An ad was run on April 28, 1906, ten days after the quake: "We have the only pictures of any value ever made in San Francisco before the frightful catastrophe," Kiehn read.
"So this strongly suggests that the film was made just before the earthquake?" Safer asked.
"Yeah. Well, it actually spells it out right here. This film was made just one week before the complete destruction of every building shown in the picture," Kiehn said.
New research this summer confirmed that. Kiehn had stripped away the haze of history to show us the real story behind the trip through Market Street: San Francisco closing in on its rendezvous with catastrophe. The odds are that some of the people you see in the film had just days to live.
"When you look at that film, all you can think of is what was about to happen," Safer remarked.
"Yes. When David Kiehn did his research and established that this was made within days before the earthquake, it takes on a power that is almost inconceivable because you can look at the buildings and know with certainty that almost all disappeared. You can look at the people on the street and wonder who survived. You're watching a shade fall down over an era," Rick Laubscher replied.
Among the buildings destroyed by the quake and fire: the offices of the Miles brothers; their film of San Francisco in happier days barely survived.
They had shipped it to New York by train just the night before the quake.
"Knowing that it was our relatives that did that. We were very proud," Scott Miles told Safer.
Miles and his uncle Dwayne are descendants of Earl Miles, the man who supervised the filming.