See historic San Francisco four days before the 1906 earthquake

Get a load of this old timey scene of historic San Francisco, shot on the Market Street streetcar on April 14, 1906, just four days before the earthquake and fire that destroyed about 80% of the city.

One thing that immediately stands out is that driving at the time, whether it be cars or horse-drawn carts, was completely lawless. There doesn’t seem to be any lanes – or even the novel concept of driving in a straight line.

Historic San Francisco car drivers in particular were straight up assholes. Look all those jerks weaving around, stopping short and cutting off horse-drawn carts! I count at least three near accidents in this clip alone, not to mention several close calls with pedestrians, who were apparently expected to leap out of the way when a car approached, rather than the car braking for a second.

In fairness, the pedestrians weren’t much better in historic San Francisco. It seems in 1906 people hadn’t yet quite grasped the concept that stepping into the path of a two ton moving vehicle might end in injury.

Also, I see US cars used to have the drivers sitting on the right side of the vehicle, which is something I didn’t know previously. We switched to the left side, eventually, because it made passing easier. But I suppose there wasn’t much need for safer passing when there weren’t any lanes to speak of.

The film was produced by the Miles brothers, using a hand-cranked Bell & Howell camera placed on the front of a Market Street streetcar. The filming starts at 8th, in front of the Miles Studios, and goes to the end of the line at the Ferry building.

By coincidence, the Miles brothers were en route to New York when the earthquake occurred. Their studios were destroyed, but they happened to have the negative of this film in their possession.