The Life of a City: Early Films of New York, 1889-1906
All files linked from this site reside at the Library of Congress. This index is provided as a quick reference to transit-related materials at the Library of Congress resources and is not inclusive or authoritative. Visit the Archive at the Library of Congress.
|Interior N.Y. subway, 14th St. to 42nd St.
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Photographed May 21, 1905, Interborough Subway, 14 St. to 42nd St., New York, N.Y. 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 east side IRT, and ends at the old Grand Central Station, built by Cornelius Vanderbilt in 1869. The Grand Central Station in use today was not completed until 1913.
|Elevated railroad, New York
Photographed 1903. The film was photographed from the front platform of a train traveling over elevated tracks in New York City. The train from which the film was made was going northbound on the 9th Avenue El, going through the famous "Suicide Curve" on the El's jog from Columbus Avenue to 8th Avenue along 110th Street. Before the train rounds the first curve, a road appears to be going uphill to the left. This is Morningside Drive. Faintly visible in the upper left-hand corner is the original building of St. Luke's Hospital. The film ends short of the 116th Street station. The third rails are already in place for the forthcoming start of electric operation on this line, which was the last of the Manhattan elevateds to be electrified. The 110th Street station, on Suicide Curve, was yet to built. (Thanks to Michael Cairl for the location info.)
|Broadway & Union Square, New York
Photographed August 19, 1901. This short film shows two horse-drawn streetcars, one approaching the camera and the other heading away. Passengers can be seen boarding and getting off of the crowded cars.
Photographed May 15, 1902. Location: New York, N.Y. The film shows a view which appears to be looking north on Broadway at the intersection of either Wall Street, in front of Trinity Church, or Vesey Street at St. Paul's Chapel. 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 , with a sign giving it's destination as the "Courtland and Fulton Street Ferry."
|Pennsylvania Tunnel excavation
Photographed July 19, 1905. Location: Seventh and Eighth Avenues, New York, N.Y. 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 feet. It would connect a massive rail tunnel system, bringing the Pennsylvania and Lehigh Railroads under the Hudson River and the Long Island Railroad under the East River to a terminal in the center of Manhattan, accommodating a network of twenty-seven tracks.
|Panorama from the tower of the 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 film ends. Some visible landmarks include the Fulton Fish Market buildings at Fulton and South Streets (currently the site of the South Street Seaport Museum); north of the bridge tower is the Catherine Slip, where a Catherine Street Ferry is docked.
|Opening of the new East River [Williamsburg] Bridge
Photographed 1903. 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 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." Next, a covered platform, draped in flag bunting is shown, where the people previously seen have gone to begin the ceremonies. There is a brass band playing in front of the platform. Next, an unidentified speaker, probably Mayor Seth Low, can be seen addressing the crowd.