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Rare color film shows what London looked like in 1927 (deathandtaxesmag.com)
217 points by sarreph 1375 days ago | hide | past | web | 100 comments | favorite

So... England won a test match?

Jokes aside, it's a fascinating study into a world riding the wave of the industrial revolution; a strong sense of pride and optimism seemed to exist.

It's saddening to think that basically all of the people filmed were affected in some way by the Second World War. It also brings mortality into focus to also think that the children pictured so carefree here are now either very old or dead.

How will the future look back on us? Will they dig up early 3D scanning attempts and think the same? Will they attempt to 'restore' their findings to modern standards? "Oh, it's missing smells, humidity, air pressure and breeze so we used environmental cues during 'restoration'"

A lovely piece of footage.

> a world riding the wave of the industrial revolution

> all of the people filmed were affected in some way by the Second World War

I can't agree with you more. But what makes me more sad is that it all seems to be slowly repeating itself right now. I mean we're currently riding the first ripple of the digital revolution... and war, fascism, and social unrest is back once again in the west - just under a less recognizable form.

The words from this song might be familiar to you. What's scary is that the speech makes so much sense in a present day context:


It struck me that the two women and a child at the Cenotaph at about 2'20" were quite possibly remembering husbands and fathers killed in the First World War (9 years earlier).

Yes a wonderful piece of film.

Side by side comparison to 2013 (better than the 2010 video in my opinion): https://vimeo.com/81368735

My initial reaction to the first video was how slowly everything seems to move in London. But it doesn't seem modern day is much better.

The second video is obviously slowed down to keep pace with the old video. Certainly the buses and horse-drawn carts would be a lot slower.

I don't think it's specific to London that in 1927 vehicles were slower than today...

considering the current London traffic, they were faster back in 1930's...

That's fantastic, the very first shot is of my street, filmed next to the building I live in. I can't quite make out the sign on the building corner - but I'm pretty sure it's the exact same pub that's there now.

It's also odd seeing trams in London.

jacko0 and ksrm [EDIT: and icecreampain], you seem to be under some kind of ban - what you write appears gray, and is invisible when I log out - despite them appearing to be perfectly valid contributions.

I really hate this whole banning on HN - the fact that people get banned and continue posting without knowing it (sometimes for months) - seems to me like the elementary school bullying technique of putting a post-it on someone's back and letting them walk around with it.

Thank you for letting me know, I have no idea why that has happened. Apart from me describing someone's idea of Clojure as the next-gen Lisp as 'cute', which was maybe a bit rude, I don't think I've done anything to deserve being banned. I was never a fan of this hellbanning idea and now it seems I've become a victim of it. What do I do now?

info@ycombinator.com I think - gets you through to a shared mailbox and someone will reply

However your comments seem fine from where I'm standing - possibly someone mistook 0 points for banned/dead?

And yes - loving seeing parts of London I know so well.

I also thought it might have been just 0 points, but his other comment in the thread still appears as [dead] for me. jacko0's comment now appears as normal, although earlier I clearly remember it was [dead]. icecreampain's still appears as [dead]. Anyway, it could be some glitch in the software, but the system is a bit strange anyway.

a bit strange anyway is the best description I can muster too. however it does not send me emails nor try to get my kids to buy upgrades of dubious worth. so on balance it beats out most other things on an iPhone :-)

(sorry very annoyed by kids games that chuck in upgrades and unlocks fr cash - really really unacceptable)

While I'm ok w/ the general principle of hellbanning (done properly, it can be a very effective way of tarpitting trolls/spammers) I don't think HN's implementation is very good.

New accounts start w/ 0 karma and posts seem to go dead when you go negative, so it's pretty common for perfectly normal accounts to be hellbanned just because of one or two initial downvotes.

It'd be pretty trivial to improve the algorithm, the most simple being a karma buffer (a purposely bad actor is sure to accrue plenty of downvotes) or some new account/unique post discounts/allowances. You can of course go pretty deep down the rabbit hole once you start with these things, but I bet even the simplest fix would solve most of these problems.

I tried looking into what got them banned, but it's not at all obvious from their history. I wonder what happened here?

thats really cool. i have an old pic of my house here in portland oregon - built in 1924. im the 3rd owner which is kindof cool. every time i fix something i try to imagine the others who touched it before me - and built it to last from 1924. when we renovated the kitchen we actually found scraps of a kids homework in ceiling/floor and some old match books from when the roof was replaced 30ish years ago.

we left a couple magazines and a kids toy in the new walls :)

Yes it's still a pub, it's called The Pommelers Rest . I doubt it the same name as it was then.

Street view here: http://goo.gl/maps/Ptb0v

What is your rent like?

It's HN, I just assume everyone pays like 5k~ in rent.

While you certainly can pay that in parts of London, you wouldn't there. I'd expect more like £1200 or $2000.

these days usd 1-3k/month is what most working professional people pay in rent in a major city.

And here's what that street looks like today: http://goo.gl/maps/Ya7wH

Some of us see trams in London every day...

The article says the film was bicolour, but wikipedia [1] states Friese-Greene invented the biocolour, where red and green frames are alternated (hence the flickering that had to be removed).

Here's another article on the same subject [2], which seems to be the source for OP.

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Claude_Friese-Greene

[2] http://urbanpeek.com/2013/05/13/rare-color-footage-shows-wha...

I wish hats would come back like in the video. Almost everybody wore a hat in 1927.

I bought a hat a few weeks back. It's so great to wear, it's safe and warm.

However, everybody looks at me as if I am some crazed hipster with my "fedora". If everybody would wear a hat like in the video, life would be so much nicer.

I don't think people liked hats back then. There was a specific season in the early 1960s where most American men wore hats before that season and after that season almost none did. Tipping point dynamics indicate most wearers strongly wanted to stop wearing hats but couldn't for social pressure, until a tipping point hit and instantly almost everyone stopped, permanently.

"nicer" is debatable, but it certainly was expensive and annoying. I'm hoping the necktie and business suit experience the same collapse.

I agree about the suit. Necktie won't live much longer I guess.

Fascinating. Any ideas where I could read more about this? :)

There's not much out there


None the less you can usually date a USA photograph as pre- or post- JFK merely by the presence or absence of hats.

Deserved or not, fedoras and similar hats have become associated with hipsters today. The public at large generally does not like to deal with hipsters, for a variety of reasons (their typical attitude is a big one).

It's really no different than how many people distrust others who wear extremely baggy clothing. Clothing like that has become, rightly or wrongly, associated with gang culture. Most everyday people do not want to deal with others who dress in such a way.

Had fedoras become associated with a more respected culture or group of people today, then they very well could have become more popular.

Personally when I think of the kind of dude who wears a fedora I think of a husky ("big boned") pale white guy with a lot of opinions about My Little Pony and / or men's rights.

As evidenced in the much missed "Fedoras of OK Cupid" tumblr: https://web.archive.org/web/20130119125710/http://fedorasofo...

Honest question: how do hipsters behave? Wthey have appeared in mass just the last year here in Spain(just very unusual before ). So I've had no oportunity to interact with them (just with some friends that are in a rock group, they have to keep an "attitude", but I think is mostly to keep the artist behaviour that people expect)

The hipster attitude I've experienced (and not all the ones I've known behave this way, but it's typical) is a contempt for anything "mainstream". Their coolness lies in the fact that they have secrets, like their "favorite" artist that no one else knows about (and therefore, no one is as cool as them).

It manifests in a holier-than-thou, I'm better than you because you're not cool, you're part of the unwashed masses that just don't know any better.

Nailed it :)

It's a counterculture sub-culture that's built on the physical manifestation of low-grade oppositional defiant disorder (ODD) (as opposed to the punk movement which would be a high-grade ODD sub-culture and for which there is lots of cross pollination). It's almost entirely centered around having secret or obscure knowledge from the mainstream which they purposely conflate with "taste" and how those tastes makes them special snowflakes.

Groups of hipsters will "share secrets", which they think keeps that taste special and unique, until some perceived critical mass adopts those same tastes (it makes no different if it comes from within the sub-culture or is coincidentally adopted from without), then they think it dilutes the special uniqueness of those things.

Oftentimes, hipsters will purposely cling onto tastes that might be described as anti-tastes for the purpose of optimizing the search for obscurity - they know the majority of people won't like it if they were exposed to it, therefore it's automatically obscure. This hack also works for producers of hipster geared content, make something tasteless and hipsters are likely to gravitate towards it because of the perceived obscurity.

Tastelessness is not always a hallmark of hipsterism, and is sometimes confused for it. Hipsters rely on obscurity before tastleness. Sometimes virtuoso skills in certain trades of skill sets are also obscure enough, and defiant enough of mainstream tastes, that hipsters may adopt and perfect those skills. For example, ultra high-end foods, in very specific categories, are a hipster staple.

What do normal people care or not care about? Viewing the normal masses as an oppressive authority, their ODD will compel them to adopt the opposite. e.g.

- Normal people don't care where their ketchup is made? Hipsters will hand make ketchup from locally grown organic ingredients of the highest possible quality.

- Normal people want music with a beat and a catchy tune? Hipsters will find music genres composed of random, unmemorable noise.

- Normal people want clothes that fit and go well together? Hipsters will find clothes that don't fit and don't go well together.


The psychology of special uniqueness gives many hipsters a feeling of power or dominion over other people and can give them an attitude of aloof standoffishness, a "I'm better than you because of the rare things I know about". It can appear a bit like the attitude of "cool". It's also important that the secret knowledge they have is generally not about anything of actual importance. Hipsters won't gravitate towards obscure fields of intellectual study in general -- unless mainstream society expected them not to, then ODD would compel them to.

Hipsters are different from "cool" in that "cool" usually means adoption and mastery of a culture confirming sub-culture and the styles associated with that sub-culture. While hipsterism is focused on adoption and mastery of obscurity.

In some ways, hipsterism is also confused in some cases with nerd culture (and there are some overlaps), except nerd culture cares about topics which lend themselves to obsessive pedant-ism and escapist fiction and may coincidentally appear out-of-the mainstream in similar ways to hipsterism. I'd say it's more likely that hipsterism purposely adopts the appearances of nerdism in some cases because of the obscure non-mainstream guarantees of nerdism (which is often a manifestation of OCD, SPD and ASD, but not ODD).

Obscurity, in the hipster subculture, is also local, rather than global -- which is partially what makes it hard to define. Does the hipster live in a highly urban environment? Then they might adopt rural clothing and fashion tastes. Do they live in a rural environment? Then they might adopt urban wear. Combined with the large long tail of obscurity available to the modern consumer, they have near infinite things to adopt and consume.

Most vexing, hipsterism has difficulty describing itself. It uses words like "authentic" or "rare", but is largely not introspective. A hipster that might care deeply about the authenticity of the 4 pieces 1950s 3-piece jazz band they belong to, cares nothing about the authenticity of the lens-less glasses frames he's wearing. You can bet, however, that his band is the only 1950s 3-piece jazz band in his immediate area. It's the obscurity of the items, the social references, and the assurance that it is not accepted by the authority of the mainstream, to satisfy the ODD urges, that he actually cares about.

Hipsters, in many cases even profess a dislike for each other, possibly because hipsterism takes skill. Anything that takes skill means that somebody can become an authority in it, triggering an ODD reflex against that person. The stereotypical hipster argument of who likes the more obscure band is merely a reflection of this phenomenon.

Thank you very much for the extended reply!

I agree. They so ruined it for us.

Dude https://images.encyclopediadramatica.es/thumb/1/1e/Fedora.jp...

Fedoras haven't been trendy among anyone but neckbeards for the last 3 years. Wearing a fedora identifies you as being essentially socially and stylistically oblivious.

It's been obvious for decades (centuries?), but it really is true that engineers are disproportionately befuddled by contemporary fashion and style.

Hah, fair point. I never really noticed people wearing em till a few years ago.

Yes I know. Crazy right?

The trick is not giving a shit what people think with a healthy balance of trying to define your own style.

I think that you should care at least a little about what others think. I go around to clients and run a business.

I feel like the right people will respect you more for doing so.

how is the fit? it seems a lot of people are trying to look fashionable by wearing a fedora without even considering its fit and size.

and further, does it go with the rest of your outfit? most everyday/streetwear would look awful with a fancy hat. If you'll notice in the video, most people are wearing proper coats or suits.

I am a boring dresser because I visit many clients. A nice button down shirt, a black jacket, none-casual-pants. People say the hat goes really well with it.

im with you brother! :) i have an Indiana jones-like hat and a fedora. my daughter ( 11 ) has 4 fedoras!

we're no hipsters either !

Current slang aside, an ‘Indiana Jones’ (front-pinched snap-brim fur felt dome hat) is a fedora, and a hipster ‘fedora’ (cloth panel tapered bucket) isn't. It's like calling Crocs ‘Monkstraps’ because they buckle on the feet.

Indiana Jones hats are awesome. I could never pull that off.

in case someone is interested: here is a side-by-side video with similiar recordings from 2010


thanks for that - it does add to the original! :)

I think the most interesting thing I took away from this video was the look of surprise and curiosity on the faces of people looking directly at the camera, specifically during the bit on Petticoat Lane. It may just have been the (for the time) large vehicle coming at them in the middle of the street, but I prefer to think that they'd yet to have seen a camera like this one, and didn't know what to make of it. I can't imagine seeing anything that would take me so by surprise these days - maybe one of the downsides to how small the world has become.

If I remember rightly there's a photo of their setup - a bulky camera on a tripod with a man operating it on the roof of a car. I think that would still draw attention these days. I'll look for the link (on the BFI site somewhere probably).

There's also the fact that someone is driving a vehicle through the middle of the market and they need to get out of the way with no room to move.

To me they seemed more annoyed that the camera vehicle was coming through. I couldn't help but think that more than one of the turned heads mentally cursed the cameraman.

Spooky to think that, of some of them, this one annoyed look is all there remains.

Maybe in just being too idealist, but I don't want to think of that look as frustration with a car driving through, but I get that's probably it. Yeah, though, what a bummer that your only pictured self is that look.

This film reminds of a rare colour film from Rio de Janeiro in 1936, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kymi7y6CyJA.

I find these kind of films very interesting. In case of Rio, how much it changed and in case of London, how much is still the same.

I find this interesting. Even though we think our lives did change a lot with Technology; in appearance the change is minimal.

This is almost 100 years old. 100 years ago, there were cars, roads and buildings. After 100 years, there is cars, roads, and also buildings. There are certainly changes: The cars are more comfortable, there is traffic lights, the buildings are higher... But they didn't change the way our lives look completely.

I suspect the next 100 years will be quite similar. We'll have better cars (and maybe automated ones), faster trains, more glass buildings, but essentially, the landscape is staying the same.

Well we're still using liquid fuel rockets to get to space and those were invented in the 20s. We're still using coal, gas, and hydro as our main energy sources. They were all around then. Radio, Airplanes, Cars, etc all were around.

I think the two biggest difference are no plastics and no electronics in these pictures. The other difference is that people are more individualistic in their appearances. They don't all wear the same clothes.

There may of course be the 'singularity' stuff coming. Although I suspect in 100 year London will have similar buildings, traffic and people.

> This is almost 100 years old. 100 years ago, there were cars, roads and buildings

But soon we'll have nuclear-powered flying cars and colonies on the moon.

Also: advertisements on the buses. But gone now: all the hats on the men. I was surprised too how modern things seemed already at that time.

I think the cars moved A LOT slower.

The average speed in London is much the same as it was with horse drawn carriages 100 years ago.

That doesn't matter when you are inside the city. Also I already mentioned in my comment that things are getting indeed fast (I mean trains, planes, cars, the Internet...)

I noticed that there weren't any lanes painted on the streets. Does anyone know when that practice started?

I was wondering the same thing! Wikipedia says: [1]

> In the United States, the first documented use of a painted center line was in 1911... According to the state of Michigan, the idea of using a painted center line was conceived in 1911 by Edward N. Hine...

> In the UK, the first "white line" road markings appeared on a number of dangerous bends on the London-Folkeston road at Ashford, Kent, in 1914, and during the 1920s the rise of painted lines on UK roads grew dramatically. In 1926 official guidelines were issued by the Ministry of Transport that defined where and how white lines on roads should be used.

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Road_surface_marking

I think the lack of lines in the road stood out to me the most. It seems this was a time of trying to figure out how to share the road with pedestrians, bicycles, vehicles, and other modes of transportation.

We are still working on this, but seeing all those people in the streets with nothing but a traffic cop there to direct things made me very happy to have the rules of the road we have now. They aren't perfect, but they look a lot better than what those people had to deal with.

I've seen it argued that a road without those markings is much safer - it makes explicit that people are sharing the road and need to watch out for each other, rather than assuming that as long as they're in "their" part of the road they don't need to check.

That's definitely the case for me too - mostly, London looked incredibly similar. The skyline has obviously changed, but it's obviously recognisable.

Interestingly, they're continuing to play around with sharing the road - Exhibition Road (which probably also looks very similar to how it looked then) being the leading example. No lines down the middle, no obvious pavement. As an experiment it seems to be going pretty well - it seems like we've figured out the main problem isn't segmenting by size, but ensuring most users move at similar speeds.

There weren't even speed limits at that time. It was pretty much a free for all subject merely to the same customs surrounding horses and carriages :-)

I'm more surprised by the frame rate than the color. It seems to have been enhanced. Everything looks smooth, but there's something peculiar about the way people walk, for example, notice the pedestrians' feet at 1:54. Either way it's beautiful.

From the original article: The British Film Institute have used computer enhancement to minimise the flickering and low quality of the original bicolour film.

This one was on HN only a few months ago, it's beautiful, so much so I saved it to my phone.

It's very interesting to see similarities and differences, and I get chills at knowing this is before it was bombed asunder.

England was and is a truly remarkable country.

This video comes up again and again but is is always amazing to watch.

Related but a little later (a train ride!): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tGTwSNPqAqs

I like how color makes everything contemporary.

He made this film so people could travel to the city of London without being there. I bet he did not expect it would be used by people 100 years in the future to travel back in time.

The thing that stood out the most for me is the complete absense of bicycles, I even went out to check when was its invention (apparently around one century before this footage).

Something else I noticed is how much cared after is Hyde Park right now, although it doesn't look bad at all on the footage. I can't say I was surprise as the Central Park in New York City also changed a lot (probably even more than Hyde Park), mainly during the 80s if I'm not mistaken.

I found the complete lack of horses more bizarre - I'm surprise just how motorised everything already was.

There are some cool cargo bike on the right hand of London bridge at 1:26

True but not as surprising since you can still find some similar to those in central London nowadays around Soho.

What gets to me is that while most of the roads and building you see endure today, every single person in this film are likely dead. Even the little children.

One thing that struck me is how uncluttered the streets look. There is very little street furniture.

Interesting that this is being returned to now.

Have to say: I'm so sick of that 'teal and orange' colour grading that's so trendy these days.

How does this relate to the thread?

It's a joke about filters. You must be fun at parties!

I think I just saw first color footage of a test match (if the caption is to be believed). That had more resonance with me than anything else in the video -- which is fantastic nonetheless.

PS. And oh yeah, England beat Australia here... strange ;-)

Darn, and I was so hoping this was not a fake video - but that test result cannot be right :-)

The people of that era were closer in time to the moon landing than I am now. With the exception of that horrible war around the corner they seem to have much more interesting stuff in their futures.

How was colour achieved back then? Has anyone on HN tried similar experiments?

I miss using b&w film with a deep red filter to get dark skies. I need to learn photo manipulation to get a similar effect

I love London, it's one of my favorite cities in the world. There's an energy there like nowhere else. And it looks like that same energy was there in 1927. So amazing.

I love old pictures. Just recently, I discovered a picture of my office building from 1890 on Wikipedia – and it still looks about the same today! )

About three quarters through you see a gasometer, they're still a fairly common site around the UK.

Gasometers have largely passed as a result of high pressure distribution systems.

Ours are disused or removed in St. Louis. Wikipedia explains that they are rare in the U.S. and those were some of the only ones.

The UK gasometers are largely disused, but the sites are expensive to decontaminate and reuse since they were frequently used to produce "town gas" from coal.

There was one down the road from me until just last year:


I don't think it had been used for years, but it was a notable part of the Gloucester landscape.

This is absolutely beautiful, and thought provoking. Thanks for uploading this!

the place just looks so empty - Whitehall has no traffic in it. it's incredible

Perhaps most astonishingly, in 1927, the world was still mostly sepia toned!

Yep. The world didn't turn color until sometime in the 1930's and it was pretty grainy color for a while too.

The truth is stranger than fiction...

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