Topic: Film/Documentary films

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A Trip Down Market Street

United States Film Library of Congress Film/American cinema Film/Silent films Film/Documentary films United States/Film - American cinema

A Trip Down Market Street is a 13-minute actuality film recorded by placing a movie camera on the front of a cable car as it traveled down San Francisco’s Market Street. The film shows many details of daily life in a major early 20th century American city, including the transportation, fashions and architecture of the era. The film begins at 8th Street and continues eastward to the cable car turntable, at The Embarcadero, in front of the Ferry Building. Landmarks passed in the latter part of the first half include the Call Building (then San Francisco's tallest) and the Palace Hotel (both on the right; Lotta's Fountain is on the left between the two but is in the shade). The film was produced by the four Miles brothers: Harry, Herbert, Earle and Joe. It is notable for capturing San Francisco four days before the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, which started on the morning of Wednesday, April 18, 1906.

The Miles brothers had been producing films in New York including films shot in San Francisco. In September 1905 they shot the fight between Oscar "Battling" Nelson and Jimmy Britt in Colma, California, just south of San Francisco city limits. The Miles brothers established a studio at 1139 Market Street in San Francisco in early 1906. They shot a railroad descent down Mount Tamalpais as well as the Market Street film. On April 17, Harry and Joe Miles boarded a train for New York, taking the two films with them, but they heard about the earthquake and sent the films to New York while they boarded another train headed back to San Francisco. The Turk Street house of Earle Miles survived the earthquake and subsequent catastrophic fire but the studio did not. The Miles brothers based their business out of Earle's home, and shot more film of post-earthquake scenes; some of this footage, including that of a second trip down a now devastated Market Street, reemerged in 2016. It is likely that the Market Street film survives today because it was sent away before the fire.

Several 35mm prints exist with slight changes in footage. Copies are held at the Library of Congress and the Prelinger Archives. A digital version is viewable online at Internet Archive, YouTube and Wikimedia Commons. In 2010, the film was selected for preservation in the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress.

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