Through their eyes: late-19th century film footage


I love watching historical film footage. It makes the period under scrutiny a bit more approachable and easier to conceptualize. Unlike Hermione Granger, we cannot use a time turner to go back and see for ourselves what things were like.

hp time turner2
The time turner: not really a thing, but sold on Amazon, anyway. Image via


We also don’t have the luxury to go VERY far back, as the first single-lens motion picture camera was only invented in 1888 by Louis LePrince. And a great many of those early celluloids have deteriorated and are lost to us forever.

That being said, I think you will get a kick out of this compendium of short clips. Despite the video’s title, “The Gay Nineties,” I would guess this spans the late 1890s into the 1910s. Enjoy!


Wow, the sheer number of people out and about – and dodging traffic! – is crazy.

What aspects drew your attention the most? I’d love to hear from you.


Until next time,


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12 thoughts on “Through their eyes: late-19th century film footage”

  1. Margot KinbergMargot Kinberg

    Ah, this is *great*, Kathy! Thanks for sharing. A great way to show what life was like in a really compelling way.

  2. Vinnie HansenVinnie Hansen

    What strikes me is the variety of modes of transportation, starting with people on foot, carriages, railroad, horse-drawn trolleys, . . . .

  3. Bill BlissBill Bliss

    Very interesting. I wonder when it was narrated. Sort of a double-nostalgia.

  4. August McLaughlinAugust McLaughlin

    OMG, fascinating. The first thing that struck me was “Gay Nineties” — which is the name of my favorite club in Minneapolis! I’m now wondering if it’s a namesake. 🙂

    By the way, I noticed I was double-subscribed to your list (my bad!), and fixed it. 🙂 Always love your posts!

  5. PatriciaPatricia

    I love those old film clips. At times I do wonder how folks survived in all that chaos, but they’re fun to watch.

    Thanks for sharing.

    Patricia Rickrode
    w/a Jansen Schmidt


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