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San Francisco, in Color, in the 1940s

The GLBT Historical Society has a video on YouTube showing nine minutes of San Francisco scenes filmed by “gay filmmaker Harold T. O’Neal.” It opens with great night shots of Chinatown, then skips around the city before settling on a two-minute sequence on Market Street starting around five minutes in. That’s followed by a minute of cable car footage, including rare film of the O’Farrell, Jones & Hyde line, which disappeared in 1954. All well worth a look.

They say the film was made in 1940, and some of the shots seem to date from about that year. However, the navy ships shown, as well as some of the transit scenes, are clearly later than that. Specifically, scenes of old Market Street Railway streetcars on Market painted over to hide their patented “White Fronts”, and Powell Street cable cars in Muni livery, make those scenes no earlier than 1945. So the film is probably a compilation of shots taken at various times. Thanks to the GLBT Historical Society for preserving it, and to one of our readers, Chiu, for pointing it out to us.

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That was really interesting. There were so many streetcars on Market, it’s amazing they weren’t crashing into each other all the time!

Very cool. Video says Cable Cars go 10mph. I thought their speed was 9mph. Did they get slowed down since then?

This is really, really lovely. Thank you so much for sharing. My grandmother grew up here in the 40s and she’ll be so delighted to watch this footage.

looks to me at 7:51 of the video, a cal cable is on the powell line crossing California st… then you see another Cal cable coming to a stop on the California line… Am i seeing things or did this actually happen?

That’s actually the intersection of Hyde and California, where the two lines of the California Street Cable Railroad Company crossed (and where its powerhouse and carbarn was located — now a sparkly new Trader Joe’s). If you look the film just after the eight minute mark, you’ll see an O’Farrell, Jones & Hyde car round the corner from Hyde to Pine, going against one-way traffic! Special signals waved off automobiles when this happened.

The most common number given for cable speed is nine and a half mph, so maybe the filmmaker just rounded up.

I thought pedestrians were crazy circa 2012. The ferry building underpass is very interesting. Did the boarding islands on market get removed in the 40s? I thought I saw some in some 1910-1920s pictures.

Looks like a Key System train on the lower level of the Bay Bridge toward the end of the film. And I love the O’Farrell Jones and Hyde cars. Great find! Thank you for posting this.

Looks like a Key System train on the lower level of the Bay Bridge toward the end of the film. And I love the O’Farrell Jones and Hyde cars. Great find! Thank you for posting this.

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