Mar 16 2011

Film: Thomas Edison’s “Automobile Parade” in New York City Held on November 4, 1899

Among the paper print films discovered in the basement of the Library of Congress in the 1930s was this 2-minute film of an automobile parade held in New York City in 1899. A copyright for the film was filed using a paper print by Thomas A. Edison, Inc. on February 6, 1900.

Summary of the film as provided by the Library of Congress:

This may be the first annual automobile parade, held on November 4, 1899 in downtown Manhattan. At least ten different makes and models are seen, including electric and steam powered machines. Only three years earlier, in 1896, Henry Ford, Charles Brady King, Alexander Winton and Ransom Eli Olds had each introduced their gasoline cars. In 1900, the first National Auto Show was held at Madison Square Garden and the favorites were the electrics and the steamers. In 1901, new oil fields in Texas made gasoline affordable. That same year, mass production techniques were introduced into car manufacturing. These two factors would prove to be key developments in the rapid growth of the American automobile industry.

Check out this amazing 2-minute film. Although its a little grainy, it is still not bad for a 112-year old film !! Note the following:

-The police escorts driving bicycles (0:25).

-A horse patiently waits for the cars to pass (1:11).

-The group of unusual cars with the drivers located above and behind the passenger seats (1:25 to 1:39). My guess is they were some of the first New York taxis.

- Hardly a single person looked at the camera.

Can anyone identify these cars?

Links to related posts on and the Internet:

Library of Congress Paper Print Film Collection

Japanese Television Film “Vanderbilt Cup Races & The Alco Black Beast”

Film "1904 Vanderbilt Cup Race"

Archives: Films and Videos


Mar 20 2011 JeRita 8:11 PM

Howard that was a great film Being a carriage collector I especially enjoed the horseless carriages I have never seen a “Handsome Cab” car before I really enjoy seeing your emails every Sunday Thanks JeRita

Mar 21 2011 Mitch Kaften 11:15 AM

The pillars in the background belong to Madison Square Garden, the second incarnation of the building on Madison Square. The cars appear to be going west along the southern end of the Garden on 26th Street and turning south on Madison Avenue. The film maker was probably standing in Madison Square Park. Thanks, Howard.

Mar 21 2011 Howard Kroplick 5:11 PM

From Sam Berliner III:


You’re just not old enough to remember Hansom Cabs!  I am; I remember them still in use in Central Park and congregated on 59th Street across from the Plaza.

From Wiki, <>:

“The hansom cab is a kind of horse cart designed and patented in 1834 by Joseph Hansom, an architect from York. The vehicle was developed and tested by Hansom in Hinckley, Leicestershire, England. Originally called the Hansom safety cab, it was designed to combine speed with safety, with a low centre of gravity for safe cornering. Hansom’s original design was heavily altered by John Chapman to improve its practicability, but retained Hansom’s name.
Cab is a shortening of cabriolet, reflecting the design of the carriage. It replaced the hackney carriage as a vehicle for hire; with the introduction of clockwork mechanical taximeters to measure fares, the name became taxicab.
Hansom cabs enjoyed immense popularity as they were fast, light enough to be pulled by a single horse (making the journey cheaper than travelling in a larger four-wheel coach) and were agile enough to steer around horse-drawn vehicles in the notorious traffic jams of nineteenth-century London. There were up to 3000 hansom cabs in use at the height of their popularity and they quickly spread to other cities in the United Kingdom, as well as continental European cities, particularly Paris, Berlin, and St Petersburg. The cab was introduced to other British Empire cities and to the United States during the late 19th century, being most commonly used in New York City.”
When they were motorized, they were still termed Hansom Cabs and a precious few were still running pre-WWII when I was a wee tyke; I recall being fascinated by their doors opening to the front.

There are a whole bunch of tiller-steered light cars in the parade that look just like Curved-Dash Oldsmobiles with flat dashboards and my guess is that they were earlier model Olds, replaced by the curved-dash model two years later (1901).  The Olds was an immensely popular car in the earliest days of motoring.

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