Smithsonian Finds 1906 Quake Color Photos

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1906 San Francisco by Frederick Ives Smithsonian Finds 1906 Quake Color Photos

All of us at Blurb are sending good thoughts to Japan after the country’s devastating earthquake. We’ve all seen the photos and the videos, and as San Franciscans (home of Blurb HQ), it brings to mind our city’s own devastation by earthquakes past.

Check out these color photos of the wreckage that followed the 1906 San Francisco earthquake. Recently discovered in a box of colored glass slides donated to the Smithsonian Museum by the photographer’s son, they are the only known color photographs from this time.

The slides were originally to be viewed 3D in a viewing device called a Kromgram. Although Frederick Ives, the photographer, shot many photographs for the Kromgram, the device never took off. It could be because it sold for $50 at the time (the equivalent of $1,000 today) or it might be that the whole process was too cumbersome (and as you can see below, the viewing device itself was definitely on the hefty side!).

3 D viewing device for 1906 photos Smithsonian Finds 1906 Quake Color Photos

Nonetheless, Ives’s photographic legacy lives on. In 1881, he invented the halftone process and it’s still in use for magazine and newspaper image processing. Also, as you can see, his 1906 San Francisco photographs have taken on a new life – and new meaning – in these shaky times.

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