smallcard.jpg (7907 bytes)The Photographer & His Photographs

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Neighborhood photo 1905Brinckmann BrothersFrederick Henry Brinckmann was born in Bremervoerde, Germany on February 15, 1873, the second eldest son of Johann and Marianne Brinckmann.  He emigrated to the United States with his older brother August in the early 1890's, while his younger sisters, Dorothea and Adele stayed behind.  

Together the brothers operated a grocery store at the corner of Geary and Jones Streets in San Francisco.  Frederick married Elise Graalfs in October of 1895.  By the time the earthquake and fire came in 1906, Frederick and Elise had two sons, August, named for Frederick's older brother, and Frederick Edwin.  The earthquake and fire completely destroyed the store and Frederick and his family came to live with his wife's family in the less affected area of the Mission district and eventually reopened his grocery store there.

His wife, being a very practical North German, saw an opportunity for them to get back on their feet when she heard that the civil authorities were paying men to clean bricks of the fallen buildings for reconstruction.  Frederick disappointed her by not taking full advantage of the brick cleaning opportunity.  Instead, he took his Ansco No.5 camera, armed with several rolls of film, and began to walk the ruins taking the pictures you will see on this website.

Post Earthquake Mission District StoreShortly after the earthquake, Frederick and Elise found themselves expecting their third child, Lida, born in 1907, who was my mother and from whom I inherited these photographs.  Not only do I have the photographs, but I have the negatives.  Thanks to my father's interest in photography, I also have the Ansco No. 5 that took these photos.  He preserved it and used it, unaltered, as the lens element of an enlarger he built.  He made copies from the negatives and I did also, using that same enlarger.  These photographs have never before been published, though they have been a carefully preserved family treasure.  As a child I took them to school on numerous April 18's and after me my children did the same thing for what was then termed "show and tell."

In building this website, I have come notice many things about the photos that I hadn't seen even in the 8 x 10 photographic prints I had made several years ago.  The scanning has brought out many details in the photos that have enabled me to better identify the places photographed.  I will continue to add to the captions as I learn more about the buildings and details in the scenes.  Try viewing the pictures at full resolution on a full screen and you will be able to see many of these details, like small signs, safes in the streets, and mortar on the bricks.  Many of these photos, when displayed in this way, can make you feel you are in the scene.

The most important thing about these photographs, though, is that they are indeed a family album that shows this great tragedy in San Francisco history through the eyes of a German immigrant who was neither rich nor famous.

Help Wanted: 

If you can add information related to any of these photographs or the places they depict, please let me know and these details can be added to the website.  Please email me at

The Technical Details

All of the Photographs you see on this website were scanned at 300 DPI from the original negatives taken on No. 103 roll film, which produces a 3 1/2 x 4 1/2 inch negative.  The resulting positive images were corrected for contrast and brightness.  Other than that, most of the images have no other correction, though I am now attempting to digitally enhance the images to remove blemishes and scratches.    The available resolution of the photos is just under 2 megapixels.  Remember you are free to use them for non-commercial educational purposes. 

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