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Footage of San Francisco After 1906 Quake Found at Flea Market

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The Miles Brothers, Still from 'A Trip Down Market Street,' 1906.  ((Courtesy of Rick Prelinger))

More than a century after San Francisco's deadly 1906 earthquake, a film reel with nine minutes of footage capturing the city two weeks after the devastation surfaced at a flea market and it will soon be shown to the public, according to a newspaper report.

The long-lost find portrays some of the city's post-quake decimation, including City Hall with its dome nearly destroyed, the San Francisco Chronicle said Saturday. Much of the city was flattened and thousands were killed in the so-called "great quake" and ensuing fire on April 18, 1906.

The nitrate film reel discovered at San Francisco's Alemany Flea Market was shot by early filmmakers, the Miles Brothers. The footage is a bookend to their most famous work "A Trip Down Market Street," a 13-minute silent film shot from a cable car days before the earthquake, said film historian David Kiehn.

The new footage captures a similar journey down the city's main thoroughfare, but shows many of the buildings collapsed to the ground. The reel also features a mob of horse wagons and carts, people waiting to get on a ferry to cross San Francisco Bay to Oakland and damaged buildings being blown up with dynamite.


"Miles Brothers footage shot after the earthquake is extremely difficult to find," Kiehn told the Chronicle.

They shot nearly two hours of post-quake film but almost none of it had been known to survive, he said.

Kiehn has spent the past eight months preparing a digital version that will premiere at the Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum in Fremont on April 14, just a few days shy of the quake's anniversary.

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