Looking for early footage of cities from the beginning of the 20th century (but as late as the 1940s)
November 5, 2010 1:17 PM   Subscribe

I'm looking for early movie footage of cities, the kind where someone just set up a movie camera on a street corner and recorded people walking around. Preferably from as early in the 20th century as possible.

I'm looking for footage of cities from the 1940s or earlier--preferably earlier and as close to the turn of the century as possible--and mostly focused on street scenes. You know, the kind of footage where downtown New York is full of horse-drawn carriages and the occasional streetcar.

I'm interested mainly in big cities, but other than that it doesn't matter: Rome, London, New York, Berlin, wherever. It also doesn't have to be shot by a professional. Home movies are interesting to me as long as they're of people out in the city and of buildings, and not of the family barbecuing in the backyard.

If you know of somewhere online where there's a large catalog of this stuff, but you don't feel like digging through it yourself, I'd be grateful for those sorts of links as well. Thanks for your time!
posted by colfax to Media & Arts (10 answers total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Have you seen this footage shot from a San Francisco streetcar in 1906?

Also, perhaps try the Library of Congress archives.
posted by dormouse at 1:26 PM on November 5, 2010

Best answer: Dziga Vertov's Man With a Movie Camera (1929) is just what you're looking for. You can also look into other films (like Berlin: Symphony of a City) filed under the city symphony genre.
posted by punchdrunkhistory at 1:28 PM on November 5, 2010

Best answer: There's a ton of this sort of thing on You Tube. An example is this short piece in Herald Square in 1896. The You Tube right-side Suggestion links will take you to many more.
posted by aught at 1:41 PM on November 5, 2010

Best answer: The Scenic America section of the Library of Congress' collection of digitized Edison newsreels includes some - a few examples:

New York City "Ghetto" Fish Market
First Avenue, Seattle

Also: Early Films of New York, 1898-1906
posted by ryanshepard at 1:46 PM on November 5, 2010

Best answer: The Mitchell and Kenyon shorts available on YouTube are also worth having a look at, e.g.:

Manchester Street Scene
Blackfriars Bridge
Manchester Band of Hope Procession

They're compiled (and playable w/out music or voice-overs) here.
posted by ryanshepard at 1:53 PM on November 5, 2010

Best answer: Mitchell and Kenyon did a lot of this sort of thing around the turn of the 19th century. The British Film Institute has descriptions and streaming clips, but you need to register.
posted by freya_lamb at 1:54 PM on November 5, 2010

Best answer: [not what you're looking for, but this is awesome]
posted by mazola at 2:17 PM on November 5, 2010

Best answer: Have you looked through the Prelinger Archives?
posted by gingerbeer at 2:19 PM on November 5, 2010

Response by poster: Oh you lovely, lovely people! This is exactly what I've been looking for. I don't have time to go through it this evening, but this all looks fabulous. You make me very happy.
posted by colfax at 4:57 PM on November 5, 2010

Best answer: Turn of the century Honolulu.
posted by dealing away at 10:03 PM on November 6, 2010

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