Best Documentary Movies of 1904
Panorama View, Street Car Motor Room
A camera moving forward on an overhead crane gives a traveling view of men working on machinery. Carts carrying parts and pieces of machinery pass by on rails; cranes lift machinery; and men perform their various duties, including hammering objects. (Library of Congress)
Princess Rajah Dance
A woman stands in front of a building, a chair to her left, dressed in black, full skirt, quarter sleeves, and a scooped bodice. Her hair is piled high. She bows slightly, and, with finger cymbals, begins to dance the cooch.
Billy Bitzer filmed 21 short actualities inside the Pittsburgh Westinghouse Works in April and May of 1904. Audiences of the day would have been treated to footage of factory panoramas, women winding armatures and turbines being assembled. These industrial films were produced for the American Mutoscope & Biograph Company.
The Great Toronto Fire, Toronto, Canada, April 19, 1904
The Great Toronto Fire was a devastating blaze that destroyed 122 buildings and put 5,000 people out of work. The fire started in a clothing warehouse on Wellington Street and quickly spread, gutting thirteen acres of Toronto's prime commercial district. Special trains brought hundreds of firefighters from as far as Buffalo, New York. There was only one person injured -- the Toronto fire chief. Amazed firefighters and onlookers watched photographer George Scott and his assistant set up in the thick of the fire and film the burning buildings on Front Street. One of the first big Canadian film scoops, Scott's film was distributed throughout Canada and the United States.
Panorama of Machine Co. Aisle
A camera on an overhead crane travels down a large, long aisle where men are shown working on large machinery on either side. Carts carrying equipment are shown traveling on rails down the aisles. There are also men walking in the aisles. From Bitzer's Westinghouse Works series.
Labor Day Parade
Shows a parade through bunting-draped streets, probably in the town of Leominster, Mass.
Testing a Rotary
A small group of men turn on what appears to be a generator. As the rotary spins, the men make adjustments to the machine and check its operations.
Coil Winding Section E
Rows of women are shown at tables with winding machines. They wind using material from spools behind them, apparently putting the finished products on the table in front of them. Various supervisory staff, male and female, walk through the aisles, checking the work of the women.
The Kiddies and the Rabbits
Kids playing with rabbits.
Girls Winding Armatures
Numerous women sit in rows at machines where they appear to be winding some type of wire and tooling it onto machines. Two young men push spools of this wire down the aisle. Supervisors, male and female, walk down the aisle and observe the women's work, stopping for a while at one woman's station.
A staged crash between two outmoded locomotives given to the Edison Co. by the Pennsylvania Railroad for the express purpose of destroying them.
Giovanni -- whoever he may be when he's not on the stage -- exhibits his trained birds in various feats of gymnastics and cuteness. I particularly like the one in which two birds pull another in a cart, while the passsenger waves a flag.
As Seen on the Curtain
A woman in a dressing gown peeks out her window and then pulls down the shade. She then takes off the gown and proceeds to put on clothes, offering a salacious hint.
A Dance on the Pike
A woman dressed as a Spanish dancer enters from the wings, camera right, and starts to dance. Her dancing consists of a series of high kicks, followed by a routine of handsprings, splits, and some contortionist positions. At the end, she takes a bow.
A Cake Walk on the Beach at Coney Island
People doing the Cake Walk dance on the Beach at Coney Island.
Automobiling Among the Clouds
A procession of American and European automobiles--including such makes as Daimlers, Mercedes, Stanley Steamers and Pierces-- drive up and down the steep roads on Mt. Washington, New Hampshire. Some of them struggle with the steep grade. A hiker persists in sequential shots. It's unknown whether the film was an attempt to document a race or rally, or merely present picturesque actuality. It's also been surmised that audiences of the day might have bet on the film's numbered cars.
Westinghouse Employees, Westinghouse Works
Employees leaving Westinghouse Works .
The Coney Island Beach Patrol
Two small boys with policemen's hats and nightsticks are struggling with another small boy. The object of their struggle seems to be to arrest him. Approaching the camera from a distance are two men in bathing suits, pretending they are horses, and pulling what is supposed to be a patrol cart. The small culpit is put in the wagon and taken back to a tent on the sand. The tent bears the sign "police patrol headquarters."
Sir Hiram Maxim's Captive Flying Machines
It's one on those thingies you see at amusement parks. You get into a small gondola, the machine starts whirling about, and centrifugal force lifts the gondolas up in the air.
Boxing Horses Luna Park, Coney Island
Inside a boxing ring are two horses. Attendants put white bag-like objects on their forefeet. At a signal from the ringmaster, the two horses stand on their hind legs and start boxing.
M. Lavelle, Physical Culture, no. 1
This is a single camera position film of muscle-flexing exercises by a professional physical culturist. The expansion, contraction, and flexing of the muscles and chest were done to display not only the prowess but also the control of the demonstrator.
Beyond the Danger Line
It's another crowded day in the water at Coney Island, with people shoving small boats out of the way so they can have enough room the splash about in the water next to the half million or so other people trying to get away from the crowds.
Commissioner Higgins Visits Ahmedabad Girls' School
Actuality short showing Salvation Army leader visiting a site in India.
The Sibenik Port
A documentary recording of the Šibenik port from 1904, by Frank S. Mottershaw. For a long time considered to be the oldest extant Croatian film and recording of Croatia, possibly even all Yugoslavian countries, dated to 1903 and ascribed to Stanis?aw Noworyta. In the meantime, these theories have been rejected, and this film is known to be a part of a larger film, "Krunisanje kralja Petra I Kara?or?evi?a i putovanje kroz Srbiju, Novi Pazar, Crnu Goru i Dalmaciju" ("The coronation of king Peter I of Serbia and a ride trough Serbia, Novi-Bazar, Montenegro and Dalmatia"), by F.S. Mottershaw and Arnold Muir Willson.
Skirmish between Russian and Japanese advance guards
Renactment of a skirmish that was likely to have occurred in the Russo-Japanese War. Opens with an establishing scene entitled "A Japanese outpost on the Yalu River," which shows the Japanese soldiers of the infantry outpost doing rifle drills and raising the flag. Following scenes are entitled "The Attack," "The Capture," and "The Retreat". In them, the Japanese fire their cannon; the Russian infantry demolish the camp, replace the Japanese flag with their own, and then fire their rifles at the enemy; and the Japanese recapture the outpost and once again run up their flag. Photographed from a single camera position.
Early 20th century film footage of Japan.
Japanese State Procession
Early 20th century film footage of Japan.
Parade, Fiftieth Anniversary, Atlantic City, N.J.
Shows a parade held in commemoration of the fiftieth anniversary of the incorporation of Atlantic City in 1854. Includes views of patriotic floats, a U.S. Army Drum and Bugle Corps, and the men and equipment of the Atlantic City Fire Department.