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

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  • Film, Video

    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) - Niver (kemp) Collection (library of Congress)
    • Date: 1903
  • Film, Video

    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: Weed, A. E. - American Mutoscope and Biograph Company - Paper Print Collection (library of Congress) - Niver (kemp) Collection (library of Congress)
    • Date: 1903
  • Film, Video

    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 ...

    • Contributor: Smith, James Blair - Thomas A. Edison, Inc - Paper Print Collection (library of Congress)
    • Date: 1903
  • Film, Video

    Sky scrapers of New York City, from the North River /

    Filmed from a moving boat, the film depicts the Hudson River (i.e., North River) shoreline and the piers of lower Manhattan beginning around Fulton Street and extending to Castle Garden and Battery Park. It begins at one of the American Line piers (Pier 14 or 15, opposite Fulton Street) where an American Line steamer, either the "New York" or "Paris," is seen docked [Frame: ...

    • Contributor: Smith, James Blair - Thomas A. Edison, Inc - Paper Print Collection (library of Congress) - Niver (kemp) Collection (library of Congress)
    • Date: 1903
  • Film, Video

    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)
    • Date: 1906
  • Collection

    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.

    • Contributor: Library of Congress. Motion Picture, Broadcasting, and Recorded Sound Division - Paper Print Collection (library of Congress) - Kleine (george) Collection (library of Congress) - Theodore Roosevelt Association Collection (library of Congress) - Afi/Post (george) Collection (library of Congress) - Afi/Staples (robert) & Charles (barbara) Collection (library of Congress) - Library of Congress. National Digital Library Program
    • Date: 1897

    View 46 Items

  • Film, Video

    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)
    • Date: 1902
  • Film, Video

    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) - Paley, William Daly
    • Date: 1900
  • Film, Video

    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)
    • Date: 1903
  • Film, Video

    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)
    • Date: 1903
  • Film, Video

    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)
    • Date: 1903
  • Film, Video

    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)
    • Date: 1903
  • Film, Video

    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) - Niver (kemp) Collection (library of Congress)
    • Date: 1901
  • Film, Video

    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 ...

    • Contributor: Smith, James Blair - Thomas A. Edison, Inc - Paper Print Collection (library of Congress)
    • Date: 1903
  • Film, Video

    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 ...

    • Contributor: Bitzer, G. W. - American Mutoscope and Biograph Company - Paper Print Collection (library of Congress)
    • Date: 1905
  • Film, Video

    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)
    • Date: 1903
  • Film, Video

    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)
    • Date: 1905
  • Film, Video

    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)
    • Date: 1903
  • Film, Video

    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 ...

    • Contributor: Bonine, R. (robert K.) - American Mutoscope and Biograph Company - Paper Print Collection (library of Congress)
    • Date: 1902
  • Film, Video

    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 ...

    • 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)
    • Date: 1898
  • Film, Video

    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)
    • Date: 1903