Thursday, September 17, 2020

Paris in the 1890s - Restored Film

Travel Back in Time to Colorful 1890s Paris

Eiffel Tower in Paris 1890s
The Eiffel Tower when it was about ten years old. The plan when this was taken was to disassemble it in another ten years - the decision had not yet been made to keep it permanently.
France was a center of filmmaking in the 1890s, and here we have some film from 1896-1900 that has been revived with modern software to meet our present-day standards. Cameras were bulky then, so they would be positioned in one spot and the cameraman would crank a handle to make them work. So, you don't get many action sequences unless the camera was mounted on a boat or vehicle. Fortunately, we do get some interesting shots in this batch of clips because Paris was quite a lively town.
The film is spectacular. It really brings the past to life. Oh, as a special bonus, immediately below is an expanded version of the above video that shows color scenes from other cities during the 1890s as well as Paris. Maybe you will agree with me that this is spectacular footage of a time when color footage seemed impossible.
Okay, on with our discussion.
Out for a stroll in 1890s Paris
The restoration really brings out the high couture worn by everyday women on the streets of Paris. It is easy to understand why women overseas waited anxiously for the "latest fashions from Paris." Women in New York City during this era generally wore formless and severe black dresses, quite unlike the fancy and colorful attire of  Belle Époque-era Paris.
Avenue des Champ-Elysées Paris 1890s
Traffic was brisk in the 1890s.
As you can see, the Avenue des Champ-Elysées was a wild affair in the 1890s. Huge carriages pulled by half a dozen horses carried ten or more people on top, while bicyclists darted around them and hoped they didn't fall off under the horses' hooves.
Street of the Future in Paris 1890s
Rue de l'Avenir.
You will notice a two-speed moving sidewalk. That was the Rue de l'Avenir ('Street of the Future'), a 3.5 km long moving walkway designed as an attraction for the Exposition Universelle of 1900. It was designed in 1893 by American engineers Schmidt and Silsbee and installed on a seven-meter-high viaduct made up of three platforms, two of which were movable. The slower one was going at a speed of 4 km/h and the second at 8 km/h, both rather brisk paces for 1900. In 1888, futurist Edward Bellamy published his novel "Looking Backward: 2000–1887" in which he prophesied that these types of sidewalks would be the highways of the future. Apparently, the Parisians took him seriously and set up this demonstration project. 
Firefighters in Paris 1890s
Firefighters apparently out on a drill, their wagons all pulled by stately teams of white horses. Everybody is very respectful, anyone's home could burn down at any time in those days.
Jardin du Luxembourg in Paris 1890s
The boys playing with boats are at the Jardin du Luxembourg. The boat-rental concession there began about 1881 and remains in existence to this day.

Anyway, it is a fascinating treat to travel back through time and see a world that no longer exists. You may be interested in other classic old films of yesteryear, most in color:


Tuesday, September 15, 2020

The 1902 Flying Train in Wuppertal, Germany

A Trip Back To 1902

The flying train of Wuppertal, Germany in 1902
Wuppertal, Germany in 1902.
I'm betting that you didn't know they had flying trains in 1902. Well, I didn't know that. But then, I don't live in Wuppertal, Germany. It was and still is called the Wuppertaler Schwebebahn.

Earlier version:

It turns out that the people running Wuppertal at the end of the 19th Century decided they needed a modern subway system. However, they had nowhere to put it, because their city was crowded between two mountains and a river ran down the center. So, they got creative and put their subway above the river - handing down from steampunk-style supports. Fortunately, a film of this ride was taken in 1902 by someone who knew what he was doing, and now you, too, can take a ride on the Wuppertal flying train in 1902.
The flying train of Wuppertal, Germany in 1902
It all looks very anachronistic and steampunk to me, like a video game rendition of what 1902 Germany might have looked like with Vincent Price flying around in a giant battleship powered by huge propellers.

Oh, maybe you are wondering as I was, "What does it look like now? Let's make a couple of comparisons. The stanchions were upgraded somewhere along the way so they are wider and sturdier and there isn't a need for as many of them. Perhaps this was done right after World War II when the flying train was partially destroyed by bombing.

Below is a fairly recent capture of Sonnborner Strasse in Wuppertal. I'm not 100% sure, but I think it is at the same bend in the road as the 1902 shot above. Compare them and see if I'm right.
Sonnborner Strasse, Wuppertal, Germany, August 2008
Sonnborner Strasse, Wuppertal, Germany, August 2008 (Google Maps).
Next up is 85 Kaiserstraße, Wuppertal, North Rhine-Westphalia, as seen in 1902.
The flying train of Wuppertal, Germany in 1902
And the 21st Century version of 85 Kaiserstraße, coming up on your left.
The flying train of Wuppertal, Germany in 1902
Wuppertal in 2008 (Courtesy of Google Street View).
Remember, this is an actual film, though the color has been added. Oh, and the flying train is still in operation in Wuppertal to this day and in daily use.
The flying train of Wuppertal, Germany in 1902

If you like history as I do, you'll appreciate this film and how it transports you into another, long-gone world.

Other classic old films of yesteryear, most in color:


New York City in 1911 in Color

Flatiron Building in 1911
The Flatiron Building in 1911.
Swedish company Svenska Biografteatern visited New York City in 1911 and took some footage that has survived. While it was not color film, modern technology can supply that well enough. What you see on this page are original images from 1911 that have been processed to bring them up as close as possible to modern standards.
In 1911, the film industry was just beginning to transition from the neighborhoods shown in this film to Hollywood, California. A good cross-section of Manhattan is shown, including the Williamsburgh and Brooklyn Bridges, the Flatiron Building, the docks down near the South Street Seaport, cars, and horse-drawn wagons jostling for position on crowded city streets, Greenwich Village, Herald Square, elevated subways (which were just about to be sent underground), Times Square, paddlewheel steamer Rosedale (sunk on 16 July 1912 off Rockaway Beach), and many other sites.
Elevated trains in 1911
If you love history as I do, you may find this film quite evocative of a time long gone.
Steamer Rosedale, sunk on 16 July 1912
The paddle-wheel steamer Rosedale, which appears briefly in the film, was a regular passage between Manhattan and Rockaway. It sank about a year after this film was taken in a collision with a larger ship.
Steamer Rosedale, sunk on 16 July 1912
Kingston Daily Freeman, Volume XLI, Number 231, 16 July 1912.
If you enjoy history as much as I do, you may find this film to be quite evocative of an age long gone by. I also have some classic footage of: