Take a Ride With Me on a San Francisco Streetcar — 1906!

This amazing movie of a San Francisco streetcar traveling down Market Street was filmed four days before the massive April 18, 1906 earthquake, then shipped by train to New York for processing. It’s a trip back in time to the chaotic streets of early-day San Francisco, where horse-drawn wagons shared the road with streetcars, men on horseback and pedestrians. A sightseeing streetcar passes through the scene. Newsboys cruise the streets, some seeming to pose briefly for the camera. Other boys grab onto the back of a car and run along. The crowd is mostly male, everyone wears a hat and most are well-dressed.

The area shown in the film was destroyed by the big earthquake and fire that followed. In the film, the clock tower at the end of the street at the Embarcadero Wharf still stands. The film originally was thought to have been made in 1905.  David Kiehn with the Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum figured out exactly when the film was shot. Clues he used were the New York trade papers, wet streets from recent heavy rainfall, shadows indicating time of year, the weather and conditions on historical record. He even determined when the cars were registered and who owned them.

San Francisco is the favorite city of my mother-in-law and daughter. My husband went to kindergarten on the Presidio within sight of the Golden Gate Bridge, but he doesn’t have the same romantic attachment to the city as other family members do.  He did alert me to this video, though! He prefers the wilds of Yellowstone National Park, which is also earthquake-prone.

Watch the video in full screen, if you can. 
U.S. Geological Survey’s discussion of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake.
Movie of San Francisco not long after 1906 earthquake.
Wikipedia — 1906 San Francisco Earthquake.
The original version of “Trip Down Market Street” from Archive.org.


Filed under Automobiles, Communication, Entertainment, History, Life, Movies, Nature, Photography, Science, Technology, Travel

6 responses to “Take a Ride With Me on a San Francisco Streetcar — 1906!

  1. patricia

    many thanks…love the city….october 1989 my entire family was there….son in oakland, daughter, grandson and husband in mountain view…two daughters in the city… three days of hell for me !!!as i was here in florida…….


  2. Fascinating post. I find the sleuthing about that piece of film to be of particular interest. It is amazing that they can learn so much. Pretty darn clever in my opinion.

    The comparison of the two videos is amazing. It’s like something out of H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine.


  3. I love SF too. I have relatives with the names Hyde and Powell so I have this feeling of ownership when I’m there. 😉


  4. Wow, a Video blogger from 1906 🙂


  5. Wow, it’s like one continuous take in a Hollywood movie. Cue boy on bicycle. Cue the horses. I, too, am amazed that people were back on Youtube in 1906.


  6. My second favorite city next to Seattle! Great post! I miss getting to travel to SF, which I used to do for work, twice a year it is an awesome city!


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