In early 1871 British-born, US resident Andrew Smith Hallidie received the first patent in relation to the cable car, an occasion which is marked by Cable Car Day.
Hallidie’s design for cable-propelled transit emerged when he witnessed horses falling, and even dying, while attempting to pull cars up San Francisco’s steep Jackson Street. Fortunately for San Franciscan equines, Hallidie had the talent to turn his sympathy into action, having previously invented a type of aerial tramway and designed improvements to mining ropes which resulted in their economic life-extending by more than 873%.
Two years after receiving his cable car patent, Hallidie set up the world’s first cable car railroad on Clay Street. None of the original lines survives but grip car 8 is preserved in Mason Street’s Cable Car Museum (which, obviously, sits on two of San Francisco’s three cable car routes).
Those who find themselves outside San Francisco on Cable Car Day can still get in on the fun. Other cities operating cable car railways include Venice, Tampa, Las Vegas, and Milan but, if you’re nowhere near a railroad, you can still honor the origins of the cable car by patting a horse on the head!