Lawrence's Kite Photo of Post-Earthquake San Francisco in 1906
|Author:||George R Lawrence|
|Dwnld:||Full Size (11.41mb)|
|Source:||Library of Congress|
|See our Prints Page for more details|
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.