Fascinating Film of San Francisco Cable Car Traveling Market Street in 1906

June 15, 2010

This is a fascinating historical film. A camera was placed on the front of a Market Street cable car in San Francisco 104 years ago. The “organized chaos” of so many modes of transportation is amazing. The safety aspects of the day leave much to be desired, but the cable car’s journey provides a unique glimpse into our past.

This film was originally thought to be from 1905 until David Kiehn, with the Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum, figured out exactly when it was shot. He researched New York trade papers announcing the film debut; analyzed the wet streets from recent heavy rainfall, shadows indicating time of year, and weather conditions from historical records; he even looked up car registrations. It was filmed only four days before the Great California Earthquake of April 18th 1906.

If nothing else, the film begs the questions, “Who does have the right of way?”

Read more about the development of San Francisco's Cable Car Line here.

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