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Earliest Known Color Photographs of San Francisco After the 1906 Earthquake

The California earthquake of April 18, 1906 ranks as one of the most significant earthquakes of all time. Today, its importance comes more from the wealth of scientific knowledge derived from it than from its sheer size. Rupturing the northernmost 296 miles (477 kilometers) of the San Andreas fault from northwest of San Juan Bautista to the triple junction at Cape Mendocino, the earthquake confounded contemporary geologists with its large, horizontal displacements and great rupture length.

These six rarely-seen images were snapped by photography innovator Frederick Eugene Ives several months after the April 1906 "Great Quake". Most were taken from the roof of the hotel where Ives stayed during an October 1906 visit. Using the photochromoscope, a very early color and 3D camera, Ives captured these images, which is believed to be the first -- and perhaps only -- color photographs of San Francisco after the 1906 earthquake.

The photographs were stowed amid other items donated by Ives' son, Herbert, and discovered in 2009 by National Museum of American History volunteer Anthony Brooks while he was cataloguing the collection. Although hand-colored photographs of the quake's destruction have surfaced before, Ives' work is probably the only true color documentary evidence.

Street-level view of earthquake-damaged San Francisco near City Hall, looking North East. October 1906. (Courtesy of the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History)

Rooftop-view of earthquake-damaged San Francisco - Sutter St. looking east from the top of Majestic Hall. October 1906. (Courtesy of the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History)

Street-level view of earthquake-damaged San Francisco, showing the Flood Building on Market Street. October 1906. (Courtesy of the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History)

Van Ness Ave. City Hall R. - Rooftop-view of earthquake-damaged San Francisco. October 1906. (Courtesy of the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History)



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Earliest Known Color Photographs of San Francisco After the 1906 Earthquake

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