The Journals of Sydney Race

Source: Ann Featherstone (ed.), The Journals of Sydney Race 1892-1900: A Provincial View of Popular Entertainment (London: The Society for Theatre Research, 2007), pp. 78-79

Text: Saturday January 20th, 1897
Caldwells have been showing the ‘Living Pictures’ in their shop on Long Row for some time past now and tonight I went there to see them. This marvellous invention which only appeared last year is, I take it, a development of Edison’s Kinetoscope. In each case, I believe, an enormous number of photographs, taken consecutively, are whirled with speed of lightning, before your eyes. In this case the pictures are thrown onto a screen by a magic lantern. The screen at Caldwells was placed between us and the operator and when all the lights had been put out the pictures were thrown on it, in size about five feet by three or four I should think. The following were among the views I saw:

Place of the Opera, Paris with numerous buses, cabs and passengers continuously passing.

Some children skipping with a gentleman or two playing about with others, a boy watering the garden with a hose, and at the rear the traffic of a street seen through the railings.

Two gentlemen playing cards in a Restaurant. One accuses the other of cheating and after an argument they fight, the table, etc., at the finish being cleared off by a grinning waiter.

The sea washing over the promenade and some watering place. The photograph did not bring out the waves very clearly, but we could see them dashing up and down and at times leaping the promenade.

Three girls in a skirt dance. These showed up well.

Fire engines turning out of the Fire Station.

Two men wrestling.

A scene, apparently at an Exhibition; a fountain in the centre and a circular train coming in and discharging its passengers.

The Czar in Paris. This was very good. We first saw the road lined on each side with mounted soldiers. At his side was a row of Cuirassiers and it was very strange to see a horse shake its head while the man sat quite motionlessly. The effect of standing figures making a sudden movement was the most curious of all in the pictures. Down this road pressed by the military came the procession; squadrons of cavalry, carriages, a troupe of Arabs (easily distinguished by their dress and manner of riding), more carriages and more cavalry and then the Czar and Czarina and their escort. The cavalry rode in bunches and you could almost hear them trotting so lifelike was their manner, and it was curious to notice officers, every now and then, forging ahead of their troops.

A railway station. A porter and one or two officials came bustling along and then the train came slowly in. Passengers got out and hurried off and others got in and after an interval the train moved off, some in carriages put their heads out of the windows as it did so. It was funny to see a door open and a lady and gentleman jump out, apparently from a flat surface containing nothing.

There were other scenes which I do not remember and the affair was distinctly novel and wonderful. The pictures lasted about a minute and unlike the Kinetoscope did not seem to disappear almost as soon as they appeared. You had time to take in the scene fully and there was a leisurely air about it though you know that the operator was working as fast as his machine would allow him.

Comment: Sydney Race (1875-1960) was the working-class son of a cotton mill engineer and worked as an insurance clerk in Nottingham. His private journal documents the different kinds of entertainment he witnessed in Nottingham. This show featured either Lumière or possibly Pathé films.

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