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Cars on California: 1921

Cars on California: 1921

San Francisco, 1921. "California Street east from Montgomery." 8x10 nitrate negative, late of the Wyland Stanley/Marilyn Blaisdell collections. View full size.


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J. P. Hammond

The Cole belonged to John Percy Hammond (1878 - 1932) who was an insurance agent working at 519 California Street at the time the photo was taken. The building where he worked was part of the insurance agency district in the city of San Francisco. In 1921 Hammond, his wife, Ruth Constance [Oppenheimer] Hammond (1892 - 1973), and his son Robert Noel Hammond (1916 - 1986), were living at 1944 Fell in San Francisco on the panhandle of Golden Gate Park.

His parents, John J. and Margaret A. Hammond, both immigrated to the United States from Canada. His father was a butcher, and two of his brothers also worked at insurance companies during a portion of their careers.

Hammond appears to have started out as a clerk at the insurance firm of Smedberg & Mitchell around 1897, and he later worked at the Louis J. Janes Company as an insurance agent. Around 1905 he began his own insurance firm, but details about what products he sold, or if he specialized in some area of insurance, could not be found. His office moved many times over the next 25 years, but always remained in the insurance district. After J.P. died in 1932, his wife ran the business for a period of time. Around 1940 it appears that his son Robert took over the business from his mother.

The Cole shown was a 1920 Aero-Eight Tourster. The company literature said it had the following special features: Large pockets in each door; special empedimenta compartment in back of front seat; tool space under front and rear seat; leather robe rail at back of front seat; foot rest in tonneau; automatic step light, Waltham eight-day clock; wool carpet in tonneau; extra heavy linoleum-covered, metal bound toe and floor boards; natural finish walnut instrument board; and rubber step pads. Cost was $2,485 FOB Indianapolis.

There was also a separate Aero-Eight Californian which was essentially the same automobile, but the top was permanently attached. The removable side curtains had glass windows built into them. This version cost $350 more than the Tourster ($2,835), but you could ask for the regular side curtains and reduce the cost to $2,760. You could have bought five Model T Fords for the same price in 1920. Pictures of both the Tourster and Californian are below. The picture of the Californian has a skewed perspective.

SP Bldg in the distance

Great pic! The dark building down at end of California St. and foot of Market is the red brick Southern Pacific building built in 1916. Still very much a landmark today. The SP RR and SP-Golden Gate Ferries system is very memorable
to old-timers.


What a grand pic!

Car ID


California parking

Still possible on one side of the street.


Nearly a hundred years later, and cable cars still roll up and down California Street. Only the fare has changed.

[$7 for all above 4 years old; $3 for seniors, Medicare and disabled 9PM-7AM. Essentially a theme park ride now. -tterrace]

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