Collection The Life of a City: Early Films of New York, 1898-1906

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  • The Actuality Film - The Life of a City: Early Films of New York, 1898-1906 - Collections

    The earliest popular venues for motion pictures were nickelodeons -- peep show parlors where machines played short film loops, or films on flip cards called mutoscopes, for individual viewers on demand. By the turn of the century, films were being shown in store-front theaters and traveling carnivals. Significantly, movies also began to be projected in vaudeville and burlesque theaters, sharing the bill with a ...

    • Date: 1898
  • The Paper Print Film Collection at the Library of Congress - The Life of a City: Early Films of New York, 1898-1906 - Collections

    Most of the films featured in the American Memory presentations are from the Paper Print Collection of the Library of Congress Motion Picture, Broadcasting, and Recorded Sound Division. Because the copyright law did not cover motion pictures until 1912, early film producers who desired protection for their work sent paper contact prints of their motion pictures to the U.S. Copyright Office at the Library ...

    • Date: 1898
  • Panorama of Riker's Island, N.Y. /

    The film was photographed from a boat going around Riker's Island. Located on the East River north of Hell Gate between the Bronx and Queens, Riker's Island was the site of a massive New York City landfill operation at the time of the filming (originally eighty-seven acres, by 1939 the size of the island had increased to four hundred acres). The film includes scenes ...

    • Contributor: Porter, Edwin S. - Thomas A. Edison, Inc - Paper Print Collection (Library of Congress)
    • Original Format: Film, Video
    • Date: 1903
  • Panorama from Times Building, New York /

    The view is from the top of the then newly-erected Times Building, at a height of approximately twenty stories. The film opens with a vertical pan, going from the street below up to the sky. The photographer then makes a pan to the north over the tops of the buildings from Bryant Park, south of 42nd Street (behind the New York Public Library) [Frame: ...

    • Contributor: McCutcheon, Wallace - American Mutoscope and Biograph Company - Paper Print Collection (Library of Congress)
    • Original Format: Film, Video
    • Date: 1905
  • Opening of new East River bridge, New York /

    The first view is from the roadway of the Williamsburg Bridge on the day of the opening. Close-ups of the parading dignitaries and members of the press [Frame: 0345] are seen. From another camera position, taken over the heads of the crowd, buildings around the waterfront are seen, and the dignitaries, led by a standard bearer again pass the camera. The banner reads "MAYOR." ...

    • Contributor: Smith, James Blair - Thomas A. Edison, Inc - Paper Print Collection (Library of Congress)
    • Original Format: Film, Video
    • Date: 1903
  • Skating on lake, Central Park /

    The view is of a frozen lake in Central Park crowded with ice skaters. The film is of such poor quality that it is difficult to tell if the apparent "snow" is real or just scratches on the film.

    • Contributor: Armitage, F. S. - American Mutoscope and Biograph Company - Paper Print Collection (Library of Congress)
    • Original Format: Film, Video
    • Date: 1902
  • Lower Broadway /

    The film shows a view which appears to be looking north on Broadway at the intersection of Wall Street, in front of Trinity Church. The sidewalk along Broadway is crowded with people, and the traffic in both streets is very heavy. A horse-drawn streetcar passes in front of the camera [Frame: 2814], with a sign giving its destination as the "Courtland and Fulton Street ...

    • Contributor: Bonine, R. (Robert K.) - American Mutoscope and Biograph Company - Paper Print Collection (Library of Congress)
    • Original Format: Film, Video
    • Date: 1903
  • Sorting refuse at incinerating plant, New York City /

    The subject is a group of about thirty men and boys who are sorting combustible refuse, mostly paper, and stuffing it into large sacks. In the background a man in a hat with an emblem on it can be seen unloading trash from a large wagon. Location may be the New York City Sanitation Department's East 17th Street facility, or possibly the incinerator at ...

    • Contributor: Porter, Edwin S. - Thomas A. Edison, Inc - Paper Print Collection (Library of Congress)
    • Original Format: Film, Video
    • Date: 1903
  • Departure of Peary [and the] "Roosevelt" from New York /

    The camera pans to show the schooner "Roosevelt" docked at a covered pier on the Hudson River on Manhattan's west side. Then, from a camera position on board, men in straw hats and fashionably dressed ladies are seen boarding the ship. Next, the famous polar explorer Robert Peary appears on the gangway in a dark jacket, mustache and straw hat [Frame: 4552]. He tips ...

    • Contributor: Peary, Robert E. (Robert Edwin) - Bitzer, G. W. - American Mutoscope and Biograph Company - Paper Print Collection (Library of Congress)
    • Original Format: Film, Video
    • Date: 1905
  • A perilous proceeding /

    The film follows a group of approximately ten men who are suspended on the cable of a large crane atop a building under construction. As the men are lifted over the site and gradually lowered, they wave to the camera.

    • Contributor: Congdon, James - American Mutoscope and Biograph Company - Paper Print Collection (Library of Congress) - Niver (Kemp) Collection (Library of Congress)
    • Original Format: Film, Video
    • Date: 1902
  • Elevated railroad, New York /

    The film was photographed from the front platform of a train traveling over elevated tracks in New York City. Although many of the buildings alongside the tracks can be seen, it is difficult to determine the exact location of the scene.

    • Contributor: American Mutoscope and Biograph Company - Paper Print Collection (Library of Congress)
    • Original Format: Film, Video
    • Date: 1903
  • New York City at the Turn of the Century - The Life of a City: Early Films of New York, 1898-1906 - Collections

    At the turn of the century, New York was the preeminent American city; it represented the "new metropolis." The great waves of European immigrants coming to New York, the consolidation of the five boroughs into one vast city, the development of the city's infrastructure, and the incredible construction boom of the next thirty years all contributed to the city's prominence. In many of the ...

    • Date: 1898
  • Panorama from the tower of Brooklyn Bridge /

    The view was taken from the tower on the Brooklyn side of the bridge. As the film begins, the camera is looking southwest, towards the southern tip of Manhattan (the Battery). The camera pans very rapidly north following Manhattan's East River shoreline, across the bridge span itself and the bridge's New York side tower, following the shoreline further north towards Corlear's Hook, where the ...

    • Contributor: Bitzer, G. W. - American Mutoscope and Biograph Company - Paper Print Collection (Library of Congress)
    • Original Format: Film, Video
    • Date: 1903
  • Panorama of Flatiron Building /

    This shows a view looking south from Madison Square, across the intersection of Broadway, Fifth Avenue, and Twenty-third Street, to the famous Fuller (or "Flatiron") Building. The cameraman elevates his camera, going from street level to the roof. Designed by D.H. Burnham and Company, the Fuller Building is an important early skyscraper and a New York City landmark. Known as the first great steel-framed ...

    • Contributor: Bonine, R. (Robert K.) - American Mutoscope and Biograph Company - Paper Print Collection (Library of Congress)
    • Original Format: Film, Video
    • Date: 1903
  • Pennsylvania Tunnel excavation /

    This film employs a 180-degree pan shot of the excavation site of New York's Pennsylvania Station, and includes shots of the narrow-gauge train used to haul debris from the tunnels under construction. Work began in 1904, and when completed in September of 1910 the station would span from 31st to 33rd Streets, and from 7th to 8th Avenue, an area of approximately 300,000 square ...

    • Contributor: Bitzer, G. W. - American Mutoscope and Biograph Company - Paper Print Collection (Library of Congress)
    • Original Format: Film, Video
    • Date: 1905
  • Parade of horses on Speedway /

    The film is of a parade of fine horses and fashionable carriages taken along what is now the Harlem River Drive, in the Highbridge section of northern Manhattan. The view is from the Manhattan side of the river looking north. On the right is the Harlem River and on the opposite bank, the Bronx. Prominent in the background is the High Bridge at 175th ...

    • Contributor: Bonine, R. (Robert K.) - American Mutoscope and Biograph Company - Paper Print Collection (Library of Congress)
    • Original Format: Film, Video
    • Date: 1903
  • Parade of "exempt" firemen /

    The film shows a large group of people watching the approach of a color guard followed by a number of elderly marching firemen [Frame: 1734] pulling antique fire equipment [2486]. In the background is the white marble Washington Arch [0116], designed by Stanford White and completed in 1895 to commemorate the first inauguration of George Washington.

    • Contributor: Armitage, F. S. - American Mutoscope and Biograph Company - Paper Print Collection (Library of Congress) - Niver (Kemp) Collection (Library of Congress)
    • Original Format: Film, Video
    • Date: 1903
  • America at the Turn of the Century: A Look at the Historical Context - The Life of a City: Early Films of New York, 1898-1906 - Collections

    The National Setting By 1900 the American nation had established itself as a world power. The West was won. The frontier -- the great fact of 300 years of American history -- was no more. The continent was settled from coast to coast. Apache war chief Geronimo had surrendered in 1886. Defeat of the Sioux at the battle of Wounded Knee in 1891 had ...

    • Date: 1898
  • Excavating for a New York foundation /

    The scene is an excavation pit at an unidentified New York City construction site. A crew of six men can be seen shoveling dirt into a four-wheeled wooden cart. Then a full cart is slowly lifted out of the pit to street level by a steam-powered crane. These carts are similar in design to those shown dumping rubble at the end of the film ...

    • Contributor: American Mutoscope and Biograph Company - Paper Print Collection (Library of Congress)
    • Original Format: Film, Video
    • Date: 1903
  • White Wings on review /

    Filmed on an unidentified street in New York City, probably Fifth Avenue. Rows of men wearing the white uniforms of New York City street sweepers (known as White Wings) march by the camera. Each row has a police escort. The parade of uniformed men continues until several hundred pass. Immediately following the marching men come approximately a hundred horse-drawn two-wheel carts of the kind ...

    • Contributor: Smith, James Blair - Thomas A. Edison, Inc - Paper Print Collection (Library of Congress)
    • Original Format: Film, Video
    • Date: 1903
  • Automobile parade /

    This may be the first annual automobile parade, held on November 4, 1899 in downtown Manhattan. At least ten different makes and models are seen, including electric and steam powered machines. Only three years earlier, in 1896, Henry Ford, Charles Brady King, Alexander Winton and Ransom Eli Olds had each introduced their gasoline cars. In 1900, the first National Auto Show was held at ...

    • Contributor: Thomas A. Edison, Inc - Paper Print Collection (Library of Congress)
    • Original Format: Film, Video
    • Date: 1900
  • The skyscrapers of New York /

    This melodrama was filmed during the actual construction of a skyscraper in New York City, and includes several scenes of real work crews: a line of bricklayers [Frame: 1773 (part 1)], a man heating rivets in a forge [2459 (part 1)], riveters assembling steel girders [2859 (part 1)], men astride the steel framework maneuvering and setting a girder in place [3930 (part 1)], and ...

    • Contributor: Dobson, F. A. - American Mutoscope and Biograph Company - Paper Print Collection (Library of Congress)
    • Original Format: Film, Video
    • Date: 1906
  • New York Harbor Police boat Patrol capturing pirates /

    This was probably filmed in the southern part of the Upper New York Bay looking towards the Narrows, with Fort Lafayette partly visible in the far background. The subject is a simulated capture by the police gunboat "Patrol" of three "pirates" in a rowboat. Puffs of smoke appear as the gunboat fires several rounds from the bow cannon, which can be clearly seen later ...

    • Contributor: Porter, Edwin S. - Smith, James Blair - Thomas A. Edison, Inc - Paper Print Collection (Library of Congress)
    • Original Format: Film, Video
    • Date: 1903
  • N.Y. Fire Department returning /

    Shot at an unidentified location in New York City, the film shows several pieces of horse-drawn fire vehicles in motion: two hook-and-ladders [Frame: 0114, 0905]; two steam pumpers [0373, 1111]; a rescue wagon [0549]. Note the kids hanging on the back of some of the vehicles [0195, 0970].

    • Contributor: Bitzer, G. W. - American Mutoscope and Biograph Company - Paper Print Collection (Library of Congress)
    • Original Format: Film, Video
    • Date: 1903
  • At the foot of the Flatiron /

    This street level view is of the Broadway side of the Flatiron, or Fuller Building, near the narrow north corner. Filmed on a very windy day, pedestrians of various descriptions are seen passing by the camera, clutching hats and skirts against the wind. According to some New York City historians, this corner was known as the windiest corner of the city, and in the ...

    • Contributor: Weed, A. E. - American Mutoscope and Biograph Company - Paper Print Collection (Library of Congress)
    • Original Format: Film, Video
    • Date: 1903