A trip down Market Street (Driving has not improved)
March 24, 2020 7:45 AM   Subscribe

A trip down Market Street, in a new scan with an added soundtrack by sound designer Mike Upchurch. According to Lost San Francisco (Facebook link), recent analysis of the time of day, shadows, visible newspaper headlines, and license plates reveal that the film was made just days before the great quake of 1906.
posted by sunset in snow country (34 comments total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
 
Wow. That was quite fascinating. I found the soundtrack a bit annoying and "obvious" I guess, but the whole thing was very captivating nonetheless. I think people tend to forget that SF before the quake was every bit the large, modern metropolis as any east coast city.

Anyone know if there's any more footage from the brief clip at the end, which is basically the same ride down Market after the quake?
posted by Thorzdad at 8:04 AM on March 24


Great stuff
posted by Noisy Pink Bubbles at 8:21 AM on March 24


One thing I always wonder about with these old films is how few women there are. Where are all the women?
The clip at the end was heart-breaking. All those normal lives being cut off so terribly. I guess we all need to be grateful for every day we have.
posted by mumimor at 8:22 AM on March 24 [2 favorites]


I love this film. As an ardent bicyclist and transit user, I have to shake my fist at the little-known fact that -- according to the Library of Congress -- the number of automobiles you can see were staged:

>>
"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."
>>

Re: more footage from the ride after the quake - this PBS Newshour piece has some more of it, and gives context about both films.
posted by rogerroger at 8:23 AM on March 24 [16 favorites]


I've always been intrigued by the guy who walks across the street and tosses a sack onto the back of a cart in the first minute. A naive viewing suggests the driver seems as confused as me. What's going on there?
posted by eotvos at 8:26 AM on March 24 [3 favorites]


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.

Laura Hillenbrand's book, Seabiscuit: An American Legend, describes some of the history of the automobile in San Francisco prior to the quake - Charles Howard, owner of Seabiscuit, was an early automobile pioneer in the city. A couple of relevant excerpts from the book:

"The first automobiles imported to San Francisco had so little power that they rarely made it up the hills. The grade of Nineteenth Avenue was so daunting for the engines of the day that watching automobiles straining for the top became a local pastime."

After Howard had opened a Buick shop in 1905: "Two years had done little to pacify the San Franciscan hostility for the automobile. Howard failed to sell a single car."

A grim irony is that the earthquake is likely what prompted the adoption of the automobile in San Francisco. The book mentions that, after the quake, horses panicked, were injured, and collapsed from exhaustion; Howard's automobiles served as ambulances and carried army explosives to serve as firebreaks.

The book is wonderful reading - much better than the movie made from it.
posted by tallmiddleagedgeek at 8:40 AM on March 24 [6 favorites]


I've always been intrigued by the guy who walks across the street and tosses a sack onto the back of a cart in the first minute. A naive viewing suggests the driver seems as confused as me. What's going on there?

For me, it’s not so much tossing the sack into the back of the wagon, it’s the hopping in after it. Admittedly, I know very little about proper street etiquette in early 20th-century San Francisco, not it seems to me that if the driver had intended to pick up a passenger and cargo, he would have slowed down or stopped, and if he did not intend for a rando passenger to invite himself on, then something more than an incurious glance or two over his shoulder would be called for.

Then again, rogerroger’s note that this was at least partly staged makes me wonder about any baffling detail maybe being inserted by pranksters. Perhaps in the 22nd century people will be puzzling over images from 2010 Google Maps Street View where one street inexplicably shows fifty people wearing pigeon masks.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 9:11 AM on March 24 [2 favorites]


Perhaps in the 22nd century people will be puzzling over images from 2010 Google Maps Street View where one street inexplicably shows fifty people wearing pigeon masks.

I can't be the only person who is now suddenly curious about this! A couple of Google searches turned up this Reddit post, containing these Google Street View coordinates.
posted by tallmiddleagedgeek at 9:16 AM on March 24 [5 favorites]


I love this kind of thing - thank you for linking it.
posted by LobsterMitten at 9:23 AM on March 24


mumimor, women really were not out on foot so much in those days. Even women who worked were not out so much. They either worked close to home or lived in their employer’s homes ( servant’s quarters) Married women were close to home as well.Clothing in that era was restrictive, corsets, hoop-skirts,tight sleeves, tight shoes, big hats... Then there was the ever present horse manure
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 9:27 AM on March 24 [2 favorites]


Where are all the women?

No public restrooms. Seriously, department stores being places women could socialize in and use the facilities was huge - also apparently putting cosmetics on the ground floor with knowledable shop girls to guide purchases to take make out out of semi taboo area.
posted by The Whelk at 9:39 AM on March 24 [9 favorites]


I regret not learning what California's Best Beer was, and way before the invention of the crosswalk. The cars darting between the trolleys was shocking, but I bet the trolleys were faster in this film than in reality, as it seems they slowed for groups getting on, but not for people getting off the conveyance. I love these films showing up.
posted by Oyéah at 9:43 AM on March 24


Argh stop walking in front of the streetcars people you'll give old ladies 115 years from now heart attacks watching you on their magic telephones!

I also noticed fewer people tripping over the streetcar tracks than they do in the Magic Kingdom. I guess it's different when you're used to them being there.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 9:51 AM on March 24 [3 favorites]


Where are all the women?

No public restrooms. Seriously, department stores being places women could socialize in and use the facilities was huge


This. In the downtown of my old hometown is a city park which had two public washrooms installed a year or two before this footage was taken. I have sat and read the outraged letters to the editor about the wastefulness of installing twice as many as are needed because surely respectable women will be at home, not wandering the streets like floozies.

Indeed, at the end of the block where the park is stands the first skyscraper in the city, an eighteen-storey tower built in the twenties. I have read the promotional insert in the paper from the day it opened, boasting of its many amenities (air conditioning, elevators, and restrooms for both ladies and gentlemen).
posted by ricochet biscuit at 10:14 AM on March 24 [4 favorites]


Fun to watch with sound. Next up, let’s colorize that sucker!
posted by beagle at 10:24 AM on March 24


Here's a 60 Minutes segment from 2010 in which Morley Safer meets with film historian David Kiehn, who did the research to figure out when the film was actually shot.

The film was advertised in a showbiz paper in April 1906 with the title A Trip Through Market Street. I wonder why it's been changed in all the modern references I've seen.
posted by theory at 10:27 AM on March 24 [1 favorite]


Quantic: Time is the Enemy
posted by snuffleupagus at 10:28 AM on March 24


Some genius combined this footage with Air's "la femme d'argent" and I've always loved it.
posted by keep_evolving at 10:30 AM on March 24 [1 favorite]


The film was advertised in a showbiz paper in April 1906 with the title A Trip Through Market Street. I wonder why it's been changed in all the modern references I've seen.

I think that shows the evolution of the language. "Through" was, I believe, the appropriate term back then, if you consider a long avenue like Market to be more akin to a long procession of neighborhoods and scenes that one moves through. Now, of course, we'd say "down" or "up", more in reference to the strip of pavement and not the theater surrounding it. I suppose modern references are changed so as to not confuse modern audiences?
posted by Thorzdad at 10:34 AM on March 24 [2 favorites]


It was about that time that the popularity of the bicycle (and, as mentioned upthread, department stores) was starting to free women to be out and about by themselves, and this was of course considered something of a scandal.

I'll take that as an excuse to post this Wright brothers' bicycle from slightly earlier which is, along with the Market Street film, among my favorite things on the internet. It is a truly lovely and surprisingly modern thing.

The "safety bicycle" was instrumental in advancing women's rights.
posted by sjswitzer at 10:41 AM on March 24 [4 favorites]


Thorzdad I'm sure you're correct about that. I suppose updating the title to modern usage is allowable due to the fact that early films like this often didn't have formal titles as such, and could be exhibited with a variety of names.
posted by theory at 10:46 AM on March 24


And I'll take that as an excuse to link to Hark, a Vagrant's Velocipedestriennes.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 11:04 AM on March 24 [7 favorites]


I thought I would be tired of watching this, but it turns out that I will never get tired of watching this. So many new details to notice on each viewing. Thanks for the trip.
posted by missmobtown at 11:36 AM on March 24


rogerroger: I love this film. As an ardent bicyclist and transit user, I have to shake my fist at the little-known fact that -- according to the Library of Congress -- the number of automobiles you can see were staged:

Now that Market St is closed to personal automobiles, the bikes and buses shall reign once more! (It only took 115 years...)
posted by JauntyFedora at 12:27 PM on March 24 [8 favorites]


These always remind me of st. sanders music videos:

The drummer is shown, and suddenly you hear drumming,

A horse comes onscreen, and suddenly you hear clip-clops.
posted by Rich Smorgasbord at 12:35 PM on March 24 [3 favorites]


And in modern news Market Street is closed to car traffic between 10th and Main, the start of a series of changes to make Market pedestrian friendly. Busses, taxis, and some commercial traffic still can use Market but it's hugely different than it was before the closure.
posted by ladyriffraff at 12:41 PM on March 24 [1 favorite]


Fun to see there was a streetcar island at the foot of Powell St. in front of the Flood Bldg. - as there still is today (moved slightly closer to 5th, though).

Also, this must have been filmed with a very long lens - most clearly visible by the dizziness inducing turntable ride at the very end - which makes those "close calls" with crossing pedestrians a little less harrowing.
posted by niicholas at 1:30 PM on March 24


Initially I'd found the soundtracks to these "sound added" films from the turn of the 20th century and earlier to be a little 'obvious', but there's a surprising collection of old film+sound on certain YouTube channels (careful, that's a rabbit hole) that actually don't sound all that different from what gets assembled by folks who are adding sound, fidelity not withstanding. The fact that this one takes care to mention the models of car used in the sounds that were dubbed is probably just the tip of the iceberg there.

And while I also feel that "st. sanders music videos" comment, and kind of think I'd love to sit down and dub these things myself, it's a lot of hard work, and I'm glad someone else is doing it.
posted by Leviathant at 2:36 PM on March 24


My great grandfather had left his family in NYC and gone to San Francisco to find work. And then stopped responding, sending money or letters. My grandmother tore her parents' wedding picture in two and destroyed the only picture of him she had, assuming he had abandoned her mother and her sibs. They really struggled - her mother had to put one sibling in an orphanage where he died of TB. Years later my mother, doing genealogy research found a death record for him - he had died in the fires that were the aftermath of that earthquake. My grandmother was still alive and full of regret at that point. So watching this video felt especially poignant now.
posted by leslies at 4:06 PM on March 24 [7 favorites]


Fucking cars.
posted by Burhanistan at 8:53 PM on March 24 [1 favorite]


These always remind me of st. sanders music videos:

The drummer is shown, and suddenly you hear drumming,

A horse comes onscreen, and suddenly you hear clip-clops.


I am not familiar with st. sanders music videos but I think I grasp the approach from your description. Early-nineties indie Toronto band Moxy Früvous had an enthusiastic fan base which (as with many bands) occasionally produced videos for their songs which lacked official videos. Early in the band’s career, they were regular guests on a CBC show where they were producing topical songs each week. I recall watching an unofficial video for their track “The Gulf War Song,” which detailed their difficulties in writing a song that adequately addressed the conflict. The first two lines are these:
We got a call to write a song about the War in the Gulf/
But we shouldn’t hurt anyone’s feelings.
The fan-made video was a series of stills. If I tell you the first four images were:

• a telephone
• some sheet music
• a group of soldiers
• a cartoon crying face

... well, you could probably guess at the rest of the video.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 10:39 PM on March 24 [1 favorite]


Of course the big difference is no traffic lights
posted by mbo at 12:56 AM on March 25 [1 favorite]


Yeah, maybe it's just an optical illusion from the viewing angle, but while I expected some cross traffic knowing that speeds were much lower back then and there were no traffic signals, I got really nervous any time a car made a quick move to cut in front of or cross through the path of a horse-drawn carriage. Like, I'm sure the animals get used to it, but even at low speed, some of those passes and crossings seemed to have razor-thin margins of error.

I'm totally on board with the idea of open streets and cars having to wait their turn along with pedestrians, cyclists, etc. but I'm really glad we found a replacement for the horses.
posted by tonycpsu at 6:36 AM on March 25 [1 favorite]


At 8:48 that looks like plastic hanging on the back of the carriage, what is that?

Anyway, love this. Carriages, trolleys, bicycles, pedestrians, so lively and normal, but a little scary with right of ways and no sight of traffic lights or signs.
posted by waving at 5:00 PM on March 25


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