Chinatown Ruins after Earthquake, San Francisco, California, USA, circa 1906. (Universal History Archive/UIG via Getty Images)

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Rare Footage of 1906 San Francisco Earthquake Found at Flea Market

The nine-minute Miles brothers film reel shows the devastation the earthquake caused.

On April 18, 1906, an earthquake leveled much of San Francisco. It was one of the biggest disasters in American history. But it took place before smartphones and even point-and-shoot photography, so the earthquake is not as well documented as it would be today. While historians know that the early movie makers known as the Miles brothers captured some two hours of film footage showing the devastation the quake caused, most of the shooting was lost. But recently a reel of almost nine minutes was discovered at a flea market. The Miles brothers are best known for their 13-minute film titled “A Trip Down Market Street,” which was shot several days before the earthquake from a cable car. It shows bustling scenes of buildings, crowds, early cars and horse-drawn buggies, reports Smithsonian Magazine. But this new footage is grim in comparison, and shows the devastation caused by the earthquake, including a shot of collapsed city hall. The film was first spotted by photography collector David Silver. It was being sold from the trunk of a car at a flea market. He posted about it on Facebook, and historian Jason Wright heard about the footage and later acquired it from Silver. The 1906 earthquake took out 28,000 buildings, killed 3,000 people and left 250,000 of the city’s 400,000 residents homeless. It caused $500 million in damages. Check out the footage from the Miles brothers below.

Read the full story at Smithsonian Magazine