This has got to be one of the coolest videos I have ever seen. Just recently compiled and put online by Thrillist.com, this 8-minute video compiles the oldest motion picture footage of New York that still exists in the world. But it’s not just old grainy clips themselves. They’ve also included maps and a moving arrow to show you exactly where the pictures were taken, and titles on the screen to tell you what you’re looking at and when it was taken. The amount of research that went into this compilation is pretty impressive.
This video contains what must be the earliest moving pictures of New York that have survived: a clip of Herald Square taken in May 1896. Yes, that’s 119 years ago. Many of the other clips shown here aren’t much younger, with the “newest” of them dating from 1903. Thus, we have a pretty fascinating look at the city in this vanished age.
I love looking not only at the landmarks, but the people. These are real people who really lived, and a few brief seconds of their lives have been captured for posterity. Check out the African-American gentleman whose hat is blown off by the wind beneath the Flatiron Building (1:34), and the woman from 1901 whose skirt gets blown up as she walks over a subway grate (3:58), half a century before Marilyn Monroe did it in The Seven Year Itch.
This is absolutely amazing footage. I love it! For another view of New York in the same era, check out this article.