Saturday, September 15, 2007

Old Train Brakes

In 1904, filmmaker G.W. "Billy" Bitzer of the American Mutoscope and Biograph Company came to Westinghouse Works to document the innovators of the day (and be one himself with his camera). My great-grandfather worked at Westinghouse Air Brake in Wilmerding at the time. Wilmerding had a population of 5,000 back then. In the 2000 census there were just over 2,000 residents.

The resulting 27 films were an early form of Pittsburgh corporate boosterism:

The films were shown daily with great success in the Westinghouse Auditorium at the Louisiana Purchase Exposition held in St. Louis in 1904. Although little production information is available for these films, they may have been made expressly for use at the Exposition.
On May 12, 1904, the Pittsburgh Post described a special screening for Westinghouse employees.
To satisfy the curiosity of the Westinghouse employees who were desirous of seeing the views to be sent to the Louisiana Purchase exposition, an exhibition of them was given last night by the Westinghouse officials at Carnegie music hall. The moving pictures show the interiors of the four Westinghouse plants at East Pittsburg, Swissvale, Wilmerding and Trafford City, combined with a panoramic view of the country between those places. The interior views are the first successful ones taken since the invention of the Cooper Hewitt vaporized mercury lamp, which in this instance made the clearest and brightest moving picture ever exhibited.

More on Wilmerding:

In yet another respect is Wilmerding distinguished from its sister boroughs of the county. It is a strong hold of socialism, not militant socialism, such as is sometimes linked with anarchy and violence, but the peaceful, sane variety.

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