Found Footage Shows Aftermath of 1906 SF Quake

On This Site

Current Events

Share This Page

Follow This Site

Follow SocStudies4Kids on Twitter

March 4, 2018

Footage showing the aftermath of the devastating 1906 San Francisco earthquake has turned up at a flea market.

On April 18, 1906, a powerful earthquake hit Northern California, flattening the city of San Francisco and doing similarly destructive damage to much of the surrounding area. About 3,000 people were killed as a result of the quake and the subsequent fire. The Richter scale was not in use at the time of this quake, but later estimates put the Richter scale-equivalent at a magnitude of 7.8.

The reel, which includes nine minutes of very clear footage shot two weeks after the earthquake and fire, was on offer at the Alemany Flea Market, a weekly sale of antique or vintage items in San Francisco's Bernal Heights. David Silver, a collector of vintage cameras who lives in England, bought the film at the flea market in 2016.

Silver posted online his find, and photography historian Jason Wright bought the reel. Wright then brought in film historian David Kiehn, who transferred the footage to a digital version. He had to build his own specialized optical printer in order to make a successful transfer. The film on the original reel was nitrate film, which is highly flammable and very delicate. (Silver said that the man from whom he bought the film was looking through the footage while holding a cigarette.)

Shooting the footage were Earl, Harry, Herbert, and Joseph Miles, well-known filmmakers in the Bay Area at the time. They shot 13 minutes of footage of San Francisco's famed Market Street from a cable car just days before the earthquake. That film, A Trip Down Market Street, is in the Library of Congress.

The Miles brothers shot a great deal of film of the aftermath of the earthquake and fire, Kiehn said, but none of it had yet been known to have survived. The newly discovered post-quake footage recreates the famous Market Street film to a degree, showing a severely damaged Market from Fifth Street to the Ferry Building. The found footage also shows other buildings being purposely blown up so experts could control the way they fell.

The first public viewing of the digitized found footage will be on April 14 at the Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum in Fremont, Calif.

Search This Site

Custom Search

Social Studies for Kids
copyright 2002–2018
David White