Boston at the Movies: First Films of the City 1901–1905

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History of the Boston Films


Panoramic View of Boston Subway from an Electric Car

Alternative title: Boston Subway from an Electric Car

Filming date: December 1900

Release date: December 1901

Copyright date: December 16, 1901

Boston release date: January 7, 1901 at the Boston Music Hall

Production company and distributor: Edison Manufacturing Company

Running time - 1 minute, 21 seconds

Producers: J. Stuart Blackton, Albert E. Smith

Camera: J. Stuart Blackton and/or Albert E. Smith

Persons who have visited the "Hub," no doubt carried away with vivid recollections of Boston's famous system of Underground Transportation and this film takes the audience from the bright sunshine into the dim obscurity of the subway. The Underground stations and rows of Electric Arc lamps are plainly shown and, after traversing the tunnel for a considerable distance, the car finally emerges opposite the railroad depot.

Summary taken from Edison Films Catalog, September 1902, p. 92.

Canoeing Scene

Release date: August 1901

Copyright date: August 16, 1901

Production company and distributor: Edison Manufacturing Company

Running time - 2 minutes

This we believe to be the best as well as the most interesting subject of Boston's latest fad yet taken. The opening of this picture brings into view the beautiful Charles River, considered to be the most picturesque spot in the East. One of the features of this picture is the great number of canoes which are being skillfully handled by the occupants of same. They approach in large numbers, and as they pass close to the camera it makes this picture a most striking one. The happy faces of the fair occupants can be plainly seen as they glide past, and this, of course, is bound to make it a bright and winning subject.

Summary taken from Edison Films Catalog, May 1902, p. 38.

Seeing Boston

Filming date: January 8, 1906

Release date: February 1906

Copyright date: January 12, 1906

Production company and distributor: American Mutoscope and Biograph Company

Running time - 6 minutes, 41 seconds

Camera: G.W. Bitzer

A trolley car takes you an on whirlwind ride through the busy streets of downtown Boston past Jordan Marsh and along Boylston Street to Copley Square passing by the Boston Public Library.

Midwinter Bathing, L Street Bath, Boston

Alternative title: Bathing in the Ice at the L Street Bath, Boston

Filming date: February 25, 1905

Release date: March 1905

Copyright date: March 20, 1905

Production company and distributor: American Mutoscope and Biograph Company

Camera: G.W. Bitzer

Running time - 7 minutes

This astonishing picture was made at the "L" Street baths, Boston, in midwinter, the temperature being only a few degrees above zero. A number of sturdy men in bathing trunks are first shown playing on the ice, some of them having skates attached to their bare feet and others playing hand-ball. After their exercise, they run along the shore, upon which ice hummocks are piled high and plunge from the end of the ice-covered pier into the freezing waters of the bay. During the entire picture, the frosty breath of the men is plainly discernible. The film is of the very best photographic value, and the subject in every way one of the most remarkable we have ever made.

Summary taken from Biograph Films Bulletin, November 27, 1905, p. 36.

Sources Consulted

  • Musser, Charles. Edison Motion Pictures, 1890-1900. Gemona, Italy : Le Giornate del Cinema Muto ; Washington, D.C. : Smithsonian Institution Press, c1997.
  • Niver, Kemp R., comp. Biograph Bulletins, 1896-1908. Los Angeles : Locare Research Group, 1971.
  • Niver, Kemp R. Early Motion Pictures : the Paper Print Collection in the Library of Congress. Washington : Motion Picture, Broadcasting, and
  • Recorded Sound Division, Library of Congress, 1985.
  • Savada, Elias, comp. The American Film Institute Catalog of Motion Pictures Produced in the United States, Film Beginnings, 1893-1910, a Work in Progress. Metuchen, NJ: Scarecrow Press, 1995.