New York in 1911

Yeah, that’s quite a throwback for this Thursday. This recently found footage was shot in 1911 by “Svenska Biografteatern,” apparently a Swedish company specializing in documenting the world as it was at that moment in time.

Last year, New York’s Museum of Modern Art discovered the footage, restored it and put it on display. That exhibit has since been taken down. However, YouTuber “guy jones” got hold of the footage and put it up for all to see. It’s not under copyright, being so old.

You can clearly see a bunch of landmarks that are still there, and considering we are looking at 100-year-0ld film the quality is simply amazing.

Why is it so choppy?

In those days, cameramen commonly used a rate of 18 frames per second. It was all done by hand and with a stopwatch. Nothing back then was mechanized or computerized, of course. In 1927, when films added sound, the standard frame rate was set at 24 frames per second. Old films projected at that rate have a janky, sped-up feel to them of course. This video has been reduced back to a more natural rate that probably reflects the way it was originally intended to be seen.

What about the sound?

The sound was clearly added afterwards. It definitely wasn’t recorded on that date and there’s no way to know if it’s really anything close to what was there on the day.

But overall…

…this is an incredible document. It shows how, in 100 years, New York City hasn’t changed so terribly. Of course its storied old neighborhoods were new back then. There were few electric lights and even fewer cars. People just sort of walked across the street, because they were able to see traffic coming at (what seems like a leisurely) 10 miles per hour. Come to think of it, traffic doesn’t go that much faster today.

More importantly, it shows the people of New York City. They seem happy and sprightly by today’s standards, excessively well dressed. Really though, if you look closer, you’ll see that some are exasperated, some are glad to be getting some fresh air, some are just making their way through the day. It’s not too different from the way things are today.