Friday, June 25, 2010

Vintage Views: London, 1903

video

Last time, we took a streetcar ride down San Francisco’s Market Street in the year before that beautiful California city was shaken by its worst-ever earthquake. This week, let’s travel halfway around the world, and two years back in time, to see what London, England, was like in the second year of King Edward VII’s reign.

Every time I visit modern London, it seems more bustling than the time before. But clearly--judging by the video embedded at the top of this post--that is not a new phenomenon. A description of this silent film, available on YouTube, explains:
Made over 100 years ago, this footage shows a number of scenes shot around central London, taking in locations such as Hyde Park Corner, Parliament Square and Charing Cross Station. We see crowds of people disembarking from a pleasure steamer at Victoria Embankment, pedestrians dodging horse-drawn carriages in Pall Mall and heavy traffic trotting down the Strand.

There are plenty of famous landmarks to spot here, including Big Ben, the National Gallery and the Bank of England, and it is fascinating to see the similarities between the customs of then and now--the dense traffic (mainly horse-drawn, with the occasional motor car) is highly reminiscent of today's London rush hour, while advertising on public transport is clearly no new phenomenon--in one scene, an advert for Nestlé’s Milk seems to be plastered on every other vehicle.
When we next visit the past, the destination will be New York City.

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