Kite Photo of Post-Quake San Francisco (1906)

Photograph of San Francisco in ruins from Lawrence Captive Airship, 2000 feet above San Francisco Bay

Lawrence's Kite Photo of Post-Earthquake San Francisco in 1906
Lawrence's Kite Photo of Post-Earthquake San Francisco in 1906 image detail
Date: 1906
Author: George R Lawrence
Dwnld: Full Size (11.41mb)
Source: Library of Congress
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This map isn't part of any series, but we have other maps of San Francisco that you might want to check out.

To commemorate the 106th anniversary of the San Francisco earthquake of 1906, here's a famous aerial photograph of the destruction it visited on the city.

This isn't a map, of course, but it shares its perspective with many of the birdseye maps on this site, and it illustrates an important jump in available technology that answers a common question that readers ask about them.

One reason that this photograph by George Lawrence has been remembered for so long, is because it was demoing a pretty cutting-edge photographic technique.

The image was taken from a kite flying 2000 feet (600 m) over the San Francisco Bay. If you're not impressed by that, I encourage you to try to fly a 49 lb (22 kg) early-20th Century camera 2000 feet and then keep it steady enough to take a picture.

So... by way of answering the questions about wether or not the earlier Victorian-era birdseye artists worked from photographs; I'm going to say "no". There are a few instances in the Mountain West where I'm quite sure they did part of their work from the side of a nearby mountain (in some cases, you can even deduce the specific mountain), but for the most part these guys were applying street-level physical and photographic survey to a projected and skewed town plan. I'm almost sure of it.

For more map resources and imagery from this period in San Francisco's history, check out the California Historical Society's website.



Photograph of San Francisco in ruins from Lawrence Captive Airship, 2000 feet above San Francisco Bay  wide thumbnail image