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A Trip Through New York City in 1911

An evening pause: I’ve posted similar early 1900 film footage for Paris and San Francisco. My one reservation about this restoration is the adding of color. They don’t over do it, but adds an element of inaccuracy to the footage.

Hat tip Mike Nelson, noted some of the same things I did with the previous examples.

What strikes me is how well dressed everyone was, how there was no trash on the streets (despite no obvious public trash cans), no graffiti, no road rage despite the complete lack of traffic control, and the air quality looked significantly worse than today. Other than cleaner air I’m not so sure we can call today a big improvement.

I personally am not sure the air quality was worse either. Watch, and get a sense of what America was once like.

Pioneer cover

From the press release: From the moment he is handed a possibility of making the first alien contact, Saunders Maxwell decides he will do it, even if doing so takes him through hell and back.

Unfortunately, that is exactly where that journey takes him.

The vision that Zimmerman paints of vibrant human colonies on the Moon, Mars, the asteroids, and beyond, indomitably fighting the harsh lifeless environment of space to build new societies, captures perfectly the emerging space race we see today.

He also captures in Pioneer the heart of the human spirit, willing to push forward no matter the odds, no matter the cost. It is that spirit that will make the exploration of the heavens possible, forever, into the never-ending future.

Available everywhere for $3.99 (before discount) at amazon, Barnes & Noble, all ebook vendors, or direct from the ebook publisher, ebookit. And if you buy it from ebookit you don't support the big tech companies and I get a bigger cut much sooner.


  • wayne

    Good deal!

    Mr. Z.,
    –there is an un-colorized version at the Internet Archive. Speed stabilized, etc., but has the fake sound added.
    (attributed to the Swedish company Svenska Biografteatern, but I can’t vouch for that.)

  • Tom Biggar

    In the late 1890s, over 500 tons of horse manure was collected from the city streets every day.

  • TL

    I love watching these speed stabilized early movies of city life. Looking at this one, I don’t draw the same conclusions about how clean the city was. The streets are washed out in most of the scenes (leaving them white), which masks both garbage and most of the manure coating it. Air quality would have been horrible because almost all the heating, shipping, factory work was powered by steam boilers fueled by coal. All that coal burned without scrubber technologies results in massive air pollution.

    As James Lileks has pointed out when presenting old city photos, one part of the historical experience that is completely lost to us is the smell of a time and place. That said, I’m fairly certain that if I were exposed to the scents created by that many people, horses, smokestacks, and organic matter in one place my first thought would not be “clean”. :-)

  • Andi

    I believe that the internal combustion engine was welcomed in cities as a clean solution to the pollution caused by horses.

    Wouldn’t be surprised if cities back then smelled worse than barns.

  • Andi

    Found what I was looking for:

    “The Great Horse Manure Crisis of 1894” – refers to London but also mentions NYC

  • Lee Valentine


    Maybe four overweight people.

    Many horses. Not much horse manure in the video though.

    Everyone well dressed. Ladies with feather hats.

    A Fulton paddle wheeler.

    Otherwise, not so much different to today.

    Thanks for this.

  • David R Howard

    Gentlemen, you have missed the biggest and most important visible difference over the last 100 years.

    Where are the 300 hundred pounders? either men or women?

    In less than one hundred years, with the same weather and genes our society has gone from less then 5% overweight to over 50%. Don’t claim that they exercised more. There was no such thing as jogging or ubiquitous gyms or the modern fad of continuous working out.

    Talk about an epidemic! Also you will remember that metabolic syndrome is the only way anyone under 60 will see the inside of hospital with the Wuhan (or any other) flu.

    Remember Curly of the three stooges. Go look at some old video. This “fat” guy from the 30s would be the thin guy in a modern day frat or high school graduating class.

    Curious that no one official is investigating this.

    My bet is seed oils. Before 1900 all most everyone ate mainly animal fats: cream, lard, tallow, etc.
    Crisco was marketed in 1913 and is an acronym for CRYStalized COtton seed oil. That was the beginning. sunflower, safflower, rapeseed, canola, soy”bean” followed on with estrogenic (yea bitch tits) Soybean oil the big winner. Now the average american eats way more calories from soybean oil than beef in a year. Almost every product in the middle of the modern supermarket has one of these “natural cold pressed organic” seed oils as a primary ingredient.

    Seed oils are uniformly higher in unsaturated fat than animal fat. This unsaturated is liquid at room temperature, and is far more easily oxidized than saturated fat. Ingesting it will result in elevated hCrp inflammatory markers. Which is another risk factor for Wuhan flu and every other chronic disease that kills the vast majority of us that are not killed in a crash.

    Biopsies of modern western human fat show that over 20% is unsaturated, where as early 1900 westerners were down in the single digits. Modern hunter gatherers who have not adopted processed food are down below 3%. They do not have any of the modern diseases: tooth decay, macular degeneration, arthritis, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, Multiple sclerosis, ad infinitum

    Remember every cell wall in your body as well as every mitochondrial wall is entirely made of fat molecules. And of course your entire brain is built from fat. Do you think making a wholesale change in less than a hundred years to eating mass quantities of a chemically different brand new kind of fat might cause problems?

    The good news is that , over a few years, you could change the walls of your existing cells back to what your great grandfather enjoyed by going back to what your great grandfather ate. Good Luck.

  • Cotour

    David R:

    I heard and I do not remember who said it but I believe there is a study conducted and there was a correlation between the size of todays Americans and the emergence of pizza and chicken based fast foods.

  • pzatchok

    Just think not a shaved leg in the whole city. Hairy women all over the place.

    And not a stick of deodorant for any of the men.

    Getting on public transport would not be better than just walking in the open air.

    People actually shared tooth brushes back then.

  • john hare

    David R,
    Yes they did exercise far more back then as much more of the work force did physical labor. Six 12 hour work days were far more common as well. Exercise is not necessarily going to a gym. I stayed fit for several decades working 50-70 hours a week. Now that it is 40-50 with much of it being non-physical, I have gained about 40 pounds and probably have less muscle mass.

    Also back a century and some, food was far more expensive than today with far less variety. Food costs of half the income were common at one time. Even affluent people didn’t have the variety and quality that average people do today. Fresh food was only available in the local season.

  • sippin_bourbon

    I love the scenes on the river.

    Last May I was on a cruise that went up through the Harbor on the Hudson.
    It is neat seeing some of the same angles of the bridges, the statue, and such.
    The skyline is totally different of course.

    Made me dig out my pics to see if I could find a matching angle.

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