Last week, the United Nations launched the World Digital Library, featuring historic books, maps, recordings and other artifacts from many of the great institutions around the globe. The WDL draws on the resources of the Library of Congress, UNESCO, and other cultural institutions.
For example, below is a digitized film from 1899, shot by Thomas Edison (yes, that Thomas Edison), of the NYPD bike patrol.
[flv:http://www.wdl.org/static/c/164/service/m2b40501.flv 240 180]The film shows members of “New York’s Finest” parading at a crowded Union Square. Seen are members of the Bicycle Squad, mounted horses, and two regimental marching bands. At the time of filming, the New York City Police Department was still recovering from the corruption scandals of the early 1890’s that had severely tarnished the reputation of the department. A State-Senate-appointed group known as the Lexow Committee investigated the department and issued a scathing report that detailed serious criminal activity within the department. In 1895, public opinion was so low that the annual parade was not held. That same year, Theodore Roosevelt was appointed president of the Police Board, and he is credited with initiating strict and effective reform measures that helped restore the public’s confidence in the police.
June 1, 1899