Monday, May 31, 2010

Mean Streets

One of the reasons 1905 interests me is that it represents a collision year between old 19th century life and the new 20th century world. On February 2, 1905, the symbolic met the real in Boston when an automobile, a trolley, and a sled full of lumber drawn by four horses collided near the intersection of Dorchester Avenue and Center Street in the winter dusk.

The trolley struck the car and threw it against the sled. The driver of the sled, which had been stuck at the side of the road, was "shaken up." I guess!

Amazingly enough, although the car was totalled (including losing all of its wheels), its occupants sustained only cuts to their faces and hands. As the Boston Globe reports:

The wreckage was cleared away with apprehension by the passengers of the electric car [the trolley], it being feared that one or more of the occupants of the auto had been killed. They arose without assistance, however, and were able to proceed to their homes.

The owner of the vehicle was a Dr. F. L. Purdy of 86 Vernon Street, Brookline, who was riding with his wife in the chauffeur-driven vehicle. Dr. Purdy seems to have been living under a black cloud during this period--his house had burned in 1904 and he lost several valuable paintings in the fire. And about a month before his February 2 accident, the same house had been burgled.

It's hard today for us to imagine what city streets were like in 1905. There was an element of lawlessness--and pedestrians, newsboys, bicyclists, trolleys, cars, horses, and wagons/sleds all occupied the streets willy-nilly. The film below, shot in San Francisco a few days before the 1906 earthquake, makes it apparent that this kind of accident must have happened often--especially on a winter evening!!