A Window Into Past Lives

Here’s a video simply titled “England, Edwardian Era around 1900 (enhanced video).” No idea of its provenance, but it was apparently uploaded on May 17, 2011. The caption reads:

This video has been dramatically enhanced in quality, using modern video editing tools. The film has been motion stabilized and the speed has been slowed down to correct speed (from 18 fps to 24 fps) using special frame interpolation software that re-creates missing frames. Upscaling to HD quality was done using video enhancer software.

I have been told that at least part of this film was shot in Cork (Ireland). The music is “Chanson du Soir” and “Arco Noir” from Harvey’s Strings of Sorrow album.

The phrase that ran through my head as I watched it was “Everybody you see here, and everybody who ever knew them, is probably dead.” That may not be strictly true — some of the youngsters in the film probably produced grandchildren, or even children, who are still alive. But it’s mostly true.

It’s a moving piece, for me. I see attractive slim-waisted women, handsome mustachioed men, happy children, and even old people, everyone wearing fantastic hats and all vigorously moving through their days and lives — long-passed days and temporary lives. How many of them are gay? How many are servants of the others? How many would be atheists today if they’d had that choice? Dressed in what would otherwise appear to be costumes, but which are everyday attire for them, they stride busily about, thronging the streets in numbers that make it look as if some special event is happening, but which is probably just everyday street  traffic in their time and place.

I challenge you to count the fat people. I noticed three who might qualify as overweight, but nobody really fat. It may have been thrift with food, but it was most likely the daily exercise required of average people living in their time. There are a certain number of horses and bicycles in the streets, but the vast majority of people are walking, walking, walking.

The Rochet Cars sign surprised me at 1:02 — “Motor Vehicles — Electric, Steam and Petrol System.” Even though there’s an electric car in an engineering museum here in Schenectady from 1917, I still have a hard time thinking of electric cars in earlier times. And steam cars? Isn’t it intriguing that you can’t even get them anymore?

The panoramic shot of the city (how did they get that?) shows air filled with smoke. See if you can catch the wagon sign “Henry O’Shea’s Bread” after the pan.

I love the open looks of curiosity on so many of the people, and how casually they bump into each other in their desire to know more. I wonder just what they were seeing — something like this stilt-legged hand-cranked movie camera?

Heh. Looking at all the horse-drawn vehicles on the streets, I know that if I was dropped back there into that past, with my years of draft horse driving, I could at least find a job.

Then again, maybe I would have been one of the legions of shovelers.


  • Ryan

    As someone who picks up and carries people for a living, I can tell you that there were many more than 3 overweight people in this film.

    That said, your point is made… and I think it’s time for me to go for a walk.

  • Machintelligence

    Hats were certainly ubiquitous back then. The only bare headed folks were the oarsmen in the racing boats.

  • Kevin R. Cross

    Steam cars fell out of favour for two reasons – weight, and safety. There were several early incidents of blown boilers, occasionally creating fatalities. And the extra weight of the vehicle supposedly caused damage to streets (I suspect that was a beat up by the petrol-car manufacturers, though.)

  • Starlady

    The panorama looks to me like it was shot from a train. And it looks a lot like Yorkshire or Lancashire.
    I’m sure the exercise is a large part of why there are far fewer obese people, but I think the arrival of refined carbohydrates – sugar white flour – also comes into it somewhere.

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