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

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  • 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
  • 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
  • Bargain day, 14th Street, New York /

    The film shows hundreds of tightly packed people crowding into the front door of the Rothschild Co. 5 and 10 cent store. They are so closely packed it is difficult to tell one from another. The view is from across the street, looking down from the 2nd floor.

    • Contributor: Armitage, F. S. - American Mutoscope and Biograph Company - Paper Print Collection (Library of Congress)
    • Original Format: Film, Video
    • Date: 1905
  • New York City dumping wharf /

    The film shows a wharf where a barge is being loaded with trash from two-wheeled, horse-drawn wagons. The trash is dumped off the edge of the pier onto the barge, where men with shovels are spreading the piles of debris. The camera pans left to the next barge, where four-wheeled carts are shown dumping excavation rubble. Probably filmed on the East River, this is ...

    • Contributor: Smith, James Blair - Thomas A. Edison, Inc - Paper Print Collection (Library of Congress)
    • Original Format: Film, Video
    • Date: 1903
  • Panorama of Blackwell's Island, N.Y. /

    This film was photographed from a boat heading south along the eastern shore of Blackwell's Island (known today as Roosevelt Island). The island lies in the East River, between Manhattan (which can be seen in the background) and Long Island City, Queens. It is approximately one and three-quarters of a mile long, extending from 51st Street to 88th, and at the time of the ...

    • Contributor: Porter, Edwin S. - Thomas A. Edison, Inc - Paper Print Collection (Library of Congress)
    • Original Format: Film, Video
    • Date: 1903
  • 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
  • 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
  • What happened on Twenty-third Street, New York City /

    A street level view from the sidewalk, looking along the length of 23rd Street. Following actuality footage of pedestrians and street traffic, the actors, a man in summer attire and a woman in an ankle-length dress, walk toward the camera. As they cross a grate on the sidewalk they pause, and the escaping air blows the woman's dress to her knees. From a contemporary ...

    • Contributor: Thomas A. Edison, Inc - Paper Print Collection (Library of Congress)
    • Original Format: Film, Video
    • Date: 1901
  • 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
  • Pilot boats in New York harbor /

    A New York harbor pilot boat passes close enough for four members of the crew to be seen [Frame: 0471]. Following the sailing vessel is a steamship [0780]. From a contemporary Edison Company catalog: PILOT BOATS IN NEW YORK HARBOR. Unboys [code for telegraphic orders]. A close view of an eighty footer, schooner rigged, trim as a private yacht, skimming over the waters of ...

    • Contributor: Thomas A. Edison, Inc - Paper Print Collection (Library of Congress) - White, James
    • Original Format: Film, Video
    • Date: 1899
  • A street Arab /

    "Shows one of New York's street gamins going through various acrobatic evolutions; he turns handsprings backward and forward, walks the crab, does cart wheels and other kindred feats. An exceptionally unique part of the performance is his standing on his head and twisting around like a top. It is safe to say he will be bald-headed at an early age"--Edison films catalog.

    • Contributor: Thomas A. Edison, Inc - Paper Print Collection (Library of Congress) - Afi/Holt (H.L.) Collection (Library of Congress) - Niver (Kemp) Collection (Library of Congress)
    • Original Format: Film, Video
    • Date: 1898
  • 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
  • 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
  • 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
  • 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
  • Opening the Williamsburg Bridge /

    The film was shot on the roadway of the newly constructed Williamsburg Bridge. The first people to come into view are press photographers carrying large wooden "box" cameras [Frame: 0690]. Next, a parade of dignitaries and military representatives, accompanied by members of the press [1310], is photographed passing the camera position led by a standard bearer whose banner reads "MAYOR" [0902]. The mayor of ...

    • Contributor: Bitzer, G. W. - American Mutoscope and Biograph Company - Paper Print Collection (Library of Congress)
    • Original Format: Film, Video
    • Date: 1904
  • Delivering newspapers /

    The film shows a group of about fifty pre-adolescent boys running and crowding around a one-horse paneled newspaper van that pulls up in the foreground of the picture. On the side of the van is a sign reading "New York World." As they gather around the rear of the vehicle, a fight breaks out between two of the boys. The film ends as the ...

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

    Using time-lapse photography, the film shows the demolition of the famous Star Theatre. Judging from the various exposures, the work must have gone on for a period of approximately thirty days. The theater opened in 1861 as "Wallack's Theatre," and was re-christened the "Star" in 1883. It was well known for it's excellent productions, and a number of celebrated actors and actresses worked there, ...

    • Contributor: Armitage, F. S. - American Mutoscope and Biograph Company - Paper Print Collection (Library of Congress)
    • Original Format: Film, Video
    • Date: 1902
  • New York police parade, June 1st, 1899 /

    The film shows members of "New York's Finest" parading at a crowded Union Square. There are members of the Bicycle Squad [Frame: 0396], mounted horses [0612], and two regimental marching bands [2518, 3456]. At the time of filming, the New York City Police Department was still recovering from the corruption scandals of the early 1890's that had severely tarnished the reputation of the department. ...

    • Contributor: Thomas A. Edison, Inc - Paper Print Collection (Library of Congress)
    • Original Format: Film, Video
    • Date: 1899
  • Statue of Liberty /

    A three-quarter front view of the Statue of Liberty. The statue was erected twelve years earlier, in 1886.

    • Contributor: Thomas A. Edison, Inc - Paper Print Collection (Library of Congress) - Niver (Kemp) Collection (Library of Congress)
    • Original Format: Film, Video
    • Date: 1898