In the early 20th century, a Swedish production company called Svenska Biografteatern dispatched a camera crew to capture footage of five hotspots in Europe and North America: Niagara Falls, Paris, Monte Carlo, Venice, and New York City.
The New York City reel, filmed in 1911 and known as New York 1911, was lightly colorized and remastered in 4K by YouTuber Denis Shiryaev in 2020. The result is an 8-minute-long journey through a bygone version of the Big Apple that we typically only see in grainy photographs and Hollywood recreations.
The year 1911 was part of an interesting intermediate period in the city’s history. The Gilded Age had ended, thanks in large part to Theodore Roosevelt’s trust-busting policies, but the First World War that would come to define the decade both culturally and economically was still a few years off. The video is a portrait of a city mid-evolution: Cars and horse-drawn carriages constantly cross paths, and trains co-exist with trolleys (the subway system had just opened in 1904, and trolleys weren’t phased out until the 1950s).
Banners advertise some products that are still available today (Mark Cross leather goods and United Cigars) and others that aren’t (Washington Crisps, which are corn flakes, not chips). And while plenty of landmarks are more or less the same as they were in 1911—e.g. the Statue of Liberty and the Flatiron Building—some have undergone notable changes. No longer, for example, can you ride a train over the Brooklyn Bridge. At least one early-20th-century fixture in the video has ceased to exist entirely: The closing shot features the Rosedale, a steamship that ferried passengers to Rockaway Beach and other local spots for years. After transporting goods for the Navy during World War I, the vessel was destroyed in a 1922 fire.
Explore old New York for yourself above, and see Shiryaev’s other video restorations here.