You think the sidewalks are crowded today? Look at Chicago in 1897, filmed by Thomas Edison

chcago
Screen capture Chicago/ James White

The car didn't always own the road. Before they took over, streets were for people.

State and Madison, 1897 from WBEZ on Vimeo.

This film was made for Thomas Edison by Nova Scotian James Henry White. at one of Chicago's busiest intersections, the corner of Madison and State. It's a mob scene, people everywhere. There even appear to be people carrying picket signs.

Thomas Edison had the films made to "“do for the eye what the phonograph has done for the ear.” According to WBEZ,

“Edison had a cache for sheer genius that’s hard to capture,” explains Pat Loughney, chief of the Library of Congress Packard Campus for Audio Visual Conservation. “People were flocking to see them because they were the wonder of the age.”... Audiences loved these early travelogues. They were hungry for images of exotic, far-away places. “And if you’re on the east coast and you’ve never been west of the Catskills, Chicago is a foreign place,” notes Loughney.

Electric Trolley, 1897 from WBEZ on Vimeo.

Here is an early electric trolley in Chicago, being used here for freight rather than people.

Tags: Urban Life | Wayback Machine