San Francisco, 1906

A Trip Down Market Street Before the Fire
P: Miles Brothers. USA 1906

“The earthquake scenes, while spectacular, are essentially reportorial. But the early movies photographed with no knowledge of the approaching calamity, in addition to being rare, have a special significance and poignancy. On one level they document how the buildings, streets, and people looked. The detailed notes provided include this information (along with some fascinating speculation) and reveal just how much can be discerned by a meticulous and knowledgeable viewer. On another level these hazy, grainy images bring to life a time and place even further removed from us than the ninety or so years would suggest, a time and place buried under a layer of ash, soot, and crumbled brick.
Just looking at the subjects of the films can be revealing, though most are typical of the actuality genre. Filmed in 1905 and obviously re-titled after the disaster, A Trip Down Market Street Before the Fire showcases downtown San Francisco along the great boulevard. To emphasize this (and no doubt to add to the visual excitement of the scene) the producers had the same few automobiles circle the cable car-mounted camera as it proceeded toward the Ferry Building at the foot of Market Street.”
Library of Congress

Further reading: The Brothers Who Filmed the Earthquake

Ruins of Chinatown
K: Robert K. Bonine. P: Edison Co. USA 1906

Vertical Panorama City Hall and Surroundings
K: Robert K. Bonine. P: Edison Co. USA 1906

Robert K. Bonine, the Edison company’s actuality cameraman, took thirteen panoramas of the devastation of the April, 1906 earthquake which were offered for sale later that year. The 1906 Edison catalog lists all the films with additional short descriptions and information on specific location, etc.

>>> San Francisco: Aftermath of Earthquake: Disasters