Splendid Vantage Points

Bradford Town Hall Square
No Credits. UK 1896
Print: BFI

“The earliest surviving footage of Victorian Bradford, little is known about this film or who made it. The filmmaker picked a splendid vantage point from which to capture the frenetic movement of a great variety of people and modes of transport across the square; the amount of traffic suggests a Saturday morning.” (YouTube / British Film Institute BFI)

Lower Broadway
K: Robert K. Bonine. P: American Mutoscope & Biograph Co. USA 15. Mai 1902


New York City “ghetto” fish market
K: James Blair Smith. P: Edison Manufacturing Co. USA, 1. Mai 1903
Print: Library of Congress

“The view, photographed from an elevated camera position, looks down on a very crowded New York City street market. Rows of pushcarts and street vendors’ vehicles can be seen. The precise location is difficult to ascertain, but it is certainly on the Lower East Side, probably on or near Hester Street, which at the turn of the century was the center of commerce for New York’s Jewish ghetto. Located south of Houston Street and east of the Bowery, the ghetto population was predominantly Russian, but included immigrants from Austria, Germany, Rumania and Turkey. According to a description in a 1901 newspaper, an estimated 1,500 pushcart peddlers were licensed to sell wares (primarily fish) in the vicinity of Hester Street. At one point the film seems to follow three official looking men (one in a uniform) as they walk among the crowd. They may be New York City health inspectors, who apparently monitored the fish vendors closely.”
Library of Congress

[Edwin S.] Porter and James Smith shot at least fifteen travelogue-type subjects in and around Manhattan. The series included panoramas of the skyline; staged activities by the fire department, police, and harbor patrol (New York Harbor Police Boat Patrol Capturing Pirates); parades (White Wings on Review ), and scenes of New York’s underbelly (New York City Dumping Wharf ). For New York City ” Ghetto” Fish Market, Smith placed his camera at a window or on a low rooftop. Looking down on an open air market, it panned along the street as one or two individuals in the crowd stared into its lens. Soon afterwards, Porter stopped off in Sayre, Pennsylvania, and took Lehigh Valley Black Diamond Express, a replacement negative of that still popular subject, on May 13th. Perhaps the cameraman was on a visit to Connellsville; in any case, he had returned to New York City by May 30th, Decoration Day, when he filmed Sixty-Ninth Regiment, N.G.N.Y . as the unit marched up Fifth Avenue. Three weeks later he photographed Africander Winning the Suburban Handicap . Such subjects had been taken for the past six years and had become routine.”
Charles Musser: Before the Nickelodeon. Edwin S. Porter and the Edison Manufacturing Company. Berkeley/Los Angeles/Oxford 1991, S. 241