Rare color photos show 1906 San Francisco quake damage

Sacramento BeeMarch 11, 2011 

The Smithsonian has recently discovered three-dimensional color photographs of the aftermath of the 1906 earthquake that devastated San Francisco.

Experts at the Smithsonian suspect they may be the first color photographs of the quake.

While the find is interesting for San Franciscans, the Sacramento footnote to the discovery is in the lower left-hand corner of one of the startling pictures: a billboard touting Breuner's furniture company.

"Have Breuner's Feather Your Nest" quaintly reads the billboard that looms in the foreground over the destruction. The billboard depicts a turn-of-the-century couple nestled in a finely appointed room perched on a tree limb.

Breuner's was a Sacramento company begun by John Breuner, a gold miner who turned to furniture-making for his fortune. One of the company's outlets was in San Francisco.

When the magnitude 7.8 earthquake struck at 5:12 a.m. on April 18, shaking violently for 40 seconds, damage was widespread: 3,000 people were killed and 225,000 left homeless.

The city was damaged both by the shaking and by the catastrophic fire, triggered by broken gas mains. A U.S. Geological Survey publication notes that the Breuner's building burned.

The six sets of remarkable photos discovered in the Photographic History Collection at the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History are the work of Frederick Eugene Ives. They are believed to have been made several months after the quake struck.

Ives patented his color method in the early 1890s, and it was marketed as the Photochromoscope system. The 3-D photos were called Krömgrams and were enjoyed by looking through a viewer.

Read more of this story at SacBee.com

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