Am I terrible for thinking…

…every one of the people in this charming video from 124 years ago is now dead? Even their children are dead?

Yes, I must be feeling morbid. But I also want to know what happened in the rest of their lives.


  1. PaulBC says

    I suppose some of their children could be alive. I can’t really figure out the ages here, but a 20 year man could have fathered a child at age 70 in 1946.

    I think what I find most fascinating is that it’s a snowball fight with other incongruous features like the guy in hat and tie, the passing bicycle, that everyone seems to be an adult, and the fact that it’s French. I’ll imagine some happy future for all these fun-loving people and forget about death and the Great War (though it’d be cool if the Grim Reaper joined in the snowball fight, just sayin’).

  2. cartomancer says

    I have the opposite response. As an historian of the ancient and medieval worlds I tend to assume that being dead is the default state for humans. Indeed, it’s quite surprising when I come upon someone who, inexplicably, is still alive.

    I still can’t get over the fact that Noam Chomsky is six months older than Anne Frank.

  3. PaulBC says

    Indeed, it’s quite surprising when I come upon someone who, inexplicably, is still alive.

    This sounds like a really good premise for protagonist in a magic realist work, maybe a little like Billy Pilgrim in Slaughterhouse Five, “unstuck in time”, except that their existence spans longer time periods so any given person is either not yet born or already dead so it’s a real surprise to catch them among the living (or maybe I am reinventing Dr. Who… it seemed much more original as I started to think about it.)

    I still can’t get over the fact that Noam Chomsky is six months older than Anne Frank.

    That really is tragic to contemplate.

  4. says

    Not just World War I, World War 2, and – when they were getting old – the cold war.
    “Good old days”
    When I was a kid I talked to some of the French locals about World War 2. This was down in the south of France. They considered themselves fairly fortunate because the Germans only sent troops hunting resistance twice, and only found any once. Then, the entire village stood in the square under machine-guns and waited while the halftracks ran down the two who had fled, shot them, brought them back, and verified that they had not been sheltered by the villagers. So nobody else died. But food still got tight – they used to boil and eat thistles, and roast chickory as a sort of substitute for coffee. It sounds like there were good times but mostly because everyone knew that there was no bottom to how much worse it could get. And that was France; the French had it easy.

  5. robro says

    Artor @ #8 — That’s a common question, but as the scene was set up…probably so. People also note how relaxed and playful everyone is. Men and women having silly fun together in the late 19th century…who would think it possible. I mean wasn’t everyone deadly serious in those days.

    Quite a few of these folks may have worked for the Lumière brothers in Lyon where “Bataille de boules de neige” was filmed. Perhaps one of the brothers is in the scene, although Louis was probably behind the camera.

    Any idea who did the colorization and speed adjustment? It reminds me of Peter Jackson’s work on “They Shall Not Grow Old”, a stunning accomplishment in film recovery.

    As for living children…not likely, but maybe. Louis lived until 1948 (83) and older brother Auguste lived until 1954 (91).

  6. battycat13 says

    I think about these things often. I have a little “makes you think” monologue about it for my students:
    * No one left who was born in the 19th century. Last verifiable person died about 4 yrs ago.
    * No one who wore a uniform in WWI left in the world. Or anyone with a living memory of the Russian revolution.
    * Given the time frame 1939-1945 (75 yrs at minimum), no one who wore a uniform in WWII can be far less than 90. Soon they’ll be gone. That makes the youngest holocaust survivors at the very least nearly 80 yrs old (I’m assuming very youngest children were put to their deaths quickly).
    * Only four of the me who walked on the moon are left and the youngest, Charles Duke, is 84.
    * No one alive was born before the invention of radio; or powered flight; or movies. Not a single person in the world has a living memory of the early Chaplin shorts as they were made and distributed.
    * I am 53. When I was born, in 1967, there were still people alive who had been born into chattel slavery. They are all gone now.
    * Someone in my students cohort, the average age being about 20yrs old in my class, will someday be the last person born in the 20th century.

  7. whheydt says

    Sometimes “who was alive when” can get strange…

    An uncle of my wife was a pilot in the Lafayette Escadrille. We have a postcard he sent home…complaining about French food.

    My father (1910-1975) knew his grandfather (1843-1936) who was in uniform in the US Civil War. His other grandfather (b. 1846) came to the US to avoid being drafted into the Prussian Army for the Franco-Prussian War of 1870.

  8. James Fehlinger says

    Are you kidding? It’s impossible for me to watch a Star Trek (TOS)
    episode these days without contemplating how many of the actors
    are gone. Not just series regulars (Nimoy, Kelley, Doohan) but guest
    stars. The latest death I recall hearing about (but that was back
    in January; there’ve got to have been more since) was Marj Dusay —
    the lady who stole Spock’s brain. ;-> (She was also in that
    future-of-technology movie “1999 A.D.”, from 1967.)

    We’ve had literature since Homer, and sculpture and painting since
    antiquity, but since around the time of that Lumiere restoration
    and even more since the advent of commercial movies, we’ve had
    these vivid time capsules preserving the sight and sound of
    people in their youth — forever (or at least as long as technological
    civilization persists). Sound recordings, and photographs,
    and especially movies. Can you watch The Wizard of Oz without
    contemplating that all those people are dead (and the tragedies
    some of them suffered later in life)? Presumably, people seeing
    the movie in 1939 weren’t thinking that way. And it’s the same now
    with old TV shows. Can you watch Bewitched without thinking,
    yeah, Elizabeth Montgomery and Agnes Moorhead are gone now
    (and Dick York and Dick Sargent). Who was thinking about that in
    the 50’s and 60’s, when TV was brand new? And all the other shows
    and movies you can riffle past on Netflix or YouTube. It’s turning
    into an ever-increasing weight as time passes. There’s something a bit
    Elvish about it (as in Tolkien’s Elves, who were doomed to
    live on while the world changed around them).

  9. James Fehlinger says

    Can you watch The Wizard of Oz without
    contemplating that all those people are dead (and the tragedies
    some of them suffered later in life)? Presumably, people seeing
    the movie in 1939 weren’t thinking that way.

    Nor, of course, is it possible to watch The Wizard of Oz without
    thinking about what was going on elsewhere in the world at
    exactly the same time. I can certainly still enjoy the movie, but
    the experience of watching it is also colored, and darkened, by all
    those other considerations. That’s an adult’s reaction (especially
    an aging adult’s) — a child would not yet be burdened by such

  10. PaulBC says

    I must be very simple. I can watch these without thinking it through at all. It’s a performance. I remember watching Cool Hand Luke a couple of years ago. Of course, it’s hard not to think of Paul Newman, but the rest of the cast was just there in the context of the movie for me.

  11. brightmoon says

    Godfather was born in 1885 I used to think he would have loved to have seen Obama as president. He used to get a kick watching Sammy Davis Jr do the crazy things he used to do . I used to tease my grandmother about being older than the airplane . She was born in October the Wright brothers flew in November 1903 . She did live to see the first Black president get elected twice . I’m glad she didn’t live long enough to see the stupid crazy monster who followed him.

  12. PaulBC says

    Since we’re sharing… I found a picture of my paternal grandfather in online archives of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle as a college student in 1913. He died some years before I was born, but one of my FB friends is his daughter, my father’s half sister, who I never even met as far as I remember when my father was alive. My paternal grandmother died in a car accident in the 1920s. It is sort of odd to have these connections, but for the same reason I feel confident that there should be some living children of the snowball throwers, ones who were born later of course, potentially much later.

  13. James Fehlinger says

    [S]ince the advent of commercial movies, we’ve had
    these vivid time capsules preserving the sight and sound of
    people in their youth — forever. . .

    And we’ve already had a taste of what else may come — CGI Peter Cushing
    as Governor Tarkin in a Star Wars movie; CGI Audrey Hepburn
    in a commercial for chocolates.

    I recently re-read a 1997 sci-fi novel by Greg Bear called
    Slant, that has rich-folks’ parties attended by “guests”
    that are holograms of no-long-with-us-in-the-flesh movie
    stars, like Marilyn Monroe. Licensed for big bucks by
    the stars’ estates, or whoever owns the rights to their

    If there’s money to be made, it’ll happen, if the CGI gets
    good enough. I haven’t seen the Cushing resurrection, but
    the Hepburn recreation from a few years ago, while impressive,
    was still too close to the “uncanny valley” for serious

  14. wzrd1 says

    I find it interesting that women also were throwing snowballs, some likely rock within enough to knock someone off of a bike, but none were thrown back.
    Fair is fair, I’ll throw back, snow for snow, rock for rock.
    Personally, I far prefer verbal or pillows.
    Real weapons leave dead bodies, some bruises is about as far as I’d prefer to take things, if others insist.
    Embarrassed expressions are preferred.
    Or a draw, to go silly again, in straw season.

    Saw an interesting article on CNN. its entire premise was, “Want to rule the nation, learn to rule Pennsylvania”, oddly, by someone utterly out of touch from the populace of Pennsylvania.
    If one can’t figure out Pennsylvania overall, urban areas and Pennsyltukcky. howinhell are you gonna figure out howinhell to herd cats?

    I’ve had a four star galaxy or something general proclaim how I could raise an army on every continent, considering my service history.
    I called him on being incorrect. I’m utterly unable to raise an army on the Antarctic continent.
    Everywhere else, I potentially could. I treat people as peers, I ask questions and answer as best that I can and when an answer isn’t available, answer truthfully that it wasn’t considered…
    It’s not hard, it’s mutual respect and being honest.
    While working alongside the CIA, leaving me occasionally nauseous.
    Even today.
    The ends don’t always justify the means, dammit!

  15. Silentbob says

    Hey, don’t feel bad for them. If I knew people in the year 2144 would be watching me throw snowballs, I reckon I’d be pretty chuffed. :-)

  16. PaulBC says

    wzrd1@24 I grew up in the Philadelphia area, went to Penn State in the 80s and met people from every corner of the state: Philly, Pittsburgh, Scranton, and Erie. I also knew people from Allentown, Johnstown, and rural areas near State College. But I don’t think most of us really understood Pennsyltucky either.

    For all that, I was shocked that the state went for Trump in 2016. Anyway, I have been gone a long time and don’t get back often.

  17. PaulBC says

    brightmoon@21 My father died in 1980. I was 14 so it was terrible for me and the rest of my family. But at least he didn’t have to see Reagan win an election or John Lennon get shot. Silver linings I suppose.

  18. whheydt says

    Another anecdote… This one about “foreseeing” the future. Otherwise known as being able to spot an unpleasant trend.

    My maternal grandfather, born in Denmark ca. 1880, immigrated to the US in 1906. During the 1930s, he refused to trade in his cars when they wore out. He just parked them at the back of his enormous back yard (my sisters and I played on the rusting hulks in the 1950s). His reason was that scrapped cars would be sold to the Japanese…who would shoot them back at us.

    He was right, but how many people were reasoning that way in 1935? I put it down to having grown up in Europe and, as a result, having a more outward view of world events that most Americans.

  19. John Morales says

    I did wait, but…

    Am I terrible for thinking…

    …every one of the people in this charming video from 124 years ago is now dead? Even their children are dead?

    Nah, just realistic.

    Nobody who was an adult 124 years ago can be expected to remain alive now, though their children might be.

    Let’s see: if someone were, say, 20 years old 124 years ago, and are male, they could conceivably (heh) impregnate someone at age 60, which means that child, should it not have perished before now, would only be 83 years old or so.

  20. Erp says

    Generations do weird things. My aunt’s husband’s father knew Charles Darwin (his father had married a second time late in life). I sometimes play a little mind game of when were people born who are the age I am now when I was born (in other words subtract your current age from your birth year).

  21. Rich Woods says

    @Erp #30:

    Interesting idea. Subtracting my age from my birth year would bring us to 1908, the year my paternal grandfather was born. He died in 1981, a few months after celebrating his golden wedding anniversary. I still have a black and white photograph someone took of that event, of he and my grandmother holding a knife together to cut the big anniversary cake she’d baked.

  22. says

    @30 I have several aunts and uncles who are younger than me so those sorts of things happen. My youngest aunt on my mother’s side is about 30 now, my great grandfather on that same side fled NAZI Germany, but my grandfather on my dad’s side fought in that war.

  23. birgerjohansson says

    agirlushouldknow @6, if you want dark, try googling “Gabriel Matzneff” and “Vanessa Springora”.
    Trigger warning: Famous author is a kiddyfiddler, was open about it and even wrote books about it. Protected from investigations by connections to powerful people, including then president Miterrand.

  24. unclefrogy says

    I did and a lot of crap before that as well
    it is still happening today I was always shocked when some shit happened and it still is shocking some shit happens today.
    That old movie tells me that these silly humans were just a silly then as we are now and just maybe a hint that a bunch of us will be around being silly for some time to come.
    uncle frogy

  25. birgerjohansson says

    John Morales @ 29
    The former chairman for Volvo (a Swedish car company) is now 85, and has a five-year old child (he lives in France, BTW).
    My paternal grandmother was born in 1889, which makes her contemporary with a very bad Austrian corporal. She died just short of her 90th birthday.

  26. shelldigger says

    I thought that was pretty neat. I was in a lot of snowball fights as a kid, and a few as an adult who still doesn’t want to grow up. That video actually made me feel nostalgic, as well as very happy for those people enjoying the moment.

    The poor bastard on the bicycle didn’t know what he was getting into.

    And while they are all probably dead, this video allowed me a brief connection to some people much like me in a different time, having a good time.

  27. says

    I have a phot of a relative from the late 19th century dressed weirdly and on the back it says “Cousin Wilbur trying to look like an idiot and succeeding superbly.” I put it in a book of old photos I have and wrote that beside it and one of my relatives said: Isn’t that cute what you put in there.” I said not that is what someone else wrote at the time and they looked at me and it was obvious that they hadn’t been able to think about those people having a sense of humor. Interesting how we see our ancestors.

  28. whheydt says

    Re: Erp @ #30…

    If I subtract my current age from my birth year…I would have been 18 when that film was shot. (1949 – 71 = 1878, right about when my grandparents–all 4 of them–were born.)

  29. wubbes says

    Cartomancer #4: “I still can’t get over the fact that Noam Chomsky is six months older than Anne Frank.”
    – Brigette Bardot is three months older than Dame Maggie Smith

  30. woozy says

    Two things that set me back as clip from the old “I’ve got a secret television show” where they had person who had witnessed the assassination of Lincoln. He had been a small boy about six years old attending the theater and was now ninety-two years later and guy sitting in a television studio. That’s feasible; the civil war was an event of modern history. But what seemed strange to me was the history of television seems so tangible and recent that the shift in What’s the earliest it’s reasonable to find a person who experience an event; when you think of what our elders can remember how far back do you expect it to be had shifted so much. Somehow we have gone from the assassination of Lincoln being the edge of human experience to experiencing the depression.

    When I was young people used to observe the anniversary of the San Francisco Earthquake (…. the one in 1906….sheesh….) and there were contests and prizes for the oldest living survivor (and there was always the wry observance of how there are fewer and fewer people this year). Anyway, it was something to glance at in the Chronicle every April. Anyhow in the 90s between going to grad school here, change of jobs there, living in one place or another, and not really being able to keep up the weight of having a newspaper subscription (can you imagine? having two pounds of paper delivered to your house every day where it piles up making you feel guilty you should be analyzing it more thoroughly?) I quit paying attention. A few years ago I casually wondered what ever happened to those announcements as quick math indicated not a single survivor could have been alive for well over a decade. So when did the very last survivor die? Has the observation of the earthquake change from a topic of local historical pride and family stories shifted to historical inaccessable event? And one thing that had never occurred to me, when did they start doing the oldest surviving commemoration? How did people at the time feel? Did they think “what? that was an event in memory! We’re not fossils!”. How’d I feel if next year they started commemorating oldest person who witnessed the moon landing? How’d I feel when the winners stop being interns how worked in the labs and start being eight year olds witnessing it on television in their pajamas? yikes!

  31. woozy says

    – Brigette Bardot is three months older than Dame Maggie Smith

    Not surprising to those who ever saw “The Prime of Miss Jean Brody”.

    I saw her on stage in 1988 in “Lettice and Lovage” (the old goofy ending where they blew up modern buildings because they were ugly; I actually have no idea what the “more realistic ending” is supposed to be). She’s actually the one actress whose aging actually seems gradual and reasonable (she and Helen Mirren).

    The actress who came as a shock was Diana Rigg, one moment she was retiring as the stately former host (with an glamorous past role of fame) of Mystery, and next thing you know she’s playing the Matriach Tyrell on Game of Thrones…. when did that happen?

  32. PaulBC says

    Not surprising to those who ever saw “The Prime of Miss Jean Brody”.

    Great movie! Though I wish I had seen it before I saw the Harry Potter movies.

  33. woozy says

    woozy@42 Did anyone ask him “How was the play?” or is even that lost to history?

    He was something like six years old. He talked about there being a commotion and him not knowing what was going on and being told the next day what happened. You know, what we know about memory now (and what we knew about boastful uncles then) the whole thing is dubious. But then this is television and the game is to “guess the secret” and there’s no reason the secret should actually be true, just that you guess what it is. And a witness to the Lincoln assassination whether true or complete fabrication is good television.


    And this answers my question about the last survivor of the San Fransisco Earthquake: William Del Monte, Died Jan 11. 2016 (aged 109), 109 years, 8 months and 24 days after the earthquake. (Meaning he was no more than 8 months at the time.)

  34. blf says

    Speaking of old Lumière brothers movies, this one has recently attracted a lot of attention, [4k, 60 fps] Arrival of a Train at La Ciotat (The Lumière Brothers, 1896) (also added sound (not colorised)). This is a historically important movie with many legends surrounding it: That it scared the audience into thinking a train really was coming into the theatre (unlikely), that it was the first movie made (no), that it was the first movie shown to the public (misleading, it possibly was the first movie ever shown in cinema (movie theatre) rather than, say, in / as a fair or arcade attraction).

  35. thebg says

    Not sure if links are ok so I will mention the youtube channel, “Denis Shiryaev”. He uses AI to stabilize, color and upscale archival footage from the turn of the 19th century and earlier, and has been recently funded to expand his library. I find it endlessly fascinating and also somewhat morbid. Especially his posted video of San Francisco right before the great fire.


  36. James Fehlinger says

    . . .“The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie”. . .

    Little girls! I am in the business of putting old heads
    on young shoulders, and all my pupils are the
    crème de la crème. Give me a girl at an impressionable
    age, and she is mine for life! . . .

    Helen Macphee, are you thinking of doing a day’s washing?
    You have your sleeves rolled up. Roll them down at once!
    I won’t have to do with girls who roll up the sleeves
    of their blouses. We are civilized beings!

    The movie manages to be both hilariously funny and quite
    dark. But the Muriel Spark novel is quite a bit darker
    even than the movie.

  37. Pierce R. Butler says

    I just finished reading the text of Yevgeny Zamiatin’s We (a sort-of satirical dystopia published in 1924), and was particularly struck by the relevance yet ingenuousness of a line from the translator’s introduction:

    It is a novel that puts most poignantly and earnestly before every thoughtful reader the most difficult problem that exists today in the civilized world,–the problem of preservation of the independent original creative personality.

    That’s how things looked to a cosmopolitan intellectual in the early years of fascism and Stalinism – the good old days.

  38. robro says

    elf @ #48 — That’s amazing, too. Good close ups of people…why they look like normal people, not my grandparents. Quit a few cute children acting like children.

    As to “first movie” that might depend on what you call a movie. The story (true I don’t know) is that Auguste Lumière was invited to see a demonstration of Edison’s Kinetoscope technology before the brothers started working on their cinematograph process. If that’s true, they had a clear predecessor. And then of course, there’s Eadweard Muybridge’s work on photographing motion in 1879. Don’t know if they knew about that, but the idea of using a series of still images taken in sequence to produce a motion picture was floating around.

  39. wzrd1 says

    @robro, I call it autoerrect, due to the deficiencies of early youth and well, how deficient that correction is. Had to reload a few computers, due to hardware failure training the database is an extraordinary pain in the gonads. I’ll have to figure out how to export my database corrections.

    Given the state of open and closed source small crackers and the state of AI, I say that we take off and nuke the site from orbit. It’s the only way to be sure. ;)