After wandering through the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens all day, I wasn’t particularly psyched to go to the Brooklyn Museum of Art – it was about to close, and the Star Wars exhibit required an extra ticket. But when Tessa and her mother stopped at the fifth floor to search for the noted Sargent paintings, I was awestruck by something I saw on the wall.
A TV monitor was on a loop, playing a movie by Thomas Edison, filmed in 1899, with the title “New Brooklyn to New York via Brooklyn Bridge.” It is simply a camera mounted on the front of a train, starting in Brooklyn and ending in Manhattan. People in bowler hats and top hats with petticoats pass by on the left, and carriages amble by on the right. The towers of the bridge, which was only 16 years old at the time, pass over the top of frame in gothic wonder. When you pull into New York, you don’t recognize a thing; even the venerable Woolworth Building was 14 years away from construction. The camera jostles, then fades to white.
So simple, this trip from Brooklyn to Manhattan, delicate lines on a slow train track, people hoofing to work, just like we do, every day, across the same stretch of water. And I couldn’t take my eyes off the movie. I watched it four times until Tessa and Sandy took me away.
still from the 1899 Edison movie of the Brooklyn Bridge. Click here to watch.