I came across another fantastic part of the Library of Congress site: The Life of the City, Early Films of NewYork, 1896-1906. I've quoted liberally from the descriptions of the films, and also provided a chronological listig of many of the films that are found at the site. They are spectacular things, like pieces of eidetic memories, offering wide swaths of minuate detail in corners of pockets of life from a hundred years ago.
NOTE: To view the films just follow the link and click on the MPEG format for best viewing.
Yes, this is what people did when they worked, not so long ago, when thousands and thousands of people worked at making The City go--in the streets picking pulling pushing prying pumping preening polishing purging. What grabs me are the three workers working beneath the horse-drawn carriages, working on the barges, spreading around the waste. The topsiders dump their cargo, letting it fall twenty feet or so, landing very closely to the men below. It seems like an unending process
From the LC site:
"The film shows a wharf where a barge is being loaded with trash from two-wheeled, horse-drawn wagons. The trash is dumped off the edge of the pier onto the barge, where men with shovels are spreading the piles of debris. The camera pans left to the next barge, where four-wheeled carts are shown dumping excavation rubble. Probably filmed on the East River, this is one of several New York City Sanitation Department dumping wharves in operation at the time."
I love what the kids do when they see this camera--they pretty much uniformly stand still, their fingertips pressed together in wonder and worry, and stare at the strange goings-on fifteen feet above the crowd. At one point three officials stroll through the crowds, coming in at top right; they are very sharp eyed, and the one guy at the end of these three looks like every other guy who has played a corrupt NYC official in every other movie made before WWII.
"The view, photographed from an elevated camera position, looks down on a very crowded New York City street market. Rows of pushcarts and street vendors' vehicles can be seen. The precise location is difficult to ascertain, but it is certainly on the Lower East Side, probably on or near Hester Street, which at the turn of the century was the center of commerce for New York's Jewish ghetto. Located south of Houston Street and east of the Bowery, the ghetto population was predominantly Russian, but included immigrants from Austria, Germany, Rumania and Turkey. According to a description in a 1901 newspaper, an estimated 1,500 pushcart peddlers were licensed to sell wares (primarily fish) in the vicinity of Hester Street. At one point the film seems to follow three official looking men (one in a uniform) as they walk among the crowd. They may be New York City health inspectors, who apparently monitored the fish vendors closely."
From the LOC site:
"Filmed from a moving boat, the film depicts the Hudson River (i.e., North River) shoreline and the piers of lower Manhattan beginning around Fulton Street and extending to Castle Garden and Battery Park. It begins at one of the American Line piers (Pier 14 or 15, opposite Fulton Street) where an American Line steamer, either the "New York" or "Paris," is seen docked [Frame: 0120]. The camera passes one of the Manhattan-to-New Jersey commuter ferries to Jersey City or Communipaw . Proceeding south, the distinct double towers of the Park Row, or Syndicate Building, erected in 1897-98, can be seen in the background . A coastal freighter is next , then Trinity Church appears, to the left of which can be seen the Surety Building, as a tug with a "C" on the stack passes in foreground . Several small steamboats come into view , and the B.T. Babbitt Soap factory at Pier 6 is seen , followed by the Pennsylvania Railroad piers (#5 & #4), with a group of docked railroad car floats , and the Lehigh Valley Railroad piers (#3 & #2), also with car floats . Next are the Bowling Green Building (rectangular, with facade to camera) , the Whitehall Building (vertical, thin side to camera) , followed by Pennsylvania Railroad Pier #1 . Pier A (with a clock tower) is seen with the New York Harbor Police steam boat "Patrol" at its end . The Bowling Green Offices and the Produce Exchange at Bowling Green are visible in the background. The breakwater (sheltered landing) and the New York City Fireboat House appears  and the distinctive round structure, Castle Garden, once a fort and immigrant station, but at the time of filming the City Aquarium, comes into view . The camera then pans east along the Battery Park promenade: the Barge Office (with tower) is visible in the distance , and further out the Brooklyn shoreline with the grain elevators at Atlantic Avenue can be seen . This view is continued, with only a minor break in continuity, in the film Panorama of Sky Scrapers and Brooklyn Bridge From the East River. Together they comprise a sweep around the southern tip of Manhattan, from Fulton Street on the Hudson to the Brooklyn Bridge."
Another beautiful water-side continuous panorama, from just above the Brooklyn Bridge to the battery.
From the LOC site: "This film depicts the East River shoreline and the piers of lower Manhattan starting at about Pier 5 (the New York Central Pier) opposite Broad Street, and extending to the Mallory Line steamship piers just south of Fulton Street and the Brooklyn Bridge. The film begins with shots of canal boats or barges (from the Erie Canal via the Hudson River) docked at and around Coenties Slip [Frame: 0106]. As the film progresses, the New York Produce Exchange located at Bowling Green, Manhattan, with its distinct tower, comes into view in the background . Between here and the Wall Street ferry, there follows in order of appearance: steam tugs [0308 and 0422], a wooden hull barkentine  with box barges alongside, a docked iron hull sailing ship, probably British , an ocean steamer with yards on the foremast , a derrick lighter laden with barrels docked at the end of a pier , and a fruit steamer . In the Wall Street Ferry slip (between Piers 15 and 16) there is a Wall St., Manhattan-to-Montague St., Brooklyn, double-ended steam commuter boat . The ferry is visible immediately before a shot of the large advertising billboards on Pier 16. The film next shows the Ward Line piers (J.E. Ward & Co., New York and Cuba Steamship Co.) , a Pennsylvania Railroad tug , a derrick lighter , and the Mallory Line piers . A Mallory Line steamer can be seen on the south side of one of the Mallory Piers . The camera begins panning out into the East River after passing pier 20, catching the fog bell at the end of pier 21 . A car float is visible passing under the Brooklyn Bridge . The pan follows the line of the Brooklyn Bridge eastward to Brooklyn Heights, where the Hotel Margaret (tall building in background) is visible just before the end of the film . This film continues the view begun in the film Sky Scrapers of New York City From the North River. Together they comprise a sweep around the southern tip of Manhattan, from Fulton Street on the Hudson to the Brooklyn Bridge."
Here comes everyone, from everywhere, emerging from a ferry, delivering immigrants from Manhattan to Ellis Island, where the process of the beginning of the rest of the lives of all these people began. Between 1892 and 1954 some 12.5 million people were processed into the U.S. through Ellis, and in the early days, say 1892-1920, most of them looked just like these folks--the grandparents and great-grandparents of a quarter of the country.
From the LOC site: "The film opens with a view of the steam ferryboat "William Myers," laden with passengers, approaching a dock at the Ellis Island Immigration Station. The vessel is docked, the gangway is placed, and the immigrant passengers are seen coming up the gangway and onto the dock, where they cross in front of the camera."
A Listing of some of the Edison films available for viewing on line from the Library of Congress collection.
Buster Brown Series: