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

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  • 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.

    • Original Format: Film, Video
    • Date: 1903
  • 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 ...

    • Original Format: Film, Video
    • Date: 1903
  • Pilot boats in New York harbor /

    A New York harbor pilot boat passes close enough for members of the crew to be seen [Frame: 0471]. Following the sailing vessel is a steamship [Frame: 0780]. "A close view of an eighty footer, schooner-rigged, trim as a private yacht, skimming over the waters of the harbor near Robin's Reef [i.e., Robbins Reef], which picturesque little lighthouse is seen in the near background. ...

    • Original Format: Film, Video
    • Date: 1899
  • Interior N.Y. subway, 14th St. to 42nd St. /

    The camera platform was on the front of a New York subway train following another train on the same track. Lighting is provided by a specially constructed work car on a parallel track. At the time of filming, the subway was only seven months old, having opened on October 27, 1904. The ride begins at 14th Street (Union Square) following the route of today's ...

    • Original Format: Film, Video
    • Date: 1905
  • 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 ...

    • Original Format: Film, Video
    • Date: 1905
  • 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 ...

    • Original Format: Film, Video
    • Date: 1900
  • Sleighing scene /

    A view of a snow-covered road in Central Park. A variety of horse-drawn sleighs ride by the camera from both directions. Only two pedestrians appear. From a contemporary Edison film company catalog: SLEIGHING SCENE. Unbehangen [code for telegraphic orders]. A view taken on the West Side Drive in Central Park. Shows a continuous stream of handsome rigs and turnouts passing in both directions. Pedestrians ...

    • Original Format: Film, Video
    • Date: 1898
  • Rights and Access -- The Life of a City: Early Films of New York, 1898-1906

    Motion Picture, Broadcasting, and Recorded Sound Division, Library of Congress The Library of Congress is providing access to these materials for educational and research purposes. The written permission of the copyright owners and/or other rights holders (such as publicity and/or privacy rights) is required for distribution, reproduction, or other use of protected items beyond that allowed by fair use or other statutory exemptions. The ...

  • 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, ...

    • Original Format: Film, Video
    • Date: 1902
  • 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 ...

    • 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 ...

    • Original Format: Film, Video
    • Date: 1903
  • 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 ...

    • 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 ...

    • 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.

    • Original Format: Film, Video
    • Date: 1905
  • Beginning of a skyscraper /

    The scene is an excavation site in New York City. A large group of workmen with picks and shovels are digging. Carts drawn by pairs of horses can be seen emerging from the smoke in the background. From a contemporary American Mutoscope and Biograph Company catalog: Starting a Skyscraper--New York--26 feet. Taken in the immense excavation for the foundation of the new Macy Building ...

    • Original Format: Film, Video
    • Date: 1902
  • 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.

    • Original Format: Film, Video
    • Date: 1902
  • Broadway & Union Square, New York /

    A horse-drawn street car with a sign for Broadway pulls away from the camera with a full compliment of passengers. Another approaches the camera position and they pass. The first car stops to pick up and drop off passengers. Pedestrians walk pass on both sides of the street.

    • 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 ...

    • Original Format: Film, Video
    • Date: 1903
  • Related Resources -- The Life of a City: Early Films of New York, 1898-1906

    Selected Bibliography: The History of New York City Black, Mary. Old New York In Early Photographs, 1853-1901: 196 Prints from the Collection of the New-York Historical Society. New York: Dover Publications, 1976. Blom, Benjamin, comp. New York: Photographs, 1850-1950. New York: E.P.Dutton, Inc., 1982. Bradley, David L. Bradley's Reminiscences of New York Harbor and Complete Waterfront Directory of New York, Brooklyn and Jersey City. ...

  • 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 ...

    • 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

    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
  • 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 ...

    • Original Format: Film, Video
    • Date: 1903
  • Panorama water front and Brooklyn Bridge from East River /

    This film depicts the East River shoreline and the piers of lower Manhattan starting at about Pier 5 (the New York Central Pier) opposite Broad Street, and extending to the Mallory Line steamship piers just south of Fulton Street and the Brooklyn Bridge. The film begins with shots of canal boats or barges (from the Erie Canal via the Hudson River) docked at and ...

    • 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 ...

    • 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 ...

    • Original Format: Film, Video
    • Date: 1901
  • 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.

    • Original Format: Film, Video
    • Date: 1903
  • The Life of a City: Early Films of New York, 1898-1906

    This collection contains forty-five films of New York dating from 1898 to 1906 from the Paper Print Collection of the Library of Congress. Of these, twenty-five were made by the American Mutoscope and Biograph Company, while the remaining twenty are Edison Company productions.

    • Date: 1898
  • Statue of Liberty /

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

    • Original Format: Film, Video
    • Date: 1898
  • A street Arab /

    A preadolescent boy, dressed like a street urchin, performs acrobatic stunts for the camera. From a contemporary Edison Company catalog: A STREET ARAB. Umreichen [code for telegraphic orders]. 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 ...

    • Original Format: Film, Video
    • Date: 1898