On Wednesday, April 18 1906, the San Francisco earthquake struck the coast of Northern California at 5:12 AM. Four days earlier, on Saturday April 14th, a man mounted a camera on the front of a trolley car on Market Street–a main artery of the city–and photographed the journey posted above. It’s a Saturday, hence the number of kids out playing in the streets. Cars (some with right hand drive) share the road with horse and carriages and trolleys and pedestrians. As is the case with all of these old views of cities in action, traffic laws were notional at best. At 4:52, a man almost gets run over. At 5:08, a horse runs freely down the street–did he ditch his master? At 6:30, several kids play what appears to be a then-popular game known as ‘run in front of the trolley’. This mesmerizing, implacably unaffected view of the city on a bright spring day just days before the city suffered its greatest catastrophe is as haunting as if somebody had posted footage in the future of New Yorkers going about their day on September 7th, 2001. Soon after this was shot, three thousand people–no doubt a few of whom are pictured in this footage–would be dead and another 250,000 would be homeless. Below I’ve posted footage of the city in ruins, shot in the days immediately following the long-ago quake.


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