Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Moving Sidewalk (1900)

Below is film of the moving sidewalk featured at the Paris Exposition of 1900. The film is credited to Thomas Edison.

The New York Observer ran a series of eight letters from October 11 until December 27, 1900 by a man named Augustus. He was reporting on the Paris Exposition and part two (October 18) includes a description of the "traveling sidewalk" in action.

From this part of the fair it is possible to proceed to a distant exhibition which is placed in what is called the Champs de-Mars, without going out of the gates, by means of a travelling sidewalk or a train of electric cars. Thousands avail themselves of these means of transportation. The former is a novelty. It consists of three elevated platforms, the first being stationary, the second moving at a moderate rate of speed, and the third at the rate of about six miles an hour. The moving sidewalks have upright posts with knobbed tops by which one can steady himself in passing to or from the platforms. There are occasional seats on these platforms, and the circuit of the Exposition can be made with rapidity and ease by this contrivance. It also affords a good deal of fun, for most of the visitors are unfamiliar with this mode of transit, and are awkward in its use. The platform runs constantly in one direction, and the electric cars in the opposite.

Below is a photo of the moving sidewalk from the Library of Congress as well as a German postcard (circa 1900) of the moving sidewalk concept.

See also:
Postcards Show the Year 2000 (circa 1900)


Ted said...

The roads must Roll

artbot said...

Funny to see that little kids were just as obnoxious in front of a camera back then as they are now. Kind of odd considering they didn't have nearly the same "media awareness" as kids do today.

Frank said...

Ya sé!
te preguntas...quien es Frank?

yo tampoco.

pero si acaso ...


La Producción.

Unknown said...

Isaac Asimov postulated exactly this approach - several nested moving walks going at different speedds in one of his Foundation novels - can't remember which one...I thought he was being original - evidently not!

Anonymous said...

Interesting that they did it as a circular layout. This allowed them to make the railings also move with the high-speed track. though why they couldn't have left the railings stationary is beyond me. :)

Anonymous said...


When the Sleeper Wakes, by H.G. Wells.
Published in 1899


The Roads Must Roll, by Robert Heinlein.
Published by Astounding Science Fiction in 1940

And Finally

The Caves of Steel (1954) and its sequels in the Robot Series, by Isaac Asimov

Greg said...

I wonder how much of the technology used (for the filming) was inspired by (or stolen from) Nikola Tesla?

Anonymous said...

Notice...nobody in the film is obese.

Satyam said...

I think it was Arthur C. Clarke in his non-fiction book Profiles of the Future that mentions moving sidewalks but made of some sort of anisotropic material that could flow in the direction of travel but hold the weight of a person.

The fluid would have the advantage of offering a continuous gradient of speed from the edge to edge so there would be no jumps, simply moving from side to side would change speed.

The problem would be to keep your feet together as one would go faster than the other or, if standing sideways, you would spin.

Unknown said...

fantastic piece of film, I really enjoyed that, all the ladies and Gentlemen raising there hats.

On the other hand, why a moving sidewalk is beyond me. :)

Plus one lady saw the motion photograph box and was shy and walked away, aha. Amazing. Loving the history :)

Ed said...

Fascinating. I found this post by googling after seeing a still of it from the Brooklyn Museum's photostream on Flickr Commons.

Interesting observation, commenter Richard, about media awareness. Kids will be kids (and the adults appear to be hamming it up, too), even if they aren't in a media-saturated world (yet).

Seeing things like this just makes me wonder what would happen if we could go back in time, jump on that sidewalk and show someone an iPod. Bet they'd freak out.

Phil said...

moving sidewalks have been possible since 1900, and they're still not widespread? Yeah, that'll never happen, if its taking so long.

Anonymous said...

Well, they're in airports.