The Original Dashcam Video? “A Trip Down Market Street” 110 Years Later
In 1906 the four Miles Brothers of San Francisco produced a 13-minute film by mounting a camera on a cable car from 8th Street to the San Francisco Ferry Building. The film is an amazing piece in film archive history and has a lot to say about life at the time. And it also serves as an eerie historical place marker. But we’ll get to that later.
Another piece of its significance is that it serves as the original dashcam video. At least in the modern sense. Your reasons for using a dashcam may vary but this is essentially what a dashcam is. Mounting a camera on transportation and documenting the voyage.
A few takeaways from the film:The Streets Were a Free-For-All
Notice there was essentially zero traffic rules in the middle of San Francisco at the time. In fact, the street is dominated more by the pedestrians than anything else. Also, as we now know, this wasn’t an accurate depiction of automobile traffic at the time. Automobiles were still rare in 1906 and if you look closely some of the cars are the same ones driving in circles. This was done to give San Francisco a more lively and modern look.
It took a long time to actually nail down when this was.
As shown in detail in this 60 Minutes story from years ago, for a long time we thought the film was actually shot in 1905. Research has shown, largely from the rain puddles seen in the film, that it actually took place in April 1906. And this is historically significant because…
This took place days before The Great 1906 San Francisco Earthquake.
As much as we can gather about life at the time of this film, it makes greater impact knowing now that many people depicted here are in their final days. The quake and the resulting fires killed many and essentially destroyed the city you see here.
Thus 2016 marks 110 years of us documenting our voyages via cameras. The technology constantly changes but the uncertainty of life remains the same.
-Michael Mason is the Owner and Executive Producer of Perfect Chaos Films, a video production company in Austin, TX.