From technological innovation to an icon synonymous with San Francisco, our cable car system has endured for 150 years. This exhibition draws on the collections of the San Francisco History Center and San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SF MTA) Photo Archive to explore and celebrate this rich and complex history. Cable cars rolled into the local transit scene on August 2, 1873, as a new solution to traversing San Francisco’s notoriously hilly geography. Within twenty years, they hit peak operation with eight companies running lines from the Ferry Building to Golden Gate Park.
Following their rescue from the scrap heap in 1947 by a group of outspoken women activists, the cars became enshrined as both a national historic landmark and cultural icon. Inspiring cable-car shaped whiskey bottles and images of chock-full cars plastered on every single tourist brochure, they have had an impact unlike any other mode of transit.
Despite the complexity of maintaining and running the now “ancient” system, cable cars today are as important to our city as they were in the 1890s. This summer celebrate the cable car’s incredible history through this exhibition and through a series of events and experiences lined up for the 150th Anniversary.
Learn more about Cable Cars in San Francisco: