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7.1.8 Market Street Cable Railway, San Francisco

View of cable car junction on Haight Street. A large crowd of women and men looks on as one cable car rotates around on a turntable. Other cars are seen arriving and departing along parallel sets of rails. Shopfronts and buildings line the street.
circa 1890s
Photographic Print

"Market Street Cable Railway, San Francisco, circa 1890s." Photograph. California Historical Society, San Francisco Subjects Photography Collection, PC--SF--Streets-Haight Street.

Andrew Smith Hallidie became interested in engineering as a child in London. He traveled to San Francisco as a teenager with his father during the Gold Rush and stayed to try his hand at mining. He eventually found success building bridges and doing other construction and engineering work. Experienced miners from Chile and other places brought the technology of mining with them to California. Hallidie saw those technologies and invented improvements. He saw that the hemp rope miners used to slide ore containers on aerial tramways across canyons often broke. He was inspired to invent rope made of wire that would not break as easily. In 1873, he used the wire rope to create cable cars in San Francisco. At sites of encounter, like San Francisco in the Gold Rush era, the encounters between people of different cultures create a synthesis that can lead to new technology and new products. Hallidie’s cable cars spread to large cities across the country, including New York, Philadelphia, and Los Angeles. Whether you live in San Francisco or just visit Fog City, you can still ride the cable cars up the steep hills today! Vocabulary induced: caused, led to obviating: getting rid of, solving matured my plans: started making his design into a real project

Andrew Smith Hallidie traveled to California from London in 1852 as a teenager and started working as a gold miner, taking on many other jobs, such as blacksmithing; surveying water ditches, roads, and trails; and building bridges. He moved to San Francisco in 1857 and successfully built a career as an engineer designing suspension bridges. Among his early important inventions was the wire rope that improved workers’ abilities to transport heavy loads. Living in San Francisco, Hallidie saw an issue with transportation in the hilly city, and he worked into the 1870s to invent the cable car, which used underground cables to power the tram. The world’s first commercial cable car ran on August 1, 1873. The cable car was a huge success in San Francisco and was used across the country as a means of public transit into the 1900s. The invention of wire rope and its application to cable cars is an example of the new technologies that emerge at sites of encounter from the synthesis of different cultures. Chileans and other foreign miners brought in knowledge of the early techniques of mining, and Hallidie used his engineering background to devise an improvement.

Artotype Britton & Rey, S.F.
Inst. Photo. A. P. Flaglor, S.

Market Street Cable Railway, San Francisco.

View of Haight Street Branch Line, at its terminus at Golden Gate Park, showing cars arriving, turning on turn-table and departing and the adaptability of combination cars for rapidly and safely handling large numbers of people.