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 born.

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 medium.

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).

Arrival of emigrants [i.e. immigrants], Ellis Island Biograph 1906, c G. W. "Billy" Bitzer

At the Foot of the Flatiron, Biograph, 1903, c A. E. Weed

Automobile parade, Edison, 1900

Bargain day, 14th Street, New York Biograph 1905, c.Frederick F. Armitage

Beginning of a skyscraper, Biograph, 1902

The Black Hand, Biograph, 1906, d Wallace McCutcheon, c G. W. Bitzer

Broadway & Union Square, New York, Biograph, 1903

Buffalo Bill's wild west parade, Biograph, 1902

Coney Island at Night, Edison, 1905, c Edwin S. Porter

Delivering newspapers, Biograph, 1903

Departure of Peary [and the] "Roosevelt" from New York, Biograph, 1905

East Side Urchins Bathing in a Fountain, Edison, 1903, c Edwin S. Porter

Electrocuting an Elephant, Edison, 1903

Elevated railroad, New York, Biograph, 1903

Emigrants [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

[Fireboat "New Yorker" in action--excerpts], Edison, 1903

Funeral of Hiram Cronk, Biograph, 1905

Herald Square, Edison, 1896, c William Heise

How a French Nobleman Got a Wife Through the New York "Herald" Personal Columns, Edison, 1904, d Edwin S. Porter

Interior N.Y. subway, 14th St. to 42nd St.,
Biograph, 1905

The Life of the American Policeman, Edison, 1905, d Edwin S. Porter, c Edwin S. Porter

Lower Broadway, Biograph, 1903

Move on, Edison, 1903.

N.Y. Fire Department returning, Biograph 1903.

New York City "ghetto" fish market, Edison, 1903.

New York City dumping wharf, Edison, 1903.

New York City in a Blizzard, Edison, 1902

New York Harbor Police boat Patrol capturing pirates
, Edison, 1903.

New York police parade, June 1st, 1899, Edison, 1899.

Opening of new East River bridge, New York , Edison, 1903.

Opening the Williamsburg Bridge , Biograph, 1904

Panorama from the Times Building, New York, Biograph, 1905, c Wallace McCutcheon

Panorama from the tower of Brooklyn Bridge , Biograph, 1903, c G. W. "Billy" Bitzer

Panorama of Blackwell's Island, N.Y. , Edison, 1903.

Panorama of Flatiron Building , Biograph, 1903.

Panorama of Riker's Island, N.Y.
, Edison, 1903.

Panorama water front and Brooklyn Bridge from East River , Edison, 1903.

Parade of "exempt" firemen, Biograph 1903.

Parade of horses on Speedway
, Biograph 1903.

Pennsylvania Tunnel excavation, Biograph 1905.

A perilous proceeding, Biograph, 1902

Personal, Biograph, 1904, d Wallace McCutcheon, c G. W. Bitzer

Pilot boats in New York harbor, Edison, 1899

Skating on lake, Central Park, New York, NY, American Stereoscopic Company, 1902

The skyscrapers of New York, , Biograph, 1906, c Fred Dobson

Sky Scrapers of New York City, From the North River, Edison, 1903, c James Blair Smith

Sleighing scene, Edison, 1898

Sorting refuse at incinerating plant, New York City, Edison, 1903, c Edwin S. Porter

Star Theatre, Biograph 1902

Statue of Liberty Edison, 1898

A street Arab, Edison, 1898

The Tunnel Workers, Biograph, 1906, c F. A. Dobson

What happened on Twenty-third Street, New York City , Edison, 1901

White Wings on review
, Edison, 1903