Traffic in Souls

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For the French film, see White Cargo (1937 film).
Traffic in Souls
Traffic in Souls poster.jpg
Theatrical poster
Directed by George Loane Tucker
Produced by Walter MacNamara
Jack Cohn (uncredited)
Written by Walter MacNamara (scenario)
Story by George Loane Tucker
Starring Jane Gail
Ethel Grandin
William H. Turner
Matt Moore
Music by Philip Carli (1994 release)
Cinematography Henry Alder Leach
Edited by Jack Cohn (uncredited)
Distributed by Universal Film Manufacturing Company
Release dates
  • November 24, 1913 (1913-11-24)
Running time
88 min
Country United States
Language Silent
English intertitles
Budget $5700
Lorna Barton (played by Ethel Grandin) is tempted by the procurer Bill Bradshaw (William Cavanaugh) in a cafe.

Traffic in Souls (also released as While New York Sleeps) is a 1913 American silent crime drama film focusing on forced prostitution (white slavery) in the United States. Directed by George Loane Tucker and starring Jane Gail, Ethel Grandin, William H. Turner and Matt Moore, Traffic in Souls is an early example of the narrative style in American films. The film consists of six reels which was longer than most American film of the era.[1]

A copy of Traffic in Souls is preserved at the Library of Congress and the Film Preservation Associates.[2] In 2006, the film was added to the National Film Registry for preservation in the Library of Congress because it "presaged the Hollywood narrative film" and drew attention through its riveting depiction of the methods used to entrap young women into prostitution.[3]

Production background[edit]

Traffic in Souls was based on a story by the film's director George Loane Tucker. The scenario was written by Walter MacNamara who also served as producer with Jack Cohn.[4] Executive producers include King Baggot, Herbert Brenon, William Robert Daly and Carl Laemmle.

The film was shot and produced by Universal Film Manufacturing Company in Fort Lee, New Jersey, where many early film studios in America's first motion picture industry were based at the beginning of the 20th century.[5][6][7] Additional footage was shot on location at Ellis Island and Manhattan. Its subjects were working women who had immigrated to the United States, and it was released at a time when the country was undergoing a "moral panic" over the issue of prostitution.[8] The film's release eventually resulted in the adding of "white slavery" to the list of topics banned under the Hays Code.[1][9]


The storyline concerns two young Swedish women immigrants who are approached by men soliciting for white slavery under the guise of a legitimate work offer. In the scenes filmed at Battery Park, after the women are transported there from Ellis Island, real immigrants can be seen in the background.[10]

The entire film takes place over the course of three days and consists of a prologue; the main narrative in which one of the sisters is kidnapped by a pimp and the other sister and her boyfriend rush to rescue her in time and the pimp is killed; and an epilogue in which the viewer finds out the consequences from a trashed news article. The film concludes with a joke ending, an ending to a thriller that at the time was not the cliché it has become now.[11]


  • Jane Gail as Mary Barton
  • Ethel Grandin as Lorna Barton
  • William H. Taylor as Issac Barton, The Invalid Inventor - Mary's Father (credited as Wm. Turner)
  • Matt Moore as NYPD officer Larry Burke
  • Walter Long as other policeman (Uncredited)
  • William Welsh as William Trubus
  • Millie Liston as Mrs. Trubus (billed as Mrs. Hudson Lyston)
  • Irene Wallace as Alice Trubus
  • William Cavanaugh as Bill Bradshaw
  • Howard Crampton as the go-between
  • Arthur Hunter as the procurer
  • William Burbidge as Mr. Smith
  • Laura Huntley as the emigrant girl
  • William Powers as the emigrant girl’s brother
  • Jack Poulson as R.C. Cadet
  • Edward Boring as Swedish Cadet

Release and reception[edit]

Traffic in Souls opened on November 24, 1913 at Lou Fields's Theatre at 1215 Broadway in New York City. The film was made for $5700, and reportedly took in $400,000 in rentals during the early years of its release, helping to make Universal a major player among movie studios.[2]

Home media[edit]

Traffic in Souls was released on VHS by Kino International in with a piano score by Philip Carli in 1994.[4][12] Flicker Alley released the film, along with The Italian (1915) and three shorts, as part of a two DVD set entitled Perils of the New Land in August 2008.[13]


  1. ^ a b Brewster, Ben (Autumn 1991). "'Traffic in Souls': An Experiment in Feature-Length Narrative Construction". Cinema Journal 31 (1): 37–56. doi:10.2307/1225161. Retrieved November 27, 2011. 
  2. ^ a b "Silent Era : Progressive Silent Film List". 
  3. ^ "Films Added to National Film Registry for 2006" (Press release). Library of Congress. December 27, 2006. Retrieved November 27, 2011. 
  4. ^ a b Eagan, Daniel (2010). America's Film Legacy: The Authoritative Guide to the Landmark Movies in the National Film Registry. A&C Black. p. 30. ISBN 0-826-42977-7. 
  5. ^ Koszarski, Richard (2004). Fort Lee: The Film Town. Indiana University Press. ISBN 0-86196-652-X. 
  6. ^ "Studios and Films". Fort Lee Film Commission. Retrieved 2011-05-30. 
  7. ^ Fort Lee: Birthplace of the Motion Picture Industry. Arcadia Publishing. 2006. ISBN 978-0-7385-4501-1. 
  8. ^ Olund, Eric (October 2007). "Traffic in Souls: the ‘new woman,’ whiteness and mobile self-possession". Cultural Geographies 16 (4). doi:10.1177/1474474009340088. Retrieved November 27, 2011. 
  9. ^ Matsubara, Hiroyuki (2006). "The 1910s Anti-Prostitution Movement and the Transformation of American Political Culture" (PDF). The Japanese Journal of American Studies (17): 56. 
  10. ^ Grieveson, Lee. "Policing the cinema: Traffic in Souls at Ellis Island, 1913". Oxford Journals 38 (2): 149–171. doi:10.1093/screen/38.2.149. Retrieved November 27, 2011. 
  11. ^ Grieveson, Lee; Krèamer, Peter (2004). The Silent Cinema reader. New York: Routlege. pp. 226–237. ISBN 0-415-25284-9. 
  12. ^ "Flicker Alley 2008 DVD edition". Retrieved May 5, 2015. 
  13. ^ Kehr, Dave (August 11, 2008). "New DVDs: ‘Perils of the New Land’". Retrieved May 5, 2015. 

External links[edit]