Thursday, April 08, 2010

Market Street - 1906

My brother, Robert, sent me this wonderful video today and it is mesmerizing. It's a seven-minute (or so) film reel shot in San Francisco just four days before the 1906 earthquake. Thankfully, it was immediately shipped to New York for processing, hence its survival.

You have to see the unbelievably randomness of the traffic - clearly, there were very few, if any, rules of the road. No traffic lights yet either. Streetcars, buses, automobiles, horses, bicycles, buggies, wagons, pedestrians - everybody just flows around at the same calm pace as the car heads directly for the beautiful Ferry Building, which still stands today.

Oh, it gave me such a homesick pang for my City by the Bay! They even used a song I used to listen to all the time when I lived there, "La Femme D'Argent" by Air.

Big thanks to David Kiehn with the Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum who painstakingly figured out exactly when it was shot. He studied New York trade papers (announcing the film), noted wet streets from recent heavy rainfall and studied shadows indicating time of year comparing them to weather conditions on historical record. He even studied car registrations, ultimately figuring out who owned them and when the plates were issued. Talk about diligence.

Viewing it full screen is best. It's the closest to time travel you'll ever get.


Fang Bastardson said...

Man, that was awesome! Thanks Heather and medical marijuana!

hotdrwife said...


And how did I not know of this song before??

ClizBiz said...

The entire Air album from that era is fantastic. It was like an SF-era soundtrack for me.

Anonymous said...

perhaps most amazing is the ease with which people could turn left off of market.

Heidi's heart said...

Wow, thanks for sharing this. To think that some of the folks in this film were not alive a few days later. And yet during this film they were just cruising along as if death were decades away.