Format Film, Video
Dates 1903
Location United States
Language English
Subjects Brigands and Robbers
Pistol Shooting
Railroad Stations
Train Robberies
United States
Victims of Crimes
The great train robbery /
Created / Published
United States : Edison Manufacturing Co., 1903.
Subject Headings
-  Train robberies--United States
-  Brigands and robbers--United States
-  Railroads--United States
-  Outlaws--United States
-  Posses--United States
-  Pistol shooting--United States
-  Telegraph--United States
-  Railroad stations--United States
-  Victims of crimes--United States
-  Copyright: Thomas A. Edison; 1Dec1903; H38748.
-  Justus D. Barnes (head bandit), G. M. Anderson (slain passenger, tenderfoot, and robber), Walter Cameron (sheriff).
-  Camera, Edwin S. Porter, J.B. Smith, and others.
-  Incomplete: according to notes in MAVIS records, all material in the Edison Collection is incomplete, and all but the viewing print, copy 1 (FEA 4498), and the dupe neg pic, copy 1 (FPF 5088) are out of sequence. DLC
-  Footages are taken from MAVIS, and have not been confirmed. Differences in footages may be due to different methods of measurement. DLC
-  MAVIS gives the running time of the viewing copy (VBS 0062) and master (VRA 1435) as 10 minutes, which does not match the print from which they were made. LC's digital copy is ca. 12 minutes long, which is the running time for the original given in sources. Variations in running time may be due to variations in projection speed. DLC
-  Duration: 3:30 (part 1), 3:54 (part 2), and 4:18 (part 3) at 18 fps.
-  From Edison films catalog: This sensational and highly tragic subject will certainly make a decided "hit" whenever shown. In every respect we consider it absolutely the superior of any moving picture ever made. It has been posed and acted in faithful duplication of the genuine "Hold Ups" made famous by various outlaw bands in the far West, and only recently the East has been shocked by several crimes of the frontier order, which fact will increase the popular interest in this great Headline Attraction. Scene 1 -- Interior of Railroad Telegraph Office. Two masked robbers enter and compel the operator to set the "signal block" to stop the approaching train, also making him write a fictitious order to the engineer to take water at this station, instead of at "Red Lodge," their regular watering stop. The train comes to a standstill; conductor comes to the window, and the frightened operator delivers the order while the bandits crouch out of sight, at the same time keeping their revolvers trained on him. No sooner does the conductor leave than they fall upon the operator, bind and gag him, then hastily depart to catch the moving train. Scene 2 -- At the Railroad Water Tank. The bandit band are seen hiding behind the tank as a train stops to take water (according to false order). Just before she pulls out they stealthily board the train between the express car and the tender. Scene 3 -- Interior of Express Car. Messenger is busily engaged with his duties. Becoming alarmed at an unusual sound, he goes to the door, and peeping through the keyhole, discovers two men trying to break in. He starts back in a bewildered manner. Quickly recovering, his first thought is of the valuables in the strong box, which he hastily locks, and throws the key through the open side door. Pulling his revolver, he fortifies himself behind a pile of trunks, etc. In the meantime, the two robbers have succeeded in effecting an entrance. They enter cautiously. The messenger opens fire on them. A desperate pistol duel takes place, in which the messenger is killed. One of the robbers stands watch while the other tries to open the treasure box. Finding it locked, he searches the messenger for the key. Not finding it, he blows the safe up with dynamite. After securing the valuables and mail bags, they leave the car. [end of part 1]
-  Scene 4 -- The Fight on the Tender. This thrilling scene was taken from the mail car showing the tender and interior of locomotive cab, while the train is running forty miles an hour. While some of the bandits are robbing the mail car, two others are seen climbing over the tender. One of them holds up the engineer, and the other covers the fireman. The latter secures a coal shovel and climbs up on the tender, where a desperate fight takes place with the outlaw. They struggle fiercely all over the tank, having several narrow escapes from being hurled over the side of the tender. Finally they fall, with the robber on top. He grabs a lump of coal, and strikes the fireman on the head, rendering him senseless. He then hurls the body from the swiftly moving train. The bandits then compel the engineer to bring the train to a stop. Scene 5 -- The Train Uncoupled. Shows the train coming to a stop. With the robbers' pistols close to his head, the engineer leaves the locomotive, uncouples it from the train, and pulls ahead about one hundred feet. Scene 6 -- Exterior of Passenger Coaches. The bandits compel the passengers to leave coaches with hands aloft, and line up along the tracks. One of the robbers covers them with large pistols in either hand, while the others ransack the travelers' pockets. A passenger makes an attempt to escape, but is instantly shot down. After securing everything of value, the band terrorize the passengers by firing their revolvers in the air, and then make safe their escape on the locomotive. Scene 7 -- The Escape. The desperadoes board the locomotive with their booty, command the engineer to start his machine, and disappear in the distance. Scene 8 -- Off to the Mountains. The robbers bring the engine to a stop several miles from the scene of the "Hold Up," and take to the mountains. [end of part 2]
-  Scene 9 -- A Beautiful Scene in a Valley. The bandits come down the side of a hill on a run and cross a narrow stream. Mounting their horses, which were tied to nearby trees, they vanish into the wilderness. Scene 10 -- Interior of Telegraph Office. The operator lies bound and gagged on the floor. After a desperate struggle, he succeeds in standing up. Leaning on the table, he telegraphs for assistance by manipulating the key with his chin, and then faints from exhaustion. His little daughter enters with his dinner pail. Discovering his condition, she cuts the ropes, and throwing a glass of water in his face, restores him to consciousness. Arousing in a bewildered manner, he suddenly recalls his thrilling experience, and rushes forth to summon assistance. Scene 11 -- Interior of a Dance Hall. This typical Western dance house scene shows a large number of men and women in a lively quadrille. A "Tenderfoot" appears on the scene. He is quickly spotted, pushed to the center of the hall, and compelled to dance a jig, while the bystanders amuse themselves by shooting dangerously close to his feet. Suddenly the door opens and the half dead telegraph operator staggers in. The crowd gather around him, while he relates what has happened. Immediately the dance breaks up in confusion. The men secure their guns and hastily leave in pursuit of the outlaws. Scene 12 -- The Posse in Pursuit. Shows the robbers dashing down a rugged mountain at a terrible pace, followed closely by a large posse, both parties firing as they proceed. One of the desperados is shot and plunges head first from his horse. Staggering to his feet, he fires at his nearest pursuer, only to be shot dead. Scene 13 -- Battle to the Death. The remaining three bandits, thinking they had eluded their pursuers, have dismounted from their horses. After carefully surveying their surroundings, they begin to examine the contents of the mail bags. Deeply engaged in this work, they do not perceive the approach of the posse. The pursuers, having left their horses, steal noiselessly down upon them until they are completely surrounded. A desperate battle then takes place. After a brave stand, all of the robbers and several of the posse bite the dust. Scene 14 -- Realism. A life size picture of Barnes, leader of the outlaw band, taking aim and firing point blank at each individual in the audience. (This effect is gained by foreshortening in making the picture.) The resulting excitement is great. This section of the scene can be used either to begin the subject or to end it, as the operator may choose. The End. Sold in one length only. 740 feet. Class A. Price, 111.00.
-  Summary from Edison films catalog, no. 200, January supplement 1904, p. 5-7 [MI].
-  MAVIS 765; The great train robbery. DLC
-  Based partly on the play, The great train robbery, by Scott Marble.
-  Theatrical projection print was acquired for LC's National Film Preservation Tour, featuring titles from the National Film Registry. DLC
-  Filmed during November 1903 at Edison's New York studio, in Essex County Park in New Jersey, and along the Lackawanna Railroad.
-  This film was selected for the National Film Registry.
-  Digital file viewed.
-  Sources used: Copyright catalog, motion pictures, 1894-1912; Musser, C. Before the nickelodeon, 1991, p. 253-59; Niver, K.R. Early motion pictures, 1985; Edison films catalog, no. 200, January supplement 1904, p. 5-7 [MI].
-  Available also through the Library of Congress Web site as digital files.
-  viewing copy and master; Received: 2006-05-09 from LC video lab; preservation; Edison Collection.
-  35 mm viewing print, copy 1; Received: 9-22-1987 from LC film lab; preservation; Edison Collection.
-  viewing print, copy 2; Received: 9-30-1987 from LC film lab; preservation; Edison Collection.
-  viewing print, copy 3; Received: 10-7-1987 from LC film lab; preservation; Edison Collection.
-  pic dupe negs, copies 1 and 2; Received: 9-16-1987 from LC film lab; preservation; Edison Collection.
-  master pos pic; Received: 9-1-1987 from LC film lab; preservation; Edison Collection.
-  theatrical projection print; Received: ca. 9-1995; gift; Museum of Modern Art Collection.
-  35 mm. viewing print, copy 4, 16 mm. viewing prints, copies 1 and 2; and 16 mm. neg; Received: ca. 1962; preservation; Paper Print Collection.
viewing copy. 1 videocassette of 1 (Betacam SP) (ca. 10 min.) : si., b&w ; 1/2 in.
master. 1 videocassette of 1 (Digital Betacam) (ca. 10 min.) : si., b&w ; 1/2 in.
viewing print. 1 film reel of 1 (inc.) (ca. 8 min., ca. 690 ft.) : si., b&w ; 35 mm.
viewing print (copy 2) 1 film reel of 1 (inc.) (ca. 8 min., ca. 700 ft.) : si., b&w ; 35 mm.
viewing print (copy 3) 1 film reel of 1 (inc.) (ca. 8 min., ca. 700 ft.) : si., b&w ; 35 mm.
dupe neg pic. 1 film reel of 1 (inc.) (ca. 8 min., 694 ft.) : si., b&w ; 35 mm.
dupe neg pic (copy 2) 1 film reel of 1 (inc.) (ca. 8 min., 677 ft.) : si., b&w ; 35 mm.
master pos pic. 1 film reel of 1 (inc.) (ca. 8 min., 694 ft.) : si., b&w ; 35 mm.
theatrical projection print. 1 film reel of 1 (ca. 12 min., ca. 1,000 ft.) : si., b&w ; 35 mm.
viewing print (copy 4) 1 film reel of 1 (ca. 12 min., ca. 1,000 ft.) : si., b&w ; 35 mm.
viewing print. 1 film reel of 1 (ca. 12 min., ca. 430 ft.) : si., b&w ; 16 mm.
viewing print (copy 2) 1 film reel of 1 (ca. 12 min., ca. 430 ft.) : si., b&w ; 16 mm.
dupe neg pic. 1 film reel of 1 (ca. 12 min., ca. 430 ft.) : si., b&w ; 16 mm.
paper pos. 1 roll of 1 (ca. 12 min., ca. 1,000 ft.) : si., b&w ; 35 mm.
paper pos (copy 2) 1 roll of 1 (ca. 12 min., ca. 1,000 ft.) : si., b&w ; 35 mm.
Call Number
VBS 0062 (viewing copy)
VRA 1435 (viewing copy)
FEA 4498 (viewing print)
FEB 9453 (viewing print, copy 2)
FEB 9129 (viewing print, copy 3)
FPF 5088 (dupe neg pic)
FPF 5089 (dupe neg pic, copy 2)
FPF 5099 (master pos pic)
FQC 3676 (theatrical projection print)
FLA 5949 (viewing print, copy 4)
FLA 5421 (viewing print)
FLA 4912 (viewing print, copy 2)
FRA 3923 (dupe neg pic)
Box 0702A (paper pos)
Box 5799A (paper pos, copy 2)
Library of Congress Motion Picture, Broadcasting and Recorded Sound Division Washington, D. C. 20540 USA dcu
Digital Id
edmp 2443s1 2443s2 2443s3
Library of Congress Catalog Number

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