Rare, lost footage of 1906 San Francisco earthquake could soon be available on YouTube

FILE--People walk through the rubble following the 1906 earthquake in San Francisco.
FILE--People walk through the rubble following the 1906 earthquake in San Francisco. AP File Photo

Rare, recently found footage from the 1906 earthquake that ravaged San Francisco is being shown to the public for the first time.

Missing for decades, the film (credited to the Miles Brothers, the city's first film company) turned up recently at a flea market, more than 110 years after the disaster. The 7.9-magnitude quake and ensuing fires caused massive damage and as many as 3,000 casualties.

The Miles film was discovered by historian David Silver, purchased by photo collector Jason Wright and digitized by film historian David Kiehn, as NBC Bay Area reports. Kiehn told SFGate this March that the digital restoration took eight months.

Wright gave the images a local premiere of sorts over the weekend.

Saying it was "for the people from San Francisco," Wright granted NBC Bay Area permission to show the video during its Sunday night newscast.

The video was also shown Saturday at the San Francisco Silent Film Festival, of which Byrne is the board president, and on April 14 at the Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum in Fremont.

After giving it exclusive runs at film festivals, Wright plans to post the video online, to his own website and to YouTube, NBC Bay Area reports.

The nine-minute film shows a trip down Market Street near the Ferry Building, with buildings collapsed and a wrecked City Hall. It also shows damaged buildings being dynamited.

Kiehn told SFGate that the Miles brothers shot almost two hours of footage, and the nine-minute segment is the longest chunk that has been discovered. Most of the original reel was destroyed in fires.

The reel sat unnoticed in a film canister for at least decades before Silver discovered it this year.