Haunting film shot days before 1906 San Francisco quake - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

Haunting film shot days before 1906 San Francisco quake

(CBS 8) - A haunting film posted online several months ago is going viral, and it's interesting since it was shot almost 105 years ago.

In one of the first 35mm films ever taken, the city of San Francisco is shown before it was hit by one of the most devastating earthquakes in U.S. history.

The camera, mounted on the front of a cable car, travels down Market Street, showing a bustling downtown San Francisco.

"It's right at that transition stage. We have horses and buggies, that's how most goods were moved around the city. Without lights no stop signs, in many ways you've got depend on the drivers to slow down and get across," SDSU professor John Putman said.

But what makes this film significant is the fact that it was shot just four days before a major earthquake struck the city in 1906. The quake and subsequent fire killed more than 3,000 people and destroyed much of the city. But Putman says it also paved the way for a new beginning.

"Up to this period what you see here is a lack of government. It helped push forward the progressive era," he said.

In recent months, the video has been picking up steam, receiving millions of hits on the internet. As for why the film was shot in the first place, Putman believes it was done to quiet critics.

"There was this kind of sense in the west of inferiority, that somehow there was nothing of worth. There was no civilization out west -- it was called the wild, wooly west. But here was a chance to show that San Francisco was a vibrant, large, well-developed city on par with New York, Philadelphia and others," he said.

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