3/12/18

NEW YORK CITY--A QUICK 115 YEARS AGO


Welcome to New York City in 1903. My new favorite Youtube artist (yes, I said artist), Guy Jones, is the person responsible for most of what I posted last week, which largely consisted of the rediscovered and remastered Fox Movietone sound-on-film documentary footage of the city in the late 20s/early 30s. I've now become fascinated by another of the intrepid Mr. Jones' archeological experiments, in which he takes old found footage of the city, speed-corrects it (thus making it appear much more life-like then its original under-cranked/over-speedy look), adds subtle and interesting background sound effects...and believe it or not, you really do start to feel the life and atmosphere of the past unwind in front of you.

The above-posted reel consists of four plus minutes of street footage divided into five separate camera set-ups. We begin on the water, the camera clearly on deck of a moving ship, as we pass various strange pirate-looking vessels. Soon enough we're dumped onto the ever-popular Lower East Side/turn of the century/vendors/horses/vegetables/immigrants scene. This shot runs awhile and contains a young teen who happily demonstrates his talent for throwing a piece of fruit high in the air for the camera as well as a fat cop who, toward the end, clearly decides to ham it up for the camera and pretends to beat a pedestrian. I guess there'll always be an NYPD.

Next we move to a fish market (Fulton?), with a high-angle view of lots of poor people haggling over fish that clearly has been sitting outside for too long. This shot ends with the slightly ominous arrival of three men in suits who the general populus are quick to back away from. Who are they? The inspectors? The locals who control the trade? That guy in 'Godfather 2' who De Niro kills in order to take over the neighborhood?

Finally we wind up on the corner of Broadway and Vesey and get a quite wonderful education in history of public transportation in the city. For on view here are no less than three modes of transportation--and not one of them is an automobile. We get the horse and carriage trade (we've seen them in earlier shots) but we also get the new Electric Street cars--by 1903 they'd supplanted the Cable Cars so that's what I'm assuming we're seeing. But at the very end of this entrancing trip into the early part of the last century we get a view Horse-Line carriage--horses pulling passenger cars that were quite large and were attached to the ground tracks, thus enabling the horse to stay on course. Believe it or not, these things stayed in existence well into the early 1920s...

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