Take a Trip along the Grand Canal at the Pan-American Exposition
Thanks to Thomas Edison and his moving picture camera, audiences can experience the Pan-American Exposition a century after the exposition ended. In May 1901, Edison mounted a camera to the bow of a boat and filmed the boat’s trip along the exposition’s Grand Canal, as described in the Edison film company catalog:
The Pan-American Exposition is encircled by an especially constructed canal, which was put in for the purpose of allowing the tourist to view the exterior of the buildings of the Pan-American Exposition with as little fatigue as possible. It is called the Grand Canal, is over a mile in length and extends around the central group of large buildings. Winding lagoons connecting with the canal branch off in all directions…Romantic bridges span the waterway at convenient points, statuary placed everywhere contribute to the picturesque effect…[O]ur picture was made from the bow of an especially chartered electric launch which made the trip for us at a high rate of speed.
The Edison company catalog proudly states that the resulting eleven-minute film, titled “A Trip Around the Pan-American Exposition”, depicts the exposition’s “different points of interest…just as they are viewed by the visitor himself in making the trip in one of these exquisite launches.”
“A Trip Around the Pan-American Exposition” can be viewed below. Further down is a map of the boat’s progress, with timestamps. A more detailed description of the film can be found below the map; descriptions in italics are quotations from the Edison film company catalog.
“A Trip Around the Pan-American Exposition” – Thomas Edison, Inc.
[00:08] “The launch in which our camera was placed started from the landing place in the Streets of Venice, which is situated on the west side of the Exposition grounds facing the Midway.” As the film begins, the camera is facing the Colonnade, outside the Court of Lilies. The boat makes a left turn, and the Machinery and Transportation Building comes into view. The boat continues north towards the first bridge.
The Edison film company catalog concludes, “In this entire picture we present a most diversified panorama. The constant turns of the canal and the many bridges which span it furnish the audience with something new to look at during almost every second of the trip.”
Source: Library of Congress