I have always been intrigued by the decades surrounding the turn of the 20th century, and I generally use it for my historical novels. This was a time of such transition. The difference between how people in lived in urban and rural environments was staggering. Towns were being wired for electricity and telephones, the cities were being plumbed for running water and flush toilets. Kitchens could support refrigeration and modern stoves. The city streets were sound enough to support new-fangled automobiles and streetcars, but just a few miles outside town, all these amenities were scarce.
Much like we now struggle to establish proper etiquette for cell phone usage in movie theaters or in business meetings, people at the turn of the century were learning the same thing. The video above is a fascinating example of emerging technologies clashing with the old. These people don’t seem to realize that in the battle between a bicycle and a streetcar, the streetcar always wins! As you watch the video, see how many forms of transportation you can spot. Or how many different uniforms worn by the passers-by. Or watch how people respond to the camera.
Incidentally, this video was shot in San Francisco, just a few weeks before the catastrophic earthquake and fire that caused the death of more than three thousand people and left half the population homeless. When I watch this video, I wonder what happened to all those lively people captured in this brief glimpse into their world.