The SF Earthquake of 1906 in Color (?!)

Here’s something to try to get your head around… the 1906 San Francisco earthquake in color.

Carl Nolte’s story in the San Francisco Chronicle talked about how the Smithsonian Institution has discovered rare color photographs of the ruins of San Francisco from the 1906 earthquake.  Taken by photography pioneer Frederick Ives, these pictures appear to be the earliest color photographs of San Francisco ever taken.  The one shown here is part of a set of six taken in the months after the earthquake.
The photos give an insight into what the city looked like 105 years ago… the way people saw it back then.  The Smithsonian believes Ives’ pictures are the first – and perhaps only – true color photographs of the wreckage ever made. They have never been published before.

Frederic Eugene Ives, a pioneer of color and stereoscopic photography,  invented the “halftone” process, which is still used today to reproduce photographs on a printing press (newspapers and magazines).   He also developed a process using mirrors and filters to create separate slides for each primary color of light.  Ives demonstrated a system of natural color photography at the 1885 Novelties Exposition of the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia.


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  1. […] story of an eye witness: Jack London, a San Francisco writer, wrote about the 1906 earthquake that almost destroyed the city by the […]

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