Tuesday, February 9, 2016

A Streetcar Named the Past

About five years ago, a video (no, actually, a film) went, as we say today, viral.  It was a film taken from the front of a San Francisco, California, street car in 1906 - days before an earthquake destroyed much of the city.

It is so mesmerizing, watching this video.  This was a time when automobiles were replacing horses as the main method of travel, and was filmed before the traffic light is invented.  People and vehicles scurry everywhere, and, miraculously, no one is hit or killed.

What is sobering is realizing that many of the people in this film may have been injured or killed mere days/weeks after it was taken.  In fact, there is a "side by side" film on You Tube that shows this film on the left, and newsreel film taken not long after the earthquake, so you can see the devastation.

It is probably true that everyone in the film has since died.  It was made nearly 100 years ago, after all.

We should not be surprised, however to discover that there are other "streetcar" films made from about this time.
The link above takes you to a 1906 film made in Boston, Massachusetts.

There is even (poor quality) a 1903 film taken from a streetcar in Boston.  
But look at the crowded, narrow sidewalks of Boston - some things never change.
There is even a film from an unfamiliar (I grew up there) New York City.

What a difference 100 years makes.

These make me think of my spouse's aunt, who is 104 - she was only born about six years after some of these films were made.  She grew up in this world, although, by then, the transition from horses to internal combustion engines may have been more complete.

How different do we think the world will be for our children or grandchildren?


  1. Unfortunately, some people still drive all over the road, switching lanes and ignoring red lights. Scares the crap out of me. I still remember riding the Detroit streetcars. Who knows what we will have 50 years from now.

  2. And it happens all the time. It's weird to go back to the city I grew up in and see various places that have been torn down and replaced with other things. Like Disneyland. They completely remade the streets around it. Sometimes it's hard to remember what used to be there.

  3. Time and technology fly past at an amazing and sometimes alarmingly fast pace! The old video was amazing, horse carts, trams...unimaginable! Maybe our kids will have choppers to take them to work, parked atop the buildings they live?!

  4. You have got such a food for thought there. Actually it is about what is today, won't be tomorrow. Things change, cities change and people change.


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