things that fascinate me [updated]
Ever wondered who the oldest (that is, earliest born) person to have appeared in a motion picture might be? Well, I can’t be certain — there are so many uncredited parts in, say, early DW Griffith films — but I may have found the oldest person listed on IMDB: Sarah Whitley (born Sarah Robinson), who portrayed herself in “Roundhay Garden Scene”, an 1888 short documentary film.
She was born in 1816 in Wakefield, Yorkshire, England and died in 1888 — making her the first person who appeared in film to die.
To put this in perspective, this woman was born the year the Bonapartes were forever banished from France; the year Rossini’s “The Barber of Seville” premiered in Rome; the year Lord Byron finished “Siege of Corinth”; the year the 2nd Bank of the US is chartered, and the year the first savings bank in the US opens; the year the Gas Light Company of Baltimore is founded; the year Indiana becomes a state; the year James Monroe is elected the fifth US President; and the year Lord Exmouth launches an assault Algiers, a refuge for Barbary pirates. Just four years before her birth, Francis Scott Key wrote “Defence of Fort McHenry” after witnessing the British Navy bombard Fort McHenry from the Chesapeake Bay in a battle of the War of 1812; that poem became “The Star-Spangled Banner” and was recognized for official use by the Navy in 1889, a year after Ms Whitley’s death.
The War of 1812 lasted until 1815, the year before Ms Whitley was born.
Hawthorne wouldn’t publish The Scarlet Letter until Whitley was in her mid thirties; Poe’s great detective, Auguste Dupin, wouldn’t make his first appearance until she was 25; and James Madison, the Father of the Constitution, would continue to live until Ms Whitley was 20.
I don’t know why, but I find this kind of thing fascinating. For what it’s worth.
update: Whitley was born 196 years ago; meaning that she was born closer to 1621 than she was to today — or, if you’d like, closer to the appointment of Miles Standish as 1st commander of Plymouth colony than to Obama’s re-election bid, or closer to Galileo’s inventing of the telescope than the premiere of the iPad 2.