Train crossing Brooklyn Bridge: Thomas Edison film, 1899

Here's a video transfer from an 1899 film shot by Thomas Edison of a rail-crossing of the Brooklyn Bridge. As with all Edison films of the day, it ends spectacularly, with the electrocution of an elephant, the cursing of Tesla, and broad claims of credit for all the research performed by every researcher at Edison Labs. It originally retailed for $22.50 in the Edison films catalog.

Brooklyn to New York via Brooklyn Bridge 1899 (via Kottke)


  1. I think this was actually stolen from a French filmmaker, originally titled Le Voyage dans la Brooklyn Bridge.

  2. It is loathsome that posting this video isn’t a copyright violation. How will Edison be incentivized to posthumously ripoff more intellectual property if we don’t retroactively extend copyright for works from the 19th Century? Won’t someone think of the “inventors?”

    His estate needs to collect fees for the use of his works and patents in order to fund a lawsuit mill that seeks out violators of his intellectual property rights and garners millions in judgments and licensing fees. The lawyers of dead men need to eat too!

    Christ, what an asshole.

  3. Just a weird, slightly OT thought: the people on the left-hand side of the tracks… if they were, say, 20 when this video was shot and had a baby at home, and that baby had a baby when they were 20, that baby would likely be dead really old right now. Crazy!

  4. I had to stop it before the elephant stopped shuddering and presumably hit the ground. Seeing the acrid smoke rising from his body was enough for me. I sincerely hope to never smell burning elephant flesh in my lifetime.

  5. Amazing coincidence! I just watched this film last week while I was researching what films we might be showing at next year’s PDX Bridge Festival. And while I can’t say much for the captivation level of this particular piece, Edison, the Lumiere Bros and a few others do make use of bridges in early film — a motif that has continued for more than a century. There’s a really great (and really exhaustively long) essay on bridges in films (including this Edison transfer). Good mining for our film schedule, even though we tend to be a little less literal and more tongue-in-cheek with our choices. (say, a Tron double feature with Jeff BRIDGES!)

    Here’s the essay:
    And for what it’s worth, the festival (where you might be able to check out this and other films on a sunny Portland rooftop next summer!):

  6. This lady, still alive, Eunice Sanborn of Jacksonville, Texas, was a 4 year old girl most likely playing in the yard while this film was being made.

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