(Hat tip: @brainpicker)
Using kites, photographer George Lawrence snapped an aerial photo of San Francisco just six weeks after the 1906 earthquake. (Quite a feat, considering the handbuilt panoramic camera weighed 49 pounds!) The photo, “San Francisco in Ruins” is housed at the Library of Congress.
The USGS has a zoomable high resolution version here.
For comparison, here's a modern day photo of the SF skyline from close to the same location:
Scott Haefner's site.