bill pritchett

Old cars in San Francisco a few days before earthquake

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I saw this a while ago in an abbreviated form. It was taken a few days before the great San Francisco earthquake. It has quite a few shots of old cars in it. What is surprising how they were driving all over the place with disregard to any traffic laws. I assume there were few at that point in time. 

 

Also, I wonder what the cars are as I am certainly not an expert on them. 

 

I hope I am not repeating anything previously posted.

 

 

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That is a longer version than I'd seen before.

 

The unorganized madhouse of traffic is somewhat mitigated by the low speed. The current SF cable cars max out a just under 10 MPH and looking at this film, I'd guess that was true back then too. So the faster autos and electric trolleys are probably going 15 MPH or so.

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I'm surprised at how many automobiles were in use that early!

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Anyone remember the ancient Pierce Arrow limo' in SF parked across the street from Golden Gate Park in the early '70s ? Huge, built shortly after the 'quake, first time I remember seeing a speaking tube between the passengers and the chauffeur. Certainly had seen better days, but would be eminently restorable by today's standards. Probably ran, hopefully still does somewhere.    -   Carl 

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Ah, the good old days, when pedestrians, bicyclists, horse drawn carriages, streetcars and automobiles could all share the street together.  Thanks for sharing!

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Am surprised how many are right hand drive. Is there a reason ?

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3 minutes ago, padgett said:

Am surprised how many are right hand drive. Is there a reason ?

 

It was before the US standardized on driving on the right. Coaching tradition from England had the driver on the right and many/most US carriages were that way too. So it was fairly logical for the early cars to adopt it as well.

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The car with plate # 4867 passes at least five times. You can often see him making a wide U turn from the right to the left, no passengers.

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Most silent film was shot at 18 frames per second.  When sound came in, they upped it to 24 frames per second for better sound resolution.  Transfers from film are usually made at 24 frames per second, which makes everything Keystone Kops frantic with everything moving at an exaggerated pace.  New computer technology can now slow things down to actual speed and the results are stunning.

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If you read the bottom you will see that the traffic is staged for the film. No wonder. I was thinking, “That’s insane!”

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18 hours ago, 28 Chrysler said:

The car with plate # 4867 passes at least five times. You can often see him making a wide U turn from the right to the left, no passengers.

 

It says 10. 

 

“An interesting feature of the film is the apparent abundance of automobiles. However, a careful tracking of automobile traffic shows that almost all of the autos seen circle around the camera/cable car many times (one ten times). This traffic was apparently staged by the producer to give Market Street the appearance of a prosperous modern boulevard with many automobiles. In fact, in 1905 the automobile was still something of a novelty in San Francisco, with horse-drawn buggies, carts, vans, and wagons being the common private and business vehicles.

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I don't even have to see the video of the film to know what it is. I have seen it many times, and it has been discussed on many antique automobile-related forums for many years. All good, it is an incredible look into a rare moment in time so soon before a huge catastrophe changed the face of a place forever. It should be looked at by anybody interested in history of the past two hundred years. And it should be discussed often.

 

As I recall, about half the cars passing and turning around are of a single marque. If I recall correctly (getting worse each passing year?), they are Wintons. Apparently, the local Winton dealer got wind of the film being made and sent all his inventory and a couple personal cars out so that they would be "seen". Looking at the cars carefully (I did this some years ago!),  there are at least three touring cars that are of the same year and model, and even have the same passengers sitting in the cars as they pass in review of the camera over and over again.

 

Another car seen is an Autocar of about 1904-05. Incredibly, that Autocar is believed to still exist in a private collection. I do not know who owns it, but have in the past spoken with a couple people that do know the owner and the car, and swear it is absolutely known to be the same car! Makes a good story at least.

 

Not seen so often, a followup film was made about a month after the earthquake, following the same route, and at about the same speed. It showed the same area and buildings as they looked after the quake and only some cleanup done. Also, about eight or ten (?) years ago, someone took the two films, and spliced them (I think using digital technology, but I do not know for sure), one side showing the before, the other side showing the after the quake. That was a startling image to watch.

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14 hours ago, padgett said:

Am surprised how many are right hand drive. Is there a reason ?

 

Up to 1910 or so most American cars were RHD. About the last to switch to LHD were RR and Pierce Arrow and that wasn't until 1925.

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It's kind of ironic, when I was on Market Street a few months ago, it seemed cleaner. Bet the smell was much more pleasant in 1905 than it is today....even with all the horses. It's sad a great American city is now so bad that tourism has just about vanished. 

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I don’t think this film was shot in San Francisco. With that many old cars in one place, that has to be the street by Keisers house, 😀

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7 hours ago, wayne sheldon said:

Not seen so often, a followup film was made about a month after the Earthquake, following the same route, and at about the same speed. It showed the same area and buildings as they looked after the quake and only some cleanup done. Also, about eight or ten (?) years ago, someone took the two films, and spliced them (I think using digital technology, but I do not know for sure), one side showing the before, the other side showing the after the quake. THAT was a startling image to watch.

 

Was this the video you were referring to ??  

 

 

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Supposedly, this is the most complete version of the historic film, "A Trip Down Market Street," combining the best elements of prints from Prelinger Arichives and Library of Congress.

 

 

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10 hours ago, Mike36 said:

I don’t think this film was shot in San Francisco. With that many old cars in one place, that has to be the street by Keisers house, 😀

 

Nope. Good guess but I’ve seen his street and little town. This isn’t it.

 

Thanks for the laugh!

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BearsFan315, That is not the spliced version I saw some years ago. The one I saw had the frames cut and spliced together probably frame by frame. I figure it was likely done digitally. One side of the street showed the before while the other side showed the after. It certainly wasn't totally lined up and clean as the filmings weren't exactly matched. But the one side of the street being beautiful and the other side being rubble created an unforgettable image.  The before film was with a camera mounted on the front of a cable car (you can see the tracks in the road). The after was likely on some sort of wagon as I think it took awhile before the cable powerhouse was operational again.  The cable car tracks are still visible in the street in the after film, and the camera was bounced around a bit.

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Morley Safer did a story on this video on "60 Minutes" a few years ago. It's 12 minutes long and very interesting....

 

 

 

 

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I like that 60 minutes clip.

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Posted (edited)
On 6/16/2019 at 4:58 PM, mrcvs said:

I'm surprised at how many automobiles were in use that early!

By 1906, there were about 200 different car companies in the US. There were about 70 different steam car companies. Locomobile alone built around 5000 by 1904.

 

There is a DVD available on Amazon called "Merrily we roll along" narrated by Groucho Marx, made in the early 60's that covers a lot of the early car history. One little error in that film though, they show Ormond beach in 1904 and 1905 and show a steam racer and they mention the Stanley steamer land speed record, that is actually Louis Ross in the video and these pictures. A little pricy, cheap to rent on Prime though. They show the early Vanderbilt cup races and some of the early Glidden tours, the run up Mount Washington etc.

 

In this video it mentions the earthquake of 1906 and how people were spreading rumors that the automobile would be used exclusively to evacuate the aristocrats of Nob hill. When in reality, they were being used for relief work for everyone. The public fought against the new automobiles.

 

I was reading another place, that New York city had speed limits of 12 mph on the straight roads and 7 mph on the corners. Anything over 20 was considered "furious driving" and a jailable offense. The first person to get a traffic ticket in New York city was a man named "German" who was speeding in a delivery truck/wagon.

 

https://www.amazon.com/Merrily-We-Roll-Along-Automobile/dp/B01GWC3YNE/ref=sr_1_2?keywords=merrily+we+roll+along+groucho&qid=1560879592&s=gateway&sr=8-2

 

Here is another good movie: A few Locomobile's in there.

 

-Ron

 

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Edited by Locomobile (see edit history)

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3 hours ago, Locomobile said:

By 1906, there were about 200 different car companies in the US. There were about 70 different steam car companies. Locomobile alone built around 5000 by 1904.

 

There is a DVD available on Amazon called "Merrily we roll along" narrated by Groucho Marx, made in the early 60's that covers a lot of the early car history. One little error in that film though, they show Ormond beach in 1904 and 1905 and show a steam racer and they mention the Stanley steamer land speed record, that is actually Louis Ross in the video and these pictures. A little pricy, cheap to rent on Prime though. They show the early Vanderbilt cup races and some of the early Glidden tours, the run up Mount Washington etc.

 

In this video it mentions the earthquake of 1906 and how people were spreading rumors that the automobile would be used exclusively to evacuate the aristocrats of Nob hill. When in reality, they were being used for relief work for everyone. The public fought against the new automobiles.

 

I was reading another place, that New York city had speed limits of 12 mph on the straight roads and 7 mph on the corners. Anything over 20 was considered "furious driving" and a jailable offense. The first person to get a traffic ticket in New York city was a man named "German" who was speeding in a delivery truck/wagon.

 

https://www.amazon.com/Merrily-We-Roll-Along-Automobile/dp/B01GWC3YNE/ref=sr_1_2?keywords=merrily+we+roll+along+groucho&qid=1560879592&s=gateway&sr=8-2

 

Here is another good movie: A few Locomobile's in there.

 

-Ron

 

54.jpg

jan29.png

Any idea how many pre-1905 or pre-1910, or any similar date were built, and how many of those might exist today?

 

Or, maybe what might be the survival rate of a pre-1910 car?

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On 6/16/2019 at 5:43 PM, padgett said:

Am surprised how many are right hand drive. Is there a reason ?

 

What ply33 said and I would add that the early cars had the controls on the right side of the body, and they were easier to operate with the right hand and too the sight glass for the boiler was on the right side and had to be watched by the driver, when they switched to left hand drive in 1914 as the law stipulated(as I understand it), automatic boiler controls had to be used to control everything on steam cars. The early stage coaches and horse drawn vehicles were driven from the right because they passed other vehicles on the right and they wanted to be able to look down and see how close the wheels were to ditches etc. It 1914 it was determined it was more important to watch the oncoming vehicle to avoid head on collisions. My Locomobile is right hand drive, but I like it that way, something about it feels more natural.

 

3 hours ago, mrcvs said:

Any idea how many pre-1905 or pre-1910, or any similar date were built, and how many of those might exist today?

 

Or, maybe what might be the survival rate of a pre-1910 car?

 

Prior to 1905 I'm guessing total production all years combined was less than 30,000 cars. There were a lot of companies that registered and only produced a few cars. Locomobile and Oldsmobile were two of the top producers. There were imported cars as well, Panhard, De Dion Bouton and others. The French were way ahead of everyone at that time. "Automobile" is a french word of course.

How many survive? I would guesstimate around 5% of those, they were wood bodied, so if left to the elements the body deteriorated quickly. And too, they used a lot of brass and copper parts, war efforts consumed a lot of those parts. It was seen as unpatriotic to withhold these metals during the scrap drives. There was a guy that found an original Locomobile and all the brass and copper parts were gone, that is most likely why.

 

-Ron

 

IMG_0924 (Medium).JPG

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On 6/16/2019 at 2:01 PM, C Carl said:

Anyone remember the ancient Pierce Arrow limo' in SF parked across the street from Golden Gate Park in the early '70s ? Huge, built shortly after the 'quake, first time I remember seeing a speaking tube between the passengers and the chauffeur. Certainly had seen better days, but would be eminently restorable by today's standards. Probably ran, hopefully still does somewhere.    -   Carl 

Carl, there were two of them.  You are referring to the 1922 or 1923 Series 33, but the same eccentric owner had a 1929 limo as well.  They were parked along the GG Park panhandle, either Fell (westbound) or Oak (eastbound).  I saw them in the late 1950s, so they must have been pretty decrepit with their soft inset tops by the 70s.

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