A Morning Alarm (1896)

by popegrutch

I mentioned yesterday that firefighters were a popular subject in early film, and this short film, apparently shot the same day at a slightly different time and location, confirms that. Also made by Edison Studios, this movie once again shows off the development of a camera light enough that it could be taken out of the Black Maria and into the streets.

Morning AlarmA crowd of people lines a street, and we see them from the opposite side, at a slight angle. A horse-drawn carriage charges out of one of the buildings, with a long ladder attached to it side. It is followed by a carriage with a water tank, and another carrying several men in firefighters’ gear. The horses are not up to speed yet, just getting started on their run. In a way, this movie could be seen as a “pre-quel” to “Going to the Fire.”

There’s a fair amount of confusion about the titles of these Edison firefighting movies, and that’s understandable, given that they are so nearly identical, so short, and released at the same time. I’m using the titles given by Charles Musser in his “Before the Nickelodeon” book and confirmed on the DVD collection “Edison: The Invention of Movies,” but note that the Library of Congress has them listed differently. It occurred to me as I watched this that it’s possible this was shot almost at the same time as “Going to the Fire,” but that would have required two cameras to be set up on the same Newark street, and I don’t think they could do that, yet. I don’t know whether the crowds gathered every time there was a fire alarm, or if they’re there because of the camera.

Director: James H. White

Camera: William Heise

Starring: Unknown

Run Time: 30 secs

You can watch it for free: here.