, wrong way drivers, you name it! Fun!

mike (in the middle) said...

Notice the guy talking on a cell phone crossing the street @ 4:15!

Benjamin said...

Reminds me of those videos of traffic in India but in slow motion.

L-girl said...

A 1906 cell phone, that would be something to see.

San Francisco Red Sox Fan said...

Hey I was just there today! Some of those building survived. I think you can see the hibernia bank building on the left at around 3:30 and the clock tower building that you end up at that seems to be in the middle of the street is the ferry building. It still is a ferry building (ferry's to Marin County) but it also has a farmers market and some "foodie" shops now. The cool Victorian buildings on the right no longer exist but otherwise Market street feels the same - except in the film it's missing homeless people.

James said...

One of the absolute masterpieces of the American avant-garde cinema, Ernie Gehr's 1974 film Eureka is an optically printed refilming of this film, which expands it to about half an hour and turns it into something really magic and amazing. I've seen it a few times, most recently at the Harvard Film Archive a couple years ago.

Scott MacDonald has written about it pretty extensively; but it really defies description. I think it's probably available for download somewhere or other, but it really needs to be seen on film, in a dark room. I can't stress how great the film is; seeing Gehr's source material is strange.

Stephanie said...

I saw this a few months ago, but man - that film James is talking about sounds incredible! I want to see that.

James said...

Yeah, Gehr is really great. Serene Velocity and Side/Walk/Shuttle are the ones that get screened the most, but all of his film work is pretty stellar. One of the best!