Library of Congress

Early Motion Pictures

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Bird's-eye view of San Francisco, Cal., from a balloon

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United States : Thomas A. Edison, Inc., 1902.


H13040 U.S. Copyright Office

Copyright: Thomas A. Edison; 11Jan1902; H13040.

Duration: 2:44 at 15 fps.

As early as 1874, passenger balloon flights were being made over San Francisco. San Franciscans - and Americans in general - were fascinated with the thrills and dangers of flight. Although balloon technology had not advanced greatly by the turn of the century, attempts at man-powered flight were sustaining public interest. The era of powered flight arrived in 1903 with the Wright brothers' flight at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. The balloon used in this film was owned by Professor T. S. Baldwin, who had earlier displayed it in San Francisco in 1893-94. His return to San Francisco followed an engagement at the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, New York (1901). The balloon made headlines shortly before this filmed flight, when it burst it's moorings on November 2, 1901, carrying eight terrified passengers fifty miles south to Pescadero. Although nobody was hurt, the balloon was almost swept out to sea. This film shows aerial views of an informal fairground and surrounding north- central San Francisco from Professor Baldwin's captive balloon on a late winter afternoon in late 1901 or early 1902. Restrained by hemp ropes, the hydrogen-filled balloon rose to a height of 1,500 feet before being winched back to the ground. Edward Dudley is named as one of the "aeronauts" who controlled the balloon, which could carry up to twenty passengers at a fare of one dollar per person. The long shadows suggest that this was one of the last flights of the day.

The following is a scene by scene description of the film: The first view seen in the film, looking northwest, shows visitors in the makeshift fairground just south of Market Street between 12th and 11th Street [09800]. (South Van Ness Avenue cuts through the site today.) Note the whitewashed grounds fences and ticketbooths [09902]. As the balloon drifts northeast, sheds can be seen as well as a flock of pigeons flying across a back yard [10110]. A row of typical 1860s houses lines Eleventh Street and a group of pedestrians watches from the far side of the street [10337]. At far right is the Episcopal Church of the Advent. The low building along 11th Street is the Siebe and Green Bill Posters Company, with posters visible along its side [10405]. Farther northeast is a series of buildings facing Market Street; one has a wall advertisement for Nathan Hale Havana cigars [10431]. The second segment [10483] is a high-altitude view (approximately 1,000 feet) looking north to Van Ness Avenue between Hayes Street (upper cross-street) and Fell Street (lower cross-street) [10492]. The dormitory of St. Ignatius College is at upper left, and lumber and coal yards are at center. Scattered groups of row houses are also seen. (The area shown is now a built-up business district just south of the San Francisco Civic Center.) Broad Van Ness Avenue serves as an approximate divider of older San Francisco (at right) from the younger Western Addition at left. The third section of the film [10787] begins at maximum altitude (1,500 feet) and descends slowly. The opening view is northward, with Polk Street at the center, Larkin Street at right, and Van Ness Avenue at left [10830]. Polk and Larkin streets climb Russian Hill in the background. Angel Island, in San Francisco Bay, is vaguely visible in the distance [10954]. The camera swings slowly to the west (left). In the background is Holladay Hill (the present site of Lafayette Park) [11004], and the adjacent eastern portion of the ridge of fashionable Pacific Heights. The Hayes Valley neighborhood lies in the foreground. The camera swings west across Franklin and Gough streets, then pauses, centered on Jefferson Square [11092], between Laguna and Gough streets. Swinging back eastward, the camera captures St. Ignatius Church and the adjacent college (to become the University of San Francisco on a later site to the west), on Hayes Street [11359]. The site is now occupied by San Francisco's Davies Symphony Hall. The balloon descends vertically between Van Ness Avenue and Polk Street, looking north over the city toward the future site of City Hall (upper part of view) [11711]. The camera then drifts back to the west. The film concludes with the descent into the fairgrounds looking northwest over the roofs of Hayes Valley [11824] in late afternoon light before the Van Ness Family Hotel obscures our view [11932]. Descending farther, a row of connected shops and restaurants is seen along Market Street, adjacent to the fairgrounds [12038]. The film ends with a view of the fairground fences and waiting visitors.

Received: 1/11/02; paper pos; copyright deposit Paper Print Collection.

Buildings-- California--San Francisco.
Streets--California- -San Francisco.
Aerial photography--California--San Francisco.
San Francisco (Calif.)

Thomas A. Edison, Inc.
Paper Print Collection (Library of Congress) DLC

1 roll (202 ft) : si., b&w ; 35 mm. paper pos.

LC 1487 (paper pos)