Edison Film - Disastrous Effects of the 1906 Earthquake

This panoramic photo, depicting San Francisco in ruins, shows the disastrous effects of the largest fire in America's history. (Click on the image to greatly expand the view.)

Curators, at the Library of Congress, describe the scene:

The San Francisco earthquake on April 18, 1906, was followed by the largest fire in the nation's history, as gas lines ruptured, power lines fell, and chimneys collapsed. The earthquake and fire destroyed four square miles of the city and left hundreds dead.

This view taken from the St. Francis Hotel records the massive devastation. The photographic panorama was ideally suited to capture the effects of the fire and the cataclysmic scale of the earthquake.

Beyond photos, the Library of Congress also maintains some of the "actualities"—or films of actual events—created by Thomas Edison's film company.

As the camera captures panoramic views, we can even see smoke from still-smoldering fires. 

It's interesting to compare the scenes, of a ruined downtown San Francisco, with historical footage of the same general area captured on film four days before the 1906 earthquake and fire. The following footage—from April 14, 1906—was shot with a turn-of-the-century "dashcam," affixed to the front of a cable car, making its way down Market Street.

Pedestrians, bicyclists, horse-drawn trams and carriages, cable cars and a new invention—called the automobile—all vie for space on the same busy street in the heart of a vibrant, pre-quake San Francisco.

This clip begs a serious question:  What kind of driving regulations (if any) were in effect at the time?!

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Author: Carole D. Bos, J.D. 5199stories and lessons created

Original Release: Oct 07, 2013

Updated Last Revision: Apr 02, 2023

Media Credits

Historic film footage, by Thomas A. Edison Film Company. Lead still shot, by Lester C. Guernsey, depicts the ruins of San Francisco—as seen from the Stanford Mansion site—after the earthquake and fire which occurred between April 18 - 21, 1906.

Video online, courtesy Library of Congress. Still photo also online via the Library of Congress.



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"Edison Film - Disastrous Effects of the 1906 Earthquake" AwesomeStories.com. Oct 07, 2013. Apr 01, 2023.
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