Old Images of San Francisco, California

Old photo of Montgomery Street, San Francisco, California, taken in 1866.

Glimpse history through old images of San Francisco, California, in the USA.

Old Picture of San Francisco

Old Photos of San Francisco

1906: Earthquake

Silent, black and white footage shows the utter devastation in the wake of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake.

Entire streets lay in ruins, as firefighters battle to get multiple large fires under control.

Then the camera moves to streets where homes are still standing, but with many buildings showing visible damage. Horses and carts are the only traffic.

The many people on the streets include the ladies in their long skirts and bonnets. Presumably everyone has come to see the eipcentre of the damage.

The extent of the damage is breathtaking.

San Francisco Earthquake (1906) – British Pathe on YouTube

1909: US Sailors Parade

In 1909, the city welcomed home the US Sailors who had been on service in Europe during the Great War, later known as World War I. Crowds of people came to watch the parade of sailors, captured on this silent, black and white footage which also shows some of the nearby buildings in the backdrop.

1937: Golden Gate Bridge

After five years of work, the Golden Gate Bridge was now complete. Glimpses of the opening ceremony, and the celebratory motorcades across the bridge, are shown in this short newsreel.

Golden Gate Bridge Open (1937) – British Pathe on YouTube

1954: Cable Cars Threatened

In 1954, there was a proposal to replace the city’s fanous cable cars with a modern bus service. At this point, the cable cars had been in service for 81 years.

Despite their small size, each cable car could carry 120 passengers.

The reaction was strong and immediate, with a Save the Cable Cars committee springing into action. Petition desks were set up at the turnaround points, where passengers could collect petition sheets to gather signatures from their friends and family members.

San Francisco Cable Cars Threatened (1954) – British Pathe on YouTube

1957: Earthquake

In 1957, San Francisco was rocked by an earthquake, the strongest since the 1906 calamity.

Luckily, no one died. But there were a few fires to put out, thousands of shattered windows, and lots of damage to clear up in both homes and workplaces.

The short newsreel shows lots of different locations.

Earthquake Shakes San Francisco (1957) – British Pathe on YouTube

1960: Main Attractions

A short collection of silent, color footage from 1960 shows a number of the main attractions that the city is famous for.

Includes many streets, businesses, activities, and people.

Visit To San Francisco – Colour (1960) – British Pathe on YouTube

1962: Snow

A newsreel shows local children enjoying the unusual snowfall.

Three inches of school blocked highways and closed schools.

San Francisco Snow Fall (1962) – British Pathe on YouTube

1963: Population Explosion

By the early 1960s, the city was growing fast. California had just become the most populous state in the union, with many people drawn particularly to Los Angeles or San Francisco.

The cable cars, Chinatown, and Fisherman’s Wharf had people protecting them, trying to preserve the historic elements of the city.

In 1963, a masterplan was being put into action. Part of this involved replacing the Wholesale Produce Market area with a modern complex of apartment blocks and office buildings.

Under the urban renewal plan, substandard dwellings were to be replaced by modern houses and business centres. You’ll see on the film some of the historic buildings about the disappear forever – they would have been in great demand today.

Not only was the urban renewal plan going to cost many millions of dollars, but there was an issue about what to do with the large number of people being removed from their low cost homes, and the impact on local services and open spaces.

This is a little gem to watch. Just a minute and a half long, it packs in a wide array of locations, businesses, homes, transport, and people.

Changing Face Of San Francisco (1963) – British Pathe on YouTube

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