Film, Video A trip down Market Street before the fire

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About this Item

A trip down Market Street before the fire
The following is a scene-by-scene description of the film: [Frame: 0300 (part 1)] The film begins 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 (1905). A white postal service automobile is at left center. The three large buildings receding down Market Street at left are [0319 (part 1)] the Murphy Building (1889), [0353 (part 1)] the Donohoe Building (1890), and the Flood Building (1905). The distant tower of the Call Building (1897) is at center right. Roadwork is underway at far left, and a city water wagon is at right. [0428 (part 1)] After a break in continuity, the film jumps ahead one block and approaches the intersection of Taylor St. and Golden Gate Ave. on the left. [0565 (part 1)] 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 (1896) with the white side wall, on the right. The newly finished Call Building, the largest office building in the west, was the latest addition to San Francisco's skyline in a building boom that had begun in the 1890's. All of the buildings named above were either rebuilt or refitted after the 1906 earthquake and fire. [0603 (part 1)] The cut masonry facade at right, beyond 6th, is Hale Brothers Dry Goods. [1216 (part 1)] A street sweeper is at work on the right. [1488 (part 1)] The column at left is the Native Sons Monument (1897) at the Mason/Turk Streets intersection. Honoring California's admission into the Union in 1850, it now stands at the intersection of Montgomery and Market streets. [1885 (part 1)] As a lady boards a cable car, a man gets off and crosses Market Street carrying a baby. [3086 (part 1)] At left, one of the downtown home-bound cable car commuter "islands" comes into view. [3321 (part 1)] Next, the entry awning of the Emporium department store appears on the right, while beyond, the California Academy of Sciences Building (1891) and the old Flood Building (1888), which were not rebuilt after 1906, can be seen. [3615 (part 1)] A confused pedestrian dodges traffic at center as an umbrella-carrying businessman boards a cable car. Ahead, [4000 (part 1)] a group of young women, dressed according to age, await a cable car. On the left, the "flatiron" Phelan Building is largely in shadow and beyond, at the Kearny/Geary streets intersection, the double-blank rear wall of the Mutual Savings Bank (1902) and the dark Chronicle Building (1890) can be seen [4143 (part 1)]. Next, a dark, low-slung drayage cart crosses to the right, beneath a wall advertisement for Sanborn and Vail Wholesalers [4432 (part 1)]. As the camera approaches the Stockton/Ellis Street intersections, a shuttered electric streetcar (perhaps a mail car) crosses from Ellis Street [4596 (part 1)]. For the next two blocks we will pass through the busiest portion of Market Street, with the main business district extending along the streets to the left (north). [4766 (part 1)] A policeman and a lady dressed daringly in white are seen at right before a jumble of Victorian facades between 4th and 3rd streets, and at center [5018 (part 1)] a father and sailor-suited son appear. Beyond them [5580 (part 1)] we encounter an impatient commuter who raises a hand hoping to stop our cable car. [Cataloger's note: the first 2060 frames of part 2 (approx. 1:10) are repeated from the end of part 1] [Frame: 2160 (part 2)] A sign for "Pianos" is at upper right. 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 [2765 (part 2)]. In the distance at the center is the Ferry Building, and closer in, the row of repeated bays is the great Palace Hotel (1873), the largest and most luxurious hotel in the west. Next to the hotel is the unfinished Monadnock Building and the white-walled Hearst (Examiner newspaper) Building (1897) 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. For obvious reasons, this Market Street intersection was called "Newspaper Row" or "Newspaper Corner." All of these buildings were rebuilt or refitted after 1906. Ahead [2970 (part 2)] an electric streetcar crosses the very busy intersection from Kearny to 3rd Street. At left note the flags flying in the breeze while at right the camera passes a wooden structure built to protect pedestrians beneath the unfinished Monadnock Building. [3490 (part 2)] Well-dressed businessmen cross the street and ahead [3681 (part 2)] on the right are two newspaper boys. Next, [4010 (part 2)] an electric sightseeing streetcar crosses to Kearny Street. Note the activity at this busy intersection [4380 (part 2)]. At left, in shadow, is the Crocker Building [4575 (part 2)] and beyond (across the Montgomery/Post Streets intersection) is the Union Trust Bank. We pass a group of women in fashionable hats at right [4645 (part 2)], and as we approach the Montgomery/Post Streets and New Montgomery Street intersection the Union Trust Bank and Hobart Building [4945 (part 2)] are seen at left, while on the right is the 1870 Victorian style Grand Hotel. An automobile full of joyriders at left [6410 (part 2)] will return back to the Ferry Building from here. Note the bright sunshine and strong shadows here, while the fluctuating light levels may indicate that fog is passing overhead. Having passed through the heart of downtown, the camera approaches the Sansome/Sutter Streets intersection, where a Western Union clerk (from his Hobart Building office) hopes for a ride [6695 (part 2)]. Next comes San Francisco's wholesale district, where coffee, tea, and spice companies, as well as various light industrial businesses, were located. Note the many large drayage wagons [6927 (part 2)]. 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 (1887). [7358 (part 2)] A businessman with very tight shoes crosses Market Street and later, [Frame: 0100 (part 3)] a lady in a white-feathered hat boards a cable car. The spired building on the left [0547 (part 3)] is the McColl Building, located at the Davis and Pine streets intersection; the turreted O'Brien Building (1890) at right is at the corner of Fremont Street. Note the express wagon ahead of the camera [1290 (part 3)]. The boy looks out the back as the driver looks back from the side. The black driver is the only non-white person seen in the film (San Francisco's population was 95% white in 1905 compared to 49% in 1993). [1400 (part 3)] A Sutter Street horse car approaches at left behind a heavily-laden drayage wagon. Ahead on the right is a General Arthur Cigars wall advertisement [2300 (part 3)]. The Ferry Building clock reads 3:17 as a California Street horse car, enroute to the Ferry Building, crosses in front of us [3000 (part 3)]. Note the water on the street [3455 (part 3)] (probably from a morning shower) and the advertisement on the wall at right for Nathan Hale Havana Cigars. The camera approaches East Street (today called the Embarcadero) and the Ferry Building cable car turntable. Note the small cable car staff booth. A People's Express van crosses in front [4659 (part 3)], followed by a cart enscribed "Eureka, California." [4710 (part 3)] 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 building opened in 1898 and was finished in 1903.) A man's beard blows in the wind [5318 (part 3)] as the car turns on the turntable (pushed by staff), panning across the north section of East Street. Note the advertisement for Owl Cigars [5614 (part 3)] and the Hotel Terminus sign on Market Street [5776 (part 3)].
Contributor Names
Miles Brothers.
AFI/Post (George) Collection (Library of Congress)
Created / Published
[United States : Miles Brothers, 1906].
Subject Headings
-  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
Actualities (Motion pictures)
Short films
Silent films
Nonfiction films
-  Copyright: no reg.
-  Duration: 3:10 (part 1), 4:18 (part 2), and 3:10 (part 3) at 15 fps.
-  Additional holdings for this title may be available. Contact reference librarian.
-  Location: Market Street, San Francisco; filmed on April 14, 1906.
-  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. 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.
-  UPDATE: "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. 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.
-  This film was selected for the National Film Registry.
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)
Library of Congress Motion Picture, Broadcasting and Recorded Sound Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA dcu
Digital Id
Library of Congress Control Number
Online Format
LCCN Permalink
Additional Metadata Formats
MODS Record
Dublin Core Record

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Chicago citation style:

Miles Brothers, and Afi/Post. A trip down Market Street before the fire. [United States: Miles Brothers, 1906] Video. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, (Accessed January 19, 2017.)

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

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