This selection of 55 “actuality”
films is drawn from the Library of Congress’s Paper Print
Collection, an archive that includes hundreds of early films shot
by Edison and Biograph cameramen on the streets of New York around
the start of the 20th century, as the movies themselves were being
Begun in 1896, these short, documentary-like films contain no plots,
no stories, and no characters – such things having not yet
been invented – but are instead real-time glimpses of actual
events, people, and places. Primitive yet powerful, the films show
not staged scenes but real life, the people in them not actors but
ordinary New Yorkers, going about their daily business, utterly
unaware they are being captured forever by this new and magical
The following list, which includes the film
title, studio, date, and director (d), or cameraman (c), links to
the Library of
Congress "American Memory"
website, which allows users to download the entire film or watch
it online. (A few of them link to the
Internet Movie Database).
of emigrants [i.e. immigrants], Ellis Island Biograph 1906,
c G. W. "Billy" Bitzer
the Foot of the Flatiron, Biograph, 1903, c A. E. Weed
parade, Edison, 1900
day, 14th Street, New York Biograph 1905, c.Frederick F. Armitage
of a skyscraper, Biograph, 1902
Black Hand, Biograph, 1906, d Wallace McCutcheon, c G. W. Bitzer
& Union Square, New York, Biograph, 1903
Bill's wild west parade, Biograph, 1902
Island at Night, Edison, 1905, c Edwin S. Porter
newspapers, Biograph, 1903
of Peary [and the] "Roosevelt" from New York, Biograph,
East Side Urchins Bathing in a Fountain, Edison, 1903, c Edwin S.
Electrocuting an Elephant, Edison, 1903
railroad, New York, Biograph, 1903
[i.e. immigrants] landing at Ellis Island, Edison, 1903
Excavating for a New York foundation, Biograph, 1903
Excavation for Subway, Biograph, 1902, c Robert K. Bonine
"New Yorker" in action--excerpts], Edison, 1903
of Hiram Cronk, Biograph, 1905
Square, Edison, 1896, c William Heise
a French Nobleman Got a Wife Through the New York "Herald"
Personal Columns, Edison, 1904, d Edwin S. Porter
N.Y. subway, 14th St. to 42nd St., Biograph,
Life of the American Policeman, Edison, 1905, d Edwin S. Porter,
c Edwin S. Porter
Broadway, Biograph, 1903
on, Edison, 1903.
Fire Department returning, Biograph 1903.
York City "ghetto" fish market, Edison, 1903.
York City dumping wharf, Edison, 1903.
City in a Blizzard, Edison, 1902
New York Harbor Police boat Patrol capturing pirates, Edison,
York police parade, June 1st, 1899, Edison, 1899.
of new East River bridge, New York , Edison, 1903.
the Williamsburg Bridge , Biograph, 1904
from the Times Building, New York, Biograph, 1905, c Wallace
from the tower of Brooklyn Bridge , Biograph, 1903, c G. W.
of Blackwell's Island, N.Y. , Edison, 1903.
of Flatiron Building , Biograph, 1903.
Panorama of Riker's Island, N.Y. , Edison, 1903.
water front and Brooklyn Bridge from East River , Edison, 1903.
of "exempt" firemen, Biograph 1903.
Parade of horses on Speedway, Biograph 1903.
perilous proceeding, Biograph, 1902
Biograph, 1904, d Wallace McCutcheon, c G. W. Bitzer
boats in New York harbor, Edison, 1899
on lake, Central Park, New York, NY, American Stereoscopic Company,
skyscrapers of New York, , Biograph, 1906, c Fred Dobson
Scrapers of New York City, From the North River, Edison, 1903,
c James Blair Smith
scene, Edison, 1898
refuse at incinerating plant, New York City, Edison, 1903, c
Edwin S. Porter
Theatre, Biograph 1902
of Liberty Edison, 1898
Workers, Biograph, 1906, c F. A. Dobson
happened on Twenty-third Street, New York City , Edison, 1901
White Wings on review , Edison, 1903