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Don A Top Hat And Ride The Newly Opened Subway Of 1905

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A five-minute video taken inside the New York City subway in 1905?less than a year after it opened?is absolutely mesmerizing (h/t Untapped Cities). Directed by G.W. Bitzer, who was somewhat of a cinematographic bigshot in those days, with such titles as "The Birth of a Nation" under his belt, the film was made by attaching a camera to the front of a train running behind the starring car, with another contraption hitched alongside to illuminate the tunnels because otherwise it would have been hella dark. There's seems to be some disagreement about which line we're traversing from 14th to 42nd streets, but general wisdom holds it's a branch of the IRT that traveled up the East Side to Grand Central in a rough approximation of today's 4/5/6.

One thing that's missing is sound, but we imagine the ride must have been very loud and very rattly. At the time, the platforms were short and so were the trains (at around 4:25, witness the turn-of-the-century equivalent to the G Train sprint); besuited passengers wore top hats and carried walking sticks. The columns, archways, and girders look largely the same as today's, which is sorta telling, eh? Towards the end of our journey, there's also one particular lady on the platform with a flouncy skirt and a hat who wears that underground-only look, that withering, impatient gaze, which says, "Come on, Henry, or we're going to miss the train!" Some things never change.

· Rare 1905 Black & White Film from Inside the NYC Subway [UC]
· All History Lessons posts [Curbed]