Great Photo Archive Starts Coming Online

One of San Francisco’s great photographic treasures belongs to Muni! Or more specifically, its parent agency, the SFMTA. It includes wonderful images that actually extend back before Muni opened in 1912: glass plates and negatives from erstwhile competitors United Railroads (URR) and our namesake, Market Street Railway, acquired in the 1944 merger of transit systems in the city.

1906 fire Mentz 280 px.jpg

Through a special grant, SFMTA is finally archiving these images in a program managed by archivist Heather Moran, with lots of guidance and support from MSR member Grant Ute, as part of his San Francisco Railway Archives project. (Grant has been invaluable in helping us prepare shows for our San Francisco Railway Museum and is just wrapping up preparation for a Muni centennial photo book due out this fall, with proceeds benefiting our organization).
The first photos to be put online from the SFMTA archive include a great selection covering the 1906 earthquake and fire, very timely given the 105th anniversary of that temblor and conflagration on Monday. The photos cannot be downloaded, to protect SFMTA’s rights to the images, but they’re great to look at. Most of the earthquake and fire images, including the thumbnail on this post, were shot by United Railroads photographer John Henry Mentz, whom we hope to feature (in an exhibit created by Grant and Heather) at our our museum starting this fall, if details can be worked out with SFMTA. This would be a prelude to our planned Muni Centennial exhibit at the museum next year.