02 December 2010

Seeing Into the Past

I've been working on a book manuscript about a late 19th/early 20th century author.  Part of the research has been looking at/for images, information, and time lines of that time.  It's been exceptionally fun when I come across videos of film footage of the era: movie making technology was in its infancy then.

Here's some of what I've found.

[from the Library of Congress American Memory project] "Scene from the New York stage comedy, The widow Jones, in which Irwin and Rice starred. According to Edison film historian C. Musser, the actors staged their kiss for the camera at the request of the New York world newspaper, and the resulting film was the most popular Edison Vitascope film in 1896." You can view this short movie here.

[from Library of Congress American Memory project] "Edison kinetoscopic record of a sneeze, January 7, 1894 / W.K.L. Dickson." Short movie can be seen here.

San Francisco, before the 1906 earthquake. This movie was made in 1905 or 1906, depending on your sources.

Old London Street Scenes (1903) -- [from the YouTube description] "Made over 100 years ago, this footage shows a number of scenes shot around central London, taking in locations such as Hyde Park Corner, Parliament Square and Charing Cross Station. We see crowds of people disembarking from a pleasure steamer at Victoria Embankment, pedestrians dodging horse-drawn carriages in Pall Mall, and heavy traffic trotting down the Strand.

There are plenty of famous landmarks to spot here, including Big Ben, the National Gallery and the Bank of England, and it is fascinating to see the similarities between the customs of "then" and "now" - the dense traffic (mainly horse-drawn, with the occasional motor car) is highly reminiscent of today's London rush hour, whilst advertising on public transport is clearly no new phenomenon - in one scene, an advert for Nestlé's Milk seems to be plastered on every other vehicle."

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