On this day—Aug. 2, 1873—Andrew Hallidie tested the first cable car in San Francisco at 4 a.m. He first came up with the idea of a cable car system after watching horses struggle to pull a horsecar up the steep San Franciscan hills. Having already developed a cable system to help mine ore and build suspension bridges, Hallidie formed the Clay Street Railroad and began construction of a cable car line on Clay Street in May 1873.
The line was supposed to be operational by August 1 but opened August 2. Despite the delay, the cable car system was immensely popular and opened as a public service on Sept. 1, 1873. Though in later years electric streetcars and buses became easier to build and maintain, both the citizens and businesses of San Francisco rallied to keep the cable cars as a symbol of the city.