“A Trip Down Market Street” – an eight-minute-long short film taken on Market Street in San Francisco –  has been viewed millions of times. This slice-of-life short film was thought for years to have been taken in September of 1905. But film historian David Kiehn, who oversees the Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum in Fremont, did some good old-fashioned research. He has determined that the film was probably taken just a week before the catastrophic earthquake and fire in April 1906 changed the city forever. 

One of the big clues were the license plates on the vehicles in the film – a photo-dating strategy practiced by genealogists. 

The film was a valuable piece of social history before this discovery and now, knowing that many of people and buildings captured in the film were gone a week later, it has a special poignancy.

If you missed this story on Sixty Minutes,” you can watch it here.