Panoramic Photographs

Selected Panoramic Photographs

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Some of these accounts were drawn from newspaper articles from the time period of the event.

The San Francisco Earthquake from above, 1906

Bird's-eye view of ruins from the San Francisco earthquake
descriptive record icon enlarge image icon   Bird's-eye view of ruins of San Francisco from Captive Airship, 600 feet above Folsom Street between Fifth and Sixth Sts., May 5, 1906
Geo. R. Lawrence Company
gelatin silver print; 20 x 47 in.
LOT 5785, no. 9 (OSF) P&P

The San Francisco earthquake occurred on April 18, 1906, at 5:13 A.M. It was followed by the largest fire to date in the nation's history, as gas lines ruptured, power lines fell, and chimneys collapsed. The fire was extinguished three days later, after it destroyed four square miles of the city and left nearly 3,400 people dead.

This panorama was taken almost three weeks after the earthquake, by George Lawrence of Chicago. Lawrence built his own large-format cameras and specialized in aerial photography. His earlier aerial photographs were taken from hydrogen balloons, but after a few life-threatening accidents, he began to use unmanned kites, which he named "captive airships," to obtain aerial views. The camera's shutter was tripped by an electrical current carried by an insulated wire that had been incorporated into a steel kite line. The photograph shows details such as tents that served as temporary offices, people, horse-drawn wagons, and even a streetcar.


The San Francisco Earthquake, from Nob Hill, 1906

Panoramic view from Nob Hill of the ruins from the San Francisco earthquake
descriptive record icon enlarge image icon  Ruins of San Francisco, Cal.; c1906
William Graham
gelatin silver print; 7.5 x 36 in.
PAN US GEOG - California, no. 240 (E size) P&P

This photograph was taken from Nob Hill, two blocks south of the Fairmount Hotel. Most of the soundly constructed buildings in the affluent Nob Hill area sustained little damage from the earthquake, but none escaped the fire as it swept up the hill the next day. Many of the city blocks visible in this image were dynamited by the War Department to create a fire barrier to slow the advance of the flames, but few attempts succeeded.

This view looks down Powell Street toward Market Street. Several hotels under construction can be seen on either side of Powell Street. The ruins of the Emanuel Synagogue are in the center. Ships were scratched into the negative by hand, perhaps to show the location of the bay more clearly. The outlines of buildings and background landmarks were highlighted on the negative to add clarity to the print.


Cyclone in Baytown, Texas, 1919

Panoramic view of the oil fields in Baytown, Texas, after a cyclone
descriptive record icon enlarge image icon   The Goose Creek Oil Field after the cyclone hit it, 5/24/19
Frank G. Allen
gelatin silver print; 9.5 x 71 in.
PAN US GEOG - Texas, no. 1 (F size) P&P

When a cyclone storm hit Baytown, Texas, on May 24, 1919, the Goose Creek Oil Field suffered tremendous property damage. According to some accounts, the relatively mild 39-mile-per-hour winds destroyed more than 1,450 oil derricks. Although many people were injured, only one was killed. Goose Creek residents did not allow the storm to prevent them from voting in the local election; the polls remained open that day.


Storm in Corpus Christi, Texas, 1919

Panoramic view of the destruction from a tropical storm in Corpus Christi, Texas
descriptive record icon enlarge image icon   Corpus Christi, Texas, after storm, Sept. 14th, 1919
C. W. Henningsen
gelatin silver print; 9 x 66.5 in.
PAN US GEOG - Texas, no. 2 (F size) P&P

In early September, 1919, a tropical storm formed over the north Atlantic Ocean, swept its destructive force across the Caribbean Islands of Haiti, the Dominican Republic, and the Bahamas, and slammed into the coast of Texas, just south of Corpus Christi. The hurricane, known later as the "Corpus Christi Storm," clocked 72 miles per hour and covered major parts of the city with a 10-foot tidal wave. The bodies of hundreds of people, as well as the bodies of cattle (from nearby Mustang Island), floated into the city and points north, resulting in severe sanitation problems. According to early accounts, more than half of the bodies found were buried without identification. An estimated 2,287 people were killed, and property damage was extensive.

Especially hard hit was the North Beach section depicted in this panorama. The men posing for this photograph may be hauling away lumber from a destroyed lumberyard.