107 year old home movie

I have just been sent a link to this archive film clip of San Francisco and felt compelled to share in a quick post – it is quite remarkable:

This is the text that accompanied the link (not attributed as I do not know where it came from):

“This film was “lost” for many years. It was the first 35mm film ever that has come to light. It was taken by camera mounted on the front of a cable car as it`s traveling down the street. You feel as if your really there, standing at the front looking down the street, amazing piece of historic film.The number of automobiles is staggering for 1906. Absolutely amazing! The clock tower at the end of Market Street at the Embarcadero wharf is still there

This film, originally thought to be from 1905 until David Kiehn with the Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum figured out exactly when it was shot. From New York trade papers announcing the film showing to the wet streets from recent heavy rainfall & shadows indicating time of year & actual weather and conditions on historical record, even when the cars were registered (he even knows who owned them and when the plates were issued!).. It was filmed only four days before the Great California Earthquake of April 18th 1906 and shipped by train to NY for processing. Amazing, but true!

No wonder there had to be laws created to regulate driving habits. This is insane. Good thing they couldn’t go very fast.

This is a fascinating movie. A camera on the front of a street car 107 years ago. I watched it a couple of times. Look at the hats the ladies were wearing and the long dresses. Some of the cars had the steering wheels on the right side, I wonder when they standardized on the left? Sure was still a lot of horse drawn vehicles in use. Mass transit looked like the way to get around.. Looks like everybody had the right of way.

Perhaps the oldest “home movie” that you will ever see.”


  1. Tish Farrell · November 15, 2013

    This is tremendous, Robin. What a document.

    • northumbrianlight · November 15, 2013

      Wonderful isn’t it Tish – that’s not the version of the Highway Code I had to learn for my motorbike theory test.

  2. malcolm aitchison · November 15, 2013

    This is brilliant viewing Robin – I haven’t laughed out loud so much for quite a while!

    I’m now exhausted following an adrenelin rush brouht on by fear for the safety of those souls (and their horses) dodging the 1906 traffic

    How no aniimals or people were not harmed in the making of this film beggars belief. At no stage does the tram appear to have any inclination to brake!

    There must be the seeds of a new roadkill arcade game here.

    • northumbrianlight · November 15, 2013

      Hi Malcolm – This came via the Allendale grapevine believe it or not – Olive Norris to John Woodcock to me.

  3. easyweimaraner · November 15, 2013

    That was great! Like sitting in a time machine. Thanks for sharing. … on a sadder note, it’s hard to imagine that not one of the people in the video is still alive. But it’s really a wonderful piece of history.

    • northumbrianlight · November 15, 2013

      We obviously have the same solemn disposition – that’s exactly what I thought.

  4. LaVagabonde · November 15, 2013

    Fabulous. I thought the same thing about the traffic when I was watching it – a total free-for-all.

    • northumbrianlight · November 15, 2013

      Makes you wonder if all the rules of the road are actually necessary particularly as city centre traffic can go no faster in the 21st century 🙂

  5. Pingback: 1906: Good Year for Traffic and Bowler Hats | conversation is an engine
  6. Mary Gilmartin · November 15, 2013

    Thanks for sharing. This movie was absolutely amazing to watch while the people, horses, vehicles crossed right in front of the moving cable car. Just visited SF a couple of weeks ago. Now I wish I had taken a photograph of the tower clock from Market Street. Things certainly change as time goes by. I wonder what everyone will think of us, one hundred years from now.

    • northumbrianlight · November 15, 2013

      It is an interesting thought – I think we might have reached a technology plateau and that in 100 years SF will look much the same but then they probably thought that in the late 19th Century.

      • patrick · November 16, 2013

        I think it’s not so much that we’ve reached a technological plateau as that the changes are mostly invisible now. Someone falling out of the 1950s into today would probably not be too surprised by what they saw at first – the look of the buildings, or the cars. They look a little different, but not so much so as to be unrecognisable. Our time traveller might be rather more taken aback by an Iphone though…

      • northumbrianlight · November 16, 2013

        You are right Paddy – go back just 30 years and I think I could have been persuaded that a mobile telephony revolution was possible but I would never have believed the concept of a full frame DSLR.

  7. suej · November 16, 2013

    Fabulous, what an amazing bit of time travel I’ve had today – thanks for posting, Robin. I really felt I was there for a few moments.

    • northumbrianlight · November 16, 2013

      It really does put you in the driving seat doesn’t it. There is a real mix of ‘vehicles’ too – my favourite is the four wheeled horse drawn cart towards the end of the clip. Looks like it has come straight off the set of Wagon Train.

      • suej · November 16, 2013

        Indeed! )

  8. Mélanie · November 16, 2013

    awesome-possum! 🙂 “la femme d’argent”= silver woman or money woman?… 🙂
    have a pleasant evening and a relaxing weekend! friendly hugs, Mélanie – femme aux cheveux presque argentés… 🙂

    • northumbrianlight · November 16, 2013

      You are observant Mélanie, I hadn’t even noticed that 🙂 You prompted me to investigate – now I realise it is the backing music by a French duo I had never heard of but presumably you know them. You live and learn – all the best, Robin.

      • Mélanie · November 18, 2013

        eh oui, “déformation professionnelle”, you see what I mean… 🙂 have a fine afternoon and a formidable week! 🙂

  9. restlessjo · November 17, 2013

    It’s like everybody has a death wish but is quietly confident of survival! Love the music too 🙂

  10. Malin H · November 17, 2013

    Wow… Yes… remarkable!
    This is really fascinating. Amazing … to see all these people that no longer exists. But time kind of stops in this movie and all the people feels so vibrant and immortal…

    • northumbrianlight · November 17, 2013

      You’re right – I guess that’s part of the fascination – for a few brief moments they live again.

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