With this significant beginning of the Cable Cars on Saturday, August 2, 11873, in San Francisco, the United States entered upon the age of the Cable Car.
As the idea developed, it spread to other cities in California (Oakland, Los Angeles), and eventually, to the entire country – Kansas City, Chicago, St. Louis, Philadelphia, and New York. Other lines augmented the original operation, and London and Sydney, Australia, joined the list of the cities with cable operations.
With regard to the subsequent events connected with the saga of the cable cars in the city, it should be noted that its immediate success caused much activity in San Francisco. Such tycoons as Leland Stanford and Mark Hopkins were led to establish their own cable-car operations after obtaining the necessary franchises from city government.
By 1890, the city’s population of about 300,000 was served by eight cable car companies which ore prated six hundred cars over one hundred miles of single cable track and employed 1,500 men. Additionally, there were still some twenty five miles of horse car lines as well as two steam lines, on either side of Golden Gate Park, which carried passengers to Ocean Beach.
Between 1891 and 1894, the eight lines mentioned above were merged into the Market Street Railway Company; however, several other operations such as the California Street Railroad, the Presidio and Ferries Railroad, Sutter Street Railroad, and the Geary Street, Park, and Ocean Railroad, the proliferation of these successful enterprises served, among other things, to change the population trend to the south of Market area, for it was now possible to ascend the heights of Nob and other hills with comfort and safety,
The cable car then, may claim credit for the building of many homes in the northeast area of the city as well as in some of the valleys beyond.
This was referred to by the then Chief Justice Earl Warren when, on October 1, 1964, he was the principal speaker at a ceremony marking the inclusion of he San Francisco Cable Car System among the national historical landmarks.
In this ceremony, which took place at Victorian Plaza, hayed and Beach streets, the Chief Justice remarked:
This occasion is of great significance to the citizens of San Francisco but it is also one which will attract the attention of people who hear about it all over the world. There is an affection for San Francisco’s cable cars in many lands. Hey are truly world-renowned.
My appreciation of these cable cars is based upon a host of memories. When I was a freshman student at the University of California I first rode the cable cars on the San Francisco hills. I associate them, as hundreds of people do, with stimulating experiences, superb views of the Bay and the sheer excitement of being in “everyone’s favorite city.”
Some of the Chief Justice’s enthusiasm and affection for cable cars in the city seem to have been captured by an editorial writer for the San Francisco Chronicle, who wrote several days after the Victorian Plaza ceremony:
The San Francisco Cable Car, invented out of the necessity arising from the city’s steppe and frequent hills, has now climbed to the peak of esteem and respectability. The perky, noisy, woefully archaic little contraption is now the revered symbol of a metropolitan city, but has attained national recognition – and protection – as a national monument. This obsolete, creating, inadequate, slow, expensive to operate, money-losing – and uniquely San Franciscan – piece of last century machinery has risen in the world like a Horatio Alger hero and is now a tourist attraction that brings thousands of visitors and millions of dollars to this community annually.