San Francisco Live just before the earthquake that destroyed most of the city. Here’s twelve minutes of busy city life before disaster struck, filmed over one hundred years ago. It takes you all the way to the turnaround for the streetcar at the Ferry building where the breeze from San Francisco Bay, at that moment, blows a man’s full beard to the right.

The film was shot on April 14, 1906, four days before the San Francisco earthquake and fire, to which the negative was nearly lost. It was produced by moving picture photographers the Miles brothers: Harry, Herbert, Earle and Joe. Harry J. Miles cranked the Bell & Howell camera which was placed on the front of a streetcar during filming from Market Street at 8th, in front of the Miles Studios, to the Ferry building. The Miles brothers were en route to New York when they heard news of the earthquake. They sent the negative to NY and returned to San Francisco to discover that their studios were destroyed. The film was long thought to have been shot in September of 1905, after being dated as such by the Library of Congress based on the state of construction of several buildings.

However, in 2009 and 2010, film historian David Kiehn, co-founder of Niles Film Museum in Niles, California, dated the film to the spring of 1906 from automobile registrations and weather records. Eventually, he also found promotional materials from the film’s original release, which dated the film to April 14th, 1906.

A few days later….

SanFran earthquake ...

“Clearing away the debris, California Street, San Francisco.”
Aftermath of the earthquake and fire of April 18, 1906.


(H/T Gerard Vanderleun and his AMERICAN DIGEST always a delightful excursion)