San Francisco’s first cable car began regular service on this date in 1873. Andrew Smith Hallidie was an English ex-pat who had immigrated to San Francisco during the Gold Rush in the 1850s. On a typically damp, foggy day in 1869, he saw a team of horses struggling to pull a horse-drawn car up a steep, slippery cobblestone street. The horses were being brutally whipped, but to no avail: they lost their footing, fell, and were fatally dragged by the car as it raced down the hill. Hallidie determined to find a better way. His father was an inventor, and held a patent in England for “wire rope” cable. The younger Hallidie was already using the wire rope in the construction of suspension bridges and mine conveyance systems; he figured there must be a way to couple a steam engine and a cable to get a car up San Francisco’s famous hills. He signed a contract to form the Clay Street Hill Railroad, and construction began in May 1873. Three months later, the cable car was operational. Hallidie made his first successful test run from the top of Nob Hill at four a.m. on August 2. The cable car began public service on the first day of September, and it made Hallidie a rich man.
Reposted from W.A.