Traveling Through Time with Kinemacolor

You never know how something from the past can show up in the present.

DeBergerac Production’s takes a lot of pride in working on film artifacts from the early days of film’s past. It’s with great passion that they take on such projects, such as digital restoration of older films and their collection vintage wardrobe and props. One of the earliest projects that the company undertook was the additive of color to a short film, which was printed on film with Kinemacolor capabilities. The twelve-second clip depicted a horse-drawn trolley rounding a street corner in New York City. It was one of the first restoration projects that DeBergerac took on, and at the time, they weren’t quite clear where the location of the footage was.

Kinemacolor ProcessHD

Kinemacolor was a two-color additive system for early black and white films. In fact, it was the first successful color process for film ever. Developed in 1906 by Charles Urban, the Kinemacolor camera would expose black and white film through an alternating red and green filter. The system would be launched commercially in 1908 and receive its name by 1909. It would only be around until circa 1914 and would be replaced eventually by panchromatic black and white film.

Always one to keep an eye out for things from the past, Mike Champlin constantly scours the web pages of E-Bay looking for antiqued items from the past. One of these semi-routinely shopping sprees found Mike the proud owner of some old black and white still photographs that appear to be from the early 1900’s. While examining one of the photos, Mike couldn’t help but notice the peculiar architecture on one of the buildings. He felt something was odd, yet familiar, with the perfectly circular windows on this brick building in the background building.

The photo also featured a Coca-Cola sign and showed a white building on a corner in the foreground that was once a center for female Irish immigrants. This building was demarked by a ramp leading up to the front entrance. It had been many years, but Mike knew where he’d seen this spot before: this was the exact same spot that the footage of the trolley was taken!

Further research would come to find that the spot was located on the corner of Central and South Ferry, near Battery Park.


IMG_4485 IMG_4486

On a trip to the Big Apple, Mike made sure to visit this location, excitedly taking pictures with his daughter in the same exact spot of both the photograph and the film.

Being a true historian in his own right led Mike to further unravel a mystery that he had questioned for years. It’s amazing how happenstance and circumstance can bring about a revelation like this! It also goes to show that anything from the past can pop up again and that a little due diligence and research can help us learn so much more than we knew before.


Works Cited

“Kinemacolor- The First Successful Color System.” Early Color Motion

Pictures- A Film Technology History. The American WideScreen Museum, 1997-1998. Web. 25 Nov. 2014. <;.

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