Toy pistols fire real blank cartridges. Trolley cars run up the main streets, and trains connect Pittsfield with most of the county and with New York City.
The Pittsfield Symphony Orchestra opens its season at the Colonial Theater. President Theodore Roosevelt grapples with tensions in Panema. Factory workers strike in Chicago. In the Berkshires, the markets have ordered English walnuts, lemons and oranges for the holiday season - but they have a shortage of turkeys.
The toy shops are unpacking boxes of wind-up performing animals: squealing pigs, monkeys turning somersaults, a donkey with a clown that runs around a track, a mule that drinks from a trough, a bird singing in a cage.
And just south of the downtown, Xenas Crane has opened a museum to house his collection.
This year, the Berkshire Museum celebrates its 110th anniversary, and in the 29th annual Festival of Trees, the museum will look back to the last century - and forward to the next.
More than 200 trees will play with the theme of "yesterday, today and tomorrow."
Visitors may see 3-D printing technology and and clockwork gears like the giant train station clock in the movie "Hugo." The Berkshire Athenaeum will explore developments "from the card catalog to the Cloud," said librarian and technical services supervisor Alex Reczkowski.
And the museum will invite guests to share their memories.
Maria Mingalone, the museum's director of interpretation, often meets people with good stories - they had their first kiss in the beaver room, she said, or they remember Pahat, the mummy, or the glow-in-the-dark rocks.
Lisa Ostellino, an art teacher at Pittsfield High School, definitely remembers the rocks.
"When you first walked in," she said, "there was a booth with a curtain. You pulled the curtain closed, like a voting booth, and pushed a button, and the purple light came on, and all the gems and minerals would glow."
It was like walking into a cave.
She and her colleague, Colleen Quinn, both remember winning arts awards from the museum as children.
They and fellow art teacher Barbara Patton and their art classes are collaborating on a display for the museum's entrance, as well as on a tree. Students have painted an array of time pieces and gears for the installation, and the "future tree" glows silver with a froth of beach-ball fruit. The students are already asking when they can visi their tree in the show, Patten said.
"They love to be a part of it," she said. "They have all gone to the museum since grammar school, and to the acquarium."
This year, they can record their memories in a "Backward and Foreward" gallery. Mingalone has set up an station of old-fashioned typewriters where people can write love letters to the museum.
She has invited local friends of the museum to write their own, including Laurie Norton Moffatt at the Norman Rockwell Museum and "Jake" McCandless, and she will display historic letters to the museum from older friends like Norman Rockwell and Alexander Calder (who signs himself "Sandy." Returning from a trip to Paris, where he designed a Spanish Pavillion for the exhibition, he promises the museum that he will "come up to put the recalcitrant mobile to rights.)
People can also write wishes for the museum's future, as they tink over how much has changed - or hasn't - since 1903. Mingalone will pair historic images from the museum's collection and contemporary phtoographs by members of the Berkshire Camera Club: of the courthouse with the athenaeum, or North Street, or a canoe on Onota Lake.
In 1903 the Athenaeum shared space in the old court building across the street, Reczkowski said.
He wanted to celebrate the new fiberoptic Internet project working to bring access - the fastest Internet east of the Mississippi - to all of Western Massachusetts. The Athenaeum will be one of more than a dozen anchor institutions in the plan for Pittsfield, he said. He will decorate the library's tree with fiber-op lights, type-written cards and garlands of microfilm. Microfilm, he explained, is a tangible record of the past and a landmark of innovation: an imaginary machine based on interlocking streams of microfilm gave an early idea of hyperlinking and an early vision the Internet.
Now libraries, like museums, are evolving.
But, as they were in 1903, when much of the country still read by gas light and kerosene lamp - they are places where anyone can come to learn. Today Reczkowski sees the library becoming a community center. People come there to work, to tutor, to use online databases like ancestry.com to explore their own pasts.
"I imagine people will always want a place to come together," he said.