Advent of the Cable-Car System in San Francisco – Andrew Smith Hallidie – The Story of the Cable Cars – Part 4
The advent of the cable-car system in San Francisco will always revolve around the name of Andrew Smith Hallidie who contributed significantly to its birth and development, although he should not be regarded as the only one who did so.
Born in London of Scotch parentage in 1936, Hallidie was given the name of his father, Andrew Smith, to which he later appended “Hallidie,” the surname of his uncle and godfather who at one time was a royal physician.
Following in the footsteps of his inventive father, he worked in his brother’s machine shop in London, acquiring skills and experience that were to serve him well in far-off California, and especially in San Francisco.
He also continued engineering studies at night and, when too much activity and concentration brought about a state of impaired health, following his mother’s death, he and his father decided to move to California, where the father had an interest in some gold mines in Mariposa County.
Father and son arrived in San Francisco May 4, 1852, on the S.S. Brutus from Panama. During his first five years in California young Hallidie wandered to various mining camps and towns where four times he had lost his life in various accidents.
At the age of nineteen, a change came when he designed and built a 200-foot wire suspension bridge and aqueduct across the middle fork of the American River.
His father was one of the inventors of wire rope and, in June 1856, the son drew on his father’s expertise to construct a wire rope-making machine, the product of which was used to pull mine cars up a truck.
This was the first wire rope made on the Pacific Coast, a significant breakthrough that would have bearing on San Francisco’s future Cable cars.
The next wear, 1857, Hallidie celebrated his coming of age by moving to San Francisco where he transported his wire-making plant. Under the name of A. S. Hallidie & Co., he commenced the manufacture of wire rope in a building at Mason and Chestnut Streets, using the machinery from American Bar.