San Francisco Earthquake and Fire Photographs by the Miles Brothers, 1906

Processed by Terry Boom and The Bancroft Library staff.
The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley
Berkeley, California 94720-6000

San Francisco Earthquake and Fire Photographs by the Miles Brothers, 1906

Collection number: BANC PIC 19xx.181--PIC

The Bancroft Library

University of California

Berkeley, California 1996
Finding aid and digital representations of archival materials funded in part by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities.
    Processed and encoded by:
    California Heritage Digital Image Access Project staff in The Bancroft Library and The Library's Electronic Text Unit
    Digital images processed by:
    The Library Photographic Service
    Finding aid completed:
    September 1995
© 1996 The Regents of the University of California

Collection Summary

Collection Title: San Francisco Earthquake and Fire Photographs by the Miles Brothers,
Date: 1906
Collection Number: BANC PIC 19xx.181--PIC
Extent: 43 glass plate negatives 35 digital objects
Origination: Miles Brothers
Repository: The Bancroft Library. University of California, Berkeley.
Berkeley, California 94720-6000
Languages Represented: English

Information for Researchers


Original glass plate negatives restricted. Use viewing prints with call no. BANC PIC 19xx.181--PIC.

Publication Rights

Copyright has not been assigned to The Bancroft Library. All requests for permission to publish photographs must be submitted in writing to the Curator of Pictorial Collections. Permission for publication is given on behalf of The Bancroft Library as the owner of the physical items and is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which must also be obtained by the reader.
Copyright restrictions also apply to digital representations of the original materials. Use of digital files is restricted to research and educational purposes.

Preferred Citation

[Identification of item], San Francisco Earthquake and Fire Photographs by the Miles Brothers, BANC PIC 19xx.181--PIC, The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley.

Digital Representations Available

Digital representations of selected original pictorial materials are available in the list of materials below. Digital image files were prepared from selected Library originals by the Library Photographic Service. Library originals were copied onto 35mm color transparency film; the film was scanned and transferred to Kodak Photo CD (by Custom Process); and the Photo CD files were color-corrected and saved in JFIF (JPEG) format for use as viewing files.

Administrative Information

Acquisition Information


Organization History

The Miles brothers (Harry, Herbert, and Earl C.) were film exhibitors who established the first motion picture exchange in the United States in San Francisco in 1902. Prior to this they and other exhibitors had to purchase movies directly from the makers. Brother Harry came up with the idea of renting films to exhibitors, an idea that forever changed the growing industry.
Under the Miles Brothers Motion Picture Company, the brothers produced "actualities," filmed records of local views and current events. They were also active in foreign film distribution and the development of early storefront theaters (nickelodeons). In 1906, they constructed an elaborate studio in San Francisco with the intention of making narrative films. Had the earthquake and fire not destroyed their facility (before a single film was produced), they might have become major producers. They continued to make actualities through 1907, establishing a reputation for filming important boxing matches. The exchange was still in business as of 1915 on Mission Street in San Francisco, as noted in “Miles Brothers, Pioneers” ( The Moving Picture World, July 10, 1915, p. 248).
Souces: Bell, Geoffrey. The Golden Gate and the Silver Screen. Rutherford, Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 1984. p. 100-104. Musser, Charles. The Emergence of Cinema: The American Screen to 1907. New York, Charles Scribner's, 1990. p. 484.

Scope and Content

The collection consists of 43 glass plate negatives from which copy prints have been made. The photographs are primarily of street scenes and buildings damaged or destroyed by the 1906 earthquake and fire. Also included are two shots of the Miles brothers, two of boxer Jim Jeffries, and a few unidentified photos. Most of the photographs bear the company's name and a photograph number. The original glass plates are not available for use.
Sources: Bell, Geoffrey. The Golden Gate and the Silver Screen. Rutherford, Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 1984. p. 100-104
Musser, Charles. The Emergence of Cinema: the American Screen to 1907 . New York, Charles Scribner's, 1990. p. 484

Container List


1 Girls' High School



2 St. Dominic's Church before steeple fell



3 St. Dominic's Church



4 St. Dominic's Church



5 Olsen Family in Jefferson Park



6 Band Stand in Golden Gate Park



7 Southern Pacific Information and Register Tent



8 Museum in Golden Gate Park



9 Wrecked house



10 Steam Wrecker on Van Ness Avenue



11 Novelty Theater on Powell St.



12 Bread line



13 Group of wrecked houses, 17th and Howard Streets



14 Wrecked house, Scott near Post St.



15 Post Office Building, 7th and Mission Streets



16 Lick Baths, 11th near Howard St.



17 Safes on Sutter St.



18 Book stores on Geary St.



19 Book stores on Geary St. (copy 2)



20 Claus Spreckels' Mansion



21 Panorama, Grant Building



22 Panorama, Grant Building



23 Church on Van Ness Ave.



24 Hall of Justice



25 Chinatown from California and Mason Streets



26 Broken sidewalk on Howard St.



27 Cracks on Howard St.



28 Jefferson Park, "The Whole Dam Family"



29 Lake County Springs Wagon (copy 2)



30 Ruined building



31 View from Ferry Building



32 Men and women posed in front of ruins


33 Miles Bros. lab after fire


34 Horse and buggy with men and woman in front of ruins


35 Ocean Shore Railway


36 Balloon disaster of the 80's


37 Jim Jeffries refereeing fight


38 Jim Jeffries at Colma


39 The Miles brothers: pictured on platform above crowd (Herbert, left)


40 The Miles brothers: pictured in front of their motion picture exchange (Herbert, left)


41 Man with clenched fist posed in front of house


42 Four men in automobile


43 New York: photographic copy of a 1911 lithograph by Richard Rummell