Just weeks prior to San Francisco’s devastating earthquake and fire of April 18, 1906, the Miles Brothers affixed a hand-cranked Bell & Howell camera to the front of a cable car, and filmed its journey eastward along Market Street from 8th Street to the Ferry Building. In addition to many cable cars, horse cars and streetcars, we see a surprising number of early automobiles. Or do we? Careful observation reveals that in fact only a few automobiles appear repeatedly, circling the camera to create the appearance of busier traffic.
The footage survived the destruction of the Miles Brothers’ studio only because they happened to have brought it along on their cross-country train travel that week. The date of its filming (late March, 1906) was deduced from clues such as shadow angles, license plate registration records, weather and news reports from the time.
Paying tribute to the Miles Brothers’ film, MTC’s Mark Jones filmed this recreation of the same journey on February 14, 2017. While the vehicles and fashions may have changed considerably in the intervening 111 years, the energy of daily life and the beauty of San Francisco’s urban center have clearly endured.