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

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  • New York City "ghetto" fish market /

    The view, photographed from an elevated camera position, looks down on a very crowded New York City street market. Rows of pushcarts and street vendors' vehicles can be seen. The precise location is difficult to ascertain, but it is certainly on the Lower East Side, probably on or near Hester Street, which at the turn of the century was the center of commerce for ...

    • 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 ...

    • Original Format: Film, Video
    • Date: 1904
  • 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." ...

    • Original Format: Film, Video
    • Date: 1903
  • The skyscrapers of New York /

    The story involves a construction foreman who fires one of his crew for fighting, which leads the disgruntled employee to steal. He then cause the blame to be put on the foreman, who is finally exonerated when the thief is exposed. All of this conflict is woven in and around the actual construction of the building as the work is in progress. There is ...

    • Original Format: Film, Video
    • Date: 1906
  • Funeral of Hiram Cronk /

    The film shows a city thoroughfare lined with crowds of people watching a military parade. The first group to come into view is a marching band [Frame: 0120], then a large formation of soldiers in the uniform of Rough Riders [0720]. Following them is a hearse drawn by four black horses, escorted by veterans of the Civil War [2742], and horse-drawn open carriages. The ...

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

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

    • Original Format: Film, Video
    • Date: 1903
  • Fireboat "New Yorker" in action /

    A demonstration by the famous fireboat "New Yorker." The picture shows the fireboat with all its nozzles spurting water as it goes back and forth in front of the camera. Put in service on February 1, 1891 as Engine Company 57, the "New Yorker" was stationed at the Battery near Castle Garden, where her crew lived aboard. She was 125 feet long, 25 feet ...

    • 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 ...

    • 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
  • 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
  • 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
  • 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
  • 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. ...

    • Original Format: Film, Video
    • Date: 1899
  • 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
  • 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 ...

    • 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
  • 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
  • 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
  • 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
  • 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
  • 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
  • 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
  • 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