The Mystery of an Abandoned Cabinet Full of Kodachrome Slides in San Francisco

Cabinet full of Kodachrome slides
The mystery cabinet full of fascinating Kodachrome slides found on the sidewalk.

A mystery unfolded when a cabinet full of Kodachrome slides was discovered lying on the sidewalk in a San Francisco neighborhood.

The 920 Kodachrome slides shows San Francisco in the 1960s undergoing changes as the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) system was built, the subway beneath Market Street was constructed, as well as fascinating photos of daily life in the Californian municipality.

One of the mystery slides shows a section of the BART Tube segment being constructed.
Market Street
Market Street under construction for the new BART and Metro subways, circa 1966.

In fact, there was not just one cabinet stuffed with Kodachrome slides — there were three. But only one of them found its way to local photo collector David Gallagher who could not believe the treasure trove one of his social media followers had brought to him.

“I was knocked out,” Gallagher tells the San Francisco Chronicle. “People bring me stuff and it’s not always great. But these were pretty amazing — things I’d never seen before.”

Where Did the Kodachrome Slides Come From?

Initially, Gallagher had no clue who the mysterious photographer was or how the slides had come to be dumped on a random sidewalk.

The local historian even put up flyers appealing for information on the whereabouts of the two other cabinets and who the photographer is.

Flyer for the cabinets.

But after the Chronicle published their article this weekend, a relative of the photographer stepped out of the shadows to reveal that his father, a schoolteacher by the name of James Martin, was the author of the photographic slides.

“He loved San Francisco. He lived here his entire life, all 90 years,” Ted Martin tells the San Francisco Chronicle.

“He was a big sports fan: Giants, Warriors, 49ers. He worked hard. He did his day job and then did night school and other things for extra money.”

Fleishhacker Pool
Swimmers in Fleishhacker Pool which closed in 1971.

Fisherman's Wharf

Martin, who died in 2019, would take photos and transfer them to film reels so he could make slideshows which he would use in presentations.

However, the Kodachrome slides were dumped on the street by another of Martin’s sons who had “purged” the cabinet — a decision that wasn’t popular with the rest of the family.

While Gallagher is glad to know the identity of the mystery photographer, there is still the matter of the two other cabinets that are missing and presumably chocked full of Martin’s fascinating photos.


It’s not the first time Kodachrome slides have appeared on a sidewalk, back in 2016 a bag of them turned up in New York City.

If you have any information regarding the missing cabinets, head over to Gallagher’s website,

Image credits: All photos by James Martin/