Library of Congress

Early Motion Pictures

Item 1 of 1

A Trip down Market Street before the fire

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[United States : s.n., 1905]


Copyright: no reg.

Duration: 9:29 at 15 fps.

Location: Market Street, San Francisco.

This film, shot from the front window of a moving Market Street cable car, is a rare record of San Francisco's principal thoroughfare and downtown area before their destruction in the 1906 earthquake and fire. The filmed ride covers 1.55 miles at an average speed of nearly 10 miles per hour. While there is no production or copyright information on the film, the state of completion of the Flood Building and the Monadnock Building indicate that the year is 1905. Also, the apparent position of the sun in relation to the time visible on the Ferry Building clock point to early September as the month. Market Street, graded through sand dunes in the 1850's, is 120 feet wide, and nearly 3.5 miles long. The street runs northeast from the foot of Twin Peaks to the Ferry Building. Different street grids, diagonal on the northwest side and parallel on the southeast side, create several awkward diagonal intersections along Market Street, contributing to the chaotic traffic situation that is evident in the film. San Francisco's cable cars, which first began operations in 1873, have no power of their own, and operate by "gripping" a moving cable beneath a slot in the street. This is the origin of the name "south of the slot" for the South-of-Market Street district. The Market Street lines, dating from 1883, merged in 1902 to form the United Railroads of San Francisco. Dark cars served westerly neighborhood lines extending along McAllister, Hayes and Haight streets, light cars served southwesterly neighborhoods, with the lines extending along Valencia and Castro streets. The Market Street section of the lines ended at the Ferry Building, where passengers boarded ferries for Oakland, Alameda, or Berkeley, across San Francisco Bay. East of Sutter Street, horse cars ran along Market Street. Independently owned, they ran on side tracks to the Ferry Building. A few electric streetcars, dating from 1892, are seen in the film crossing Market Street. Market Street itself reverted to electric streetcars in 1906, following the earthquake and fire. In all, the film shows some thirty cable cars, four horse cars and four streetcars. An interesting feature of the film is the apparent abundance of automobiles. However, a careful tracking of automobile traffic shows that almost all of the autos seen circle around the camera/cable car many times (one ten times). This traffic was apparently staged by the producer to give Market Street the appearance of a prosperous modern boulevard with many automobiles. In fact, in 1905 the automobile was still something of a novelty in San Francisco, with horse-drawn buggies, carts, vans, and wagons being the common private and business vehicles. The near total lack of traffic control along Market Street emphasizes the newness of the automobile. Granite paving stripes in the street marking ignored pedestrian crosswalks, making the crossing of Market Street on foot a risky venture. The pedestrian "islands" for homeward-bound downtown cable car commuters are among the few signs of order visible in the film.

Received: 2/2/76 from LC film lab reference print; preservation; AFI/Post Collection.

Received: 12/7/72 from Ghetty Film; dupe neg; gift; AFI/Post Collection.

Streets--California--San Francisco.
Commercial buildings--California--San Francisco.
Urban transportation--California--San Francisco.
Vehicles--California--San Francisco.
Local transit--California--San Francisco.
Street-railroads--California--San Francisco.
Horse-drawn vehicles--California--San Francisco.
City traffic--California--San Francisco.
Pedestrians--California--San Francisco.
Automobiles--California--San Francisco.
Bicycles--California--San Francisco.
Market Street (San Francisco, Calif.)

AFI/Post (George) Collection (Library of Congress) DLC

1 reel (533 ft) : si., b&w ; 35 mm. reference print.

FEA 7760 (print)