History in Motion

Under the Loupe: A Special Toy

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Thursday, January 7, 2016

At the SFMTA Photo Archive, we spend some long days cataloging photos and scanning them with our loupes (a specialized magnifying glass). During these quiet hours, we come across some really great nuggets tucked away in the backgrounds and corners of the frames. These rediscovered glimpses of candid moments and minutia frozen in time by the camera decades ago sometimes reveal more about the past than the subject being photographed. This week, we bring you an extra adorable detail view from this rather pedestrian looking shot taken on Sacramento Street in 1913.

View West on Sacramento Street between Steiner and Pierce Streets from center of road showing streetcar tracks, victorian houses, overhead wires, and an old car in the distance.  Taken February 3, 1913

Sacramento Street Between Pierce and Steiner Streets | February 3, 1913

Highlighted in the yellow box middle frame right, our eagle-eyed archivist spotted this little tyke, sitting atop a wall with a very special toy.

Detail view from Sacramento Street photo showing small boy sitting atop a low retaining wall wearing a floppy hat, overcoat and playing with a model streetcar toy.  February 3, 1913

Boy With Streetcar Toy on Sacramento Street Between Pierce and Steiner Streets | February 3, 1913

Not only is this little guy looking directly at the photographer (probably wondering what this strange man with a large, complicated contraption was doing standing in the middle of the street) but he also appears to be playing with a model streetcar or cable car!

Perhaps this burgeoning rail fan (or future motorman) loved to sit and watch the streetcars rolling by on the now defunct 23 Fillmore-Valencia line so much that his parents decided to get him a pint-sized car of his own. Whatever the story, we just couldn't pass up sharing this one.

For more photos from San Francisco's past, follow us on Flickr, Twitter, HistoryPin, and Instagram and check out the SFMTA Photo Archive website.