In 1911, the Swedish film production company Svenska Biografteatern sent a team of cameramen to travel around New York City and film various iconic locations including the Statue of Liberty, the Flatiron building, Chinatown, and New York Harbor.
The Museum of Modern Art released the film from the original nitrate print which was exhibited in 2017. The original plates survived over 110 years in near-perfect condition.
Some of this footage has gone through the process of restoration and colorization using AI technology. The quality of the footage has been upscaled, the frame rate has been increased to 60fps, the footage has been stabilized, and it has also been cleaned to remove some of the dust and scratches that feature in the original film due to the age of it. Please note that the colorization is not necessarily historically accurate and has been added for ambiance.
By seeing parts of this 1911 New York City film restored and colorized, it enables you to see the footage in a different light. Some may be able to connect with these people because the upscaling may make it easier to see the faces of those that lived over 110 years ago, and for others, the colorization may bring the video to life, as the color is more familiar to the modern eye.
Be sure to first watch the original documentary produced by Svenska Biografteatern and then check out some of the restored work below.
Chinatown, New York City in 1911
This restored and colorized part of 1911 New York City shows an amputee using crutches to walk on a street in New York City’s Chinatown. There is also a young boy who is clearly interested in the film camera that has been placed on this street.
Driving in New York City, 1911
This part of the footage shows a chauffeur driving a family through the busy streets of New York City in 1911 which still features many horse-driven carriages. Youtuber and professional genealogist, GeneaVlogger, was actually able to track down the identity of the family in the automobile using the license plate that can be seen. GeneaVlogger identified those in the vehicle as the Lochowicz family, a relatively wealthy family that earned their money in barbershops. Be sure to check out GeneaVlogger’s video on how they identified the family!
1911 New York Harbor
New York Harbor can be seen in this restored and colorized footage. Steamboats can be seen full of passengers departing from New York Harbor. The steamboat at the front, the Rosedale, sank off the coast of Rockaway Beach in 1912 following a collision with Nassau, another steamboat. The Rosedale was repaired and was even chartered by the US Navy in 1918 before being returned to the original owner in 1919.
The Flatiron Building, 1911
Here you can see pedestrians, horse-drawn carriages, and automobiles passing in front of the iconic Flatiron building in New York City. At the time this film was recorded, the Flatiron building had existed for 9 years following its construction in 1902. The Flatiron was originally called the “Fuller Building” after the “father of the skyscraper” George A. Fuller who had died 2 years prior and was also the founder of the company that first occupied the building. Locals named the building the “Flatiron” and that is now the official name of the building.
Pedestrians on a busy New York City Street
This part of the restored footage shows a busy street in New York City full of pedestrians walking past the film camera. A train on the elevated railways can be seen passing over the street.
The Brooklyn Bridge, 1911
Pedestrians can be seen in this section of the footage crossing the Brooklyn Bridge in New York City on foot. Behind the pedestrians, you can see the lines of the trolleys that operated across the Brooklyn Bridge until 1950. The tallest building that can be seen in the background is The Singer Building which at the time was the second tallest building in the world. The Singer Building was demolished in 1969 to make way for the construction of One Liberty Plaza.
View from the top of the Flatiron Building, 1911
This old restored video of New York City was taken from the top of the iconic Flatiron building facing north towards Broadway & 5th Ave. On the buildings, you can see advertisements for the American luxury leather brand Mark Cross, and Washington Crisps which was a corn flake cereal.