Smithsonian National Museum of American History Discovers Color Photographs of the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake Aftermath

The Photographic History Collection at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History has recently discovered color, three-dimensional photographs of the aftermath of the 1906 earthquake in San Francisco.

The photographs by Frederick Eugene Ives (1856–1937) were made several months after the quake that struck the city at 5:12 a.m. April 18. These may be the first color photographs of San Francisco and are certainly among the first true color stereo photographs.

The Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History is responsible for the collection, care and preservation of more than 3 million objects. The collections represent the nation’s heritage in the areas of science, technology, sociology and culture. The collections include First Ladies gowns, a Samuel Morse telegraph, locomotives, tools, Dorothy’s ruby slippers, an Alexander Graham Bell telephone, flags, American-made quilts, Muhammad Ali’s boxing gloves, Duke Ellington’s sheet music and presidential artifacts.

The museum reopened to the public in November 2008 after a two-year architectural renovation. The renovation project addressed three specific areas: the building of a new gallery for the Star-Spangled Banner, the flag that inspired the National Anthem; architecture; and infrastructure and public amenities.

Image: 1906 stereo photograph shows part of earthquake-damaged San Francisco. Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History.

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