Historic photos of San Francisco taken before the great 1906 earthquake have been found in Scandinavia.
The photographs of the City by the Bay were taken by Isaiah West Taber and purchased by a family of Swedes who had sailed across the Atlantic Ocean to visit the United States for a vacation.
Taber, who was born in Massachusetts came to California in 1850 in search of gold but made his livihood selling silver.
The Palace Hotel, San Francisco shown its original form 128 years ago. It was completely destroyed by a fire in the 1906 earthquake which completely eradicated 80 per cent of the city’s buildings. The modern day incarnation is still called the Palace Hotel and charges over $200 per night for a room
A view of San Francisco bay towards the place where the Golden Gate Bridge would eventually be constructed in the 1930s. Before the bridge was built, the only practical short route between San Francisco and what is now Marin County was by boat across a section of San Francisco Bay. A view of the same section of water taken in 2018 shows the bridge spanning the enormous 2-mile gap between Marin County and San Francisco. At the time of its opening in 1937 the bridge held the record of being both the tallest and longest bridge in the world
The original Bank of California building in the city’s downtown area pictured in 1890. The current incarnation was rebuilt in 1908 after the devastating earthquake. The Bank of California was opened in San Francisco, California, on July 4, 1864, by William Chapman Ralston. It was the first commercial bank in the Western United States
Golden Gate Park, circa 1890. The park drew its name from nearby Golden Gate Strait
He had an eye for detail and began taking photographs and collecting glass negatives which he printed upon silver albumen and sold to tourists and collectors.
When the earthquake struck in 1906, Taber who was 76 at the time, lost almost all of his collection of photos in the fire that followed.
It would have been a devastating blow to the budding photographer who had managed to capture images of San Francisco of which many of the landmarks were destroyed during the quake.
Little did he know, the Swedish family who had visited him 10 years earlier, had kept a selection of the pictures safe and sound in Sweden.
The surf at Fort Point, Golden Gate slightly east of where the Golden Gate Bridge was eventually built. Fort Point is a defensive position which was completed just before the American Civil War by the United States Army, to defend San Francisco Bay against hostile warships. Fort point today offers unparalleled views over San Francisco Bay and is a popular spot for many people to go fishing. The jutting rocks of the coastline also produce large waves which in the winter months are favored by the regions numerous surfing fanatics
James C Flood’s residence, Linden Towers, at Menlo Park, California. The building was built by silver magnate James Flood during the 1870s and was almost seven stories tall containing 43 rooms. It was said to be the largest house west of the Rocky Mountains and among the most regal private abodes in all America. The house was slowly demolished after falling into disrepair having changed hands several times after Flood’s death and the 600-acre estate was slowly broken up and used to build modern housing. The estate’s original red brick wall is still present from its boundary in Menlo Park and runs nearly a mile-long
The Crocker House on Nob Hill, circa 1890. The ‘Big Four’ mansion belonged to Charles and Mary Crocker and was destroyed in the 1906 earthquake and fire. Instead of rebuilding, the Crockers donated their Nob Hill block to Bishop William Nichols, who built Grace Cathedral on the land
Inside San Francisco’s Palace Hotel, circa 1890. The Palace Hotel was destroyed in the 1906 fire and later rebuilt
The family purchased at least 31 images as part of a memento of their vacation to the west coast.
Sixteen depict landmarks, 15 show the sea and the bay, including the strip of the San Francisco Bay across which the Golden Gate Bridge would be built four decades later according to SFGate. Other snaps show the city’s civic buildings, expansive villas and luxurious hotels.
Large swathes of San Francisco were destroyed in the earthquake and fire so the pictures give a fascinating insight into how the city looked before that major disaster.
When the original family of Swedes returned to their homeland, they took the pictures with them and they remained in the country for more than a century until their descendants sold them to a Swedish collector, who then sold them to New York auction house Bonhams.
The photos will soon be returning to the Bay area once again after a collector from Marin County purchased the collection on Tuesday for $1,100.
San Francisco was founded on June 29, 1776 by colonists from Spain. The California Gold Rush of 1849 brought rapid growth as treasure seekers flocked to the area in search of a fortune. Silver discoveries further drove a surge in the population.
Three-quarters of San Francisco was destroyed by the 1906 earthquake and fire, but the city was quickly rebuilt.
After the Second World War, San Francisco became the centre of the ‘hippy’ counterculture and liberal activism in the United States.
The Court House, San Francisco around 1890. The old court house was tacked onto the end of San Francisco’s City Hall. City hall’s collapse during the 1906 earthquake and fire storm was attributed to shoddy construction, rooted in political corruption and cost-cutting measures. The current site is home to a Hilton Hotel which sits in between some of San Francisco’s tallest skyscrapers. Many of the buildings surrounding the old court house were completely destroyed by fire after the devastating earthquake of 1906 and the area was mostly cleared and rebuilt from the ground up
A steam boat billowing out grey smoke from the coal furnace as it paddles through the water of the San Francisco Bay. The ferry system was crucial in the city’s early years for getting supplies across the bay towards outlying settlements. The construction of the Golden Gate Bridge in 1937 reduced the need for slow and expensive ferry travel
The view South West from the roof of the Nadeau Hotel in Los Angeles. The hotel, now demolished, was a focal point of the downtown neighbourhood. Remi Nadeau opened the hotel in 1882 with a grand ball attended by the Southland’s elite. He bought the site in 1872 for the ‘un-heard’ of sum of $20,000. The Nadeau boasted of the first electric elevator to be installed in Los Angeles.
A photograph of the Mark Hopkins Mansion, circa 1890. Hopkins was one of the ‘Big Four’ of San Francisco and a founder of the Central Pacific Railroad. Hopkins died before the mansion was completed. It was destroyed in the 1906 fire