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Film, Video A trip down Market Street before the fire

digital viewing copy

About this Item


  • A trip down Market Street before the fire


  • "Produced as part of the popular Hale's Tours of the World film series, the film begins at the location of the Miles Brothers film studio, 1139 Market Street, between 8th and 9th Streets; it was filmed 14 April 1906, four days before the devastating earthquake and fire of 18 April 1906, which virtually destroyed the entire downtown area. The negative was taken by train to the Miles New York office on 17 April 1906, narrowly saving it from destruction by one day and thus preserving a moment in the history of San Francisco that would soon cease to exist"--Internet movie database, viewed October 21, 2010.
  • Scene-by-scene: Begins by looking northeast on Market Street just west of the intersection of Hyde, Grove and 8th streets. The dark building at right is the Odd Fellows Hall and the grey building beyond (across 8th St.) is the Grant Building. A white postal service automobile is at left center. (11 sec.) The three large buildings receding down Market Street at left are the Murphy Building, the Donohoe Building, and the Flood Building. The distant tower of the Call Building is at center right. Roadwork is underway at far left, and a city water wagon is at right. After a break in continuity (12 sec.), the film jumps ahead one block and approaches the intersection of Taylor St. and Golden Gate Ave. on the left. The view includes the prominent Flood Building on the left, the distant Ferry Building in the center, the domed Call Building at right center and the Emporium department store with the white side wall, on the right. The cut masonry facade at right, beyond 6th, is Hale Brothers Dry Goods. A street sweeper is at work on the right. (31 sec.) The column at left is the Native Sons Monument at the Mason/Turk Streets intersection. As a lady boards a cable car, a man gets off and crosses Market Street carrying a baby. (56 sec.) At left, one of the downtown home-bound cable car commuter "islands" comes into view. Next, the entry awning of the Emporium department store appears on the right, while beyond, the California Academy of Sciences Building and the old Flood Building. A pedestrian dodges traffic at center as a businessman boards a cable car. A group of young women await a cable car. On the left, the "flatiron" Phelan Building is largely in shadow and beyond, at the Kearny/Geary streets intersection are the double-blank rear wall of the Mutual Savings Bank and the dark Chronicle Building. As the camera approaches the Stockton/Ellis Street intersections, a shuttered electric streetcar crosses from Ellis Street. The next two blocks are the busiest portion of Market Street, with the main business district extending along the streets to the left (north). A policeman and a lady dressed in white are seen at right before a jumble of Victorian facades between 4th and 3rd streets (2:16 min.), and at center a father and sailor-suited son appear. (2:21 min.) Beyond them is an commuter who raises a hand hoping to stop the cable car. (2:45 min.) As the camera approaches the Kearny/Geary Street intersection, several buildings come into view. At left the Mutual Savings Bank and, across Kearny, the Chronicle (newspaper) Building and the rear of the Crocker Building. In the distance at the center is the Ferry Building, and closer in, the row of repeated bays is the great Palace Hotel. Next to the hotel is the unfinished Monadnock Building and the white-walled Hearst (Examiner newspaper) Building at the corner of 3rd Street. At the far right, (on the near side of 3rd Street) is the columned entry of the Call (newspaper) Building. Ahead an electric streetcar crosses the very busy intersection from Kearny to 3rd Street. (3:44 min.) At right is a wooden structure built to protect pedestrians beneath the unfinished Monadnock Building. An electric sightseeing streetcar crosses to Kearny Street. At left, in shadow, is the Crocker Building and beyond (across the Montgomery/Post Streets intersection) is the Union Trust Bank. Approaching the Montgomery/Post Streets and New Montgomery Street intersection the Union Trust Bank and Hobart Building are seen at left, while on the right is the Grand Hotel. Having passed through the heart of downtown, the camera approaches the Sansome/Sutter Streets intersection. Next comes San Francisco's wholesale district, where coffee, tea, and spice companies, as well as various light industrial businesses, were located. Next is the Battery/Bush Streets and 1st Street intersection. From here to the Ferry Building is filled land in the former Yerba Buena Cove of gold rush days. At right is the Sheldon Building. The spired building on the left is the McColl Building, located at the Davis and Pine streets intersection. A lady in a white-feathered hat boards a cable car. (5:47 min.) The turreted O'Brien Building at right is at the corner of Fremont Street. The Ferry Building clock reads 3:17. The camera approaches East Street (today called the Embarcadero) and the Ferry Building cable car turntable. A People's Express van crosses in front. (7:53) The cable car has reached the end of the line. The Ferry Building cornerstone reads, "Erected 1896 by the Board of the State Harbor Commission."The car turns on the turntable, panning across the north section of East Street.


  • Miles Brothers

Created / Published

  • [United States : Miles Brothers, 1906].


  • -  Market Street (San Francisco, Calif.)
  • -  Street-railroads--California--San Francisco
  • -  Horse-drawn vehicles--California--San Francisco
  • -  City traffic--California--San Francisco
  • -  Pedestrians--California--San Francisco
  • -  Automobiles--California--San Francisco
  • -  Central Tower (San Francisco, Calif.)
  • -  Grand Hotel (San Francisco, Calif.)
  • -  Ferry Building (San Francisco, Calif.)


  • Actualities (Motion pictures)
  • Short films
  • Silent films
  • Nonfiction films


  • -  Duration: 8:23 minutes at about 15 fps.
  • -  Location: Market Street, San Francisco; filmed on April 14, 1906.
  • -  Additional holdings for this title may be available. Contact reference librarian.
  • -  Available also through the Library of Congress Web site as digital files.
  • -  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. 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. According to an April 30, 2010 article in the San Francisco chronicle and in a 60 minutes television segment broadcast on October 17, 2010, silent film historian David Kiehn determined from the depiction in the film of the puddles in the cavities by the rails on the street--and especially autos driving through puddles splashing water--that the film could not have been shot in September 1905 as that month was "bone dry." After searching weather reports in a number of San Francisco newspapers, Kiehn learned that no heavy rain was reported until late March and into early April of 1906. Further research uncovered an April 28, 1906 advertisement for the film in the theatrical magazine, the New York Clipper, suggesting that the film was shot on or around April 12, 1906 due to the long lead time for print ads for magazines of the day and the amount of time required to ship the film to New York by train. Kiehn also confirmed that one of cars in the film with license plate number 4867 had been registered in early 1906. 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.
  • -  This film was selected for the National Film Registry.
  • -  Source used: Library of Congress. National Film Preservation Board WWW site, viewed November 17, 2017, A trip down Market Street, essay by David Kiehn.


  • viewing print 1 film reel of 1 (533 ft) : si., b&w ; 35 mm.
  • dupe neg pic 1 film reel of 1 (533 ft) : si., b&w ; 35 mm.

Call Number/Physical Location

  • FEA 7760 (viewing print)
  • FPA 5846 (dupe neg pic)

Source Collection

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


  • Library of Congress Motion Picture, Broadcasting and Recorded Sound Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA dcu

Digital Id

Library of Congress Control Number

  • 00694408

Online Format

  • image
  • video

Additional Metadata Formats

Rights & Access

The contents of the Library of Congress Before and After the Great Earthquake and Fire: Early Films of San Francisco, 1897 to 1916 Collection are in the public domain and are free to use and reuse.

Credit Line: Library of Congress, Motion Picture, Broadcasting, and Recorded Sound Division, Before and After the Great Earthquake and Fire: Early Films of San Francisco, 1897 to 1916 Collection.

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Cite This Item

Citations are generated automatically from bibliographic data as a convenience, and may not be complete or accurate.

Chicago citation style:

Miles Brothers. A trip down Market Street before the fire. [United States: Miles Brothers, 1906] Video.

APA citation style:

Miles Brothers. (1906) A trip down Market Street before the fire. [United States: Miles Brothers] [Video] Retrieved from the Library of Congress,

MLA citation style:

Miles Brothers. A trip down Market Street before the fire. [United States: Miles Brothers, 1906] Video. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, <>.