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Archival Mystique, or What I Found Today

30 Jan

What passed through my hands today:

  • A 16mm print of Olive Trees of Justice, a 1962 feature film by University of Oregon alum James Blue, who was the first American to win the Critics’ Prize at the Cannes Film Festival.
  • A reel of Kodachrome from the 1930s and 1940s showing campus hijinks around homecoming. Parades, picnics, football, legendary track coach Bill Hayward, coeds in bathing suits log rolling on the Millrace.

Bill Hayward. Courtesy University of Oregon Libraries Special Collections & University Archives.

  • U.S. Senator Wayne Morse speaking at the Heathman Hotel in Portland, Oregon c1960s, but the film is silent.
  • A three-reel home movie of UO geology professor William D. Smith’s research trip to South America in 1930. He sailed from San Pedro, California, on the S.S. Rakuyo Maru, a cargo-passenger freighter built in 1921 by the Mitsubishi Shipbuilding Co. to serve the Toyo Kisen Kaisha’s South American line. In WWII, the Rakuyo Maru was used as a transport ship for Australian and British POWs, and en route from Singapore in Sept. 1944 it was torpedoed and sunk by the USS Sealion. Nearly all of the 1300 soldiers on board were killed.

The Exploding Whale on Film

1 Nov

In 1970 a 45-foot sperm whale washed ashore on the Oregon coast. It became pretty stinky as it started to decompose, so the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT), which had jurisdiction over the beaches at that time, decided on a foolproof way to remove the whale: by blowing it up. Fifty pounds of dynamite later, rancid whale chunks were scattered over more than a quarter mile around the blast site, along with some smashed cars and bruised bystanders.


The ODOT engineer who masterminded this plan died this week, so the story was in the news again. TV news stations recorded the event, but I prefer the film shot by a local man who was a young, independent filmmaker at the time, and who grew up in the Oregon landscape. He was very attuned to the growing urgency of environmental problems, and he explored these issues in a number of films, including Natural Timber Country and Tamanawis Illahee: Rituals and Acts in a Landscape.

Duty to Cargo revisited

18 Jul

Thanks once again to the request of a far-flung researcher who requested a copy of the one existing print of this film in the University of Oregon’s 16mm collection, Duty to Cargo (c1939) is now available online. This is one of those orphan films that is not all that compelling to watch, but all the contextual information around it makes it very interesting.


The thorough Iris Bull documented it elsewhere on this blog, but it’s also worth noting that the film was produced in Cosmocolor, a process developed in 1938 by the industrial film company Wilding Picture Productions, and described in more technical detail in Business Screen. Cosmocolor was Wilding’s solution to bringing down the cost of producing industrial films in color. “Commercial producers have been holding a finger on the pulse of American advertisers long enough to realize that it doesn’t take much argument to convince potential clients of the advantages of color in advertising films…something had to be done to bring color to a point where it could as readily be used as black and white from the viewpoint of cost, mobility and production.” I don’t know enough about the use of color in advertising and industrial films from the 1930s to know how many were produced in color at this time, but 1939 was still relatively early for the use of color in motion pictures in any genre.

More Wilding films are available courtesy of the Prelinger Archives on the Internet Archive. Other Wilding titles I’d love to see: The Cheese Family Album (1949), Knucklehead (also from 1949, “a training film for service station owners and attendants”), and Time for Living (1949), which features “a demonstration of modern laundry service.”

Family Counseling (1960) revisited

24 May

This film is now online, thanks to another request from a person in Chicago [watch it here]. From the early years of public television, “Family Counseling” features a live counseling session with Rudolf Dreikurs, M.D., and a set of parents and their three children, all in front of a studio audience in Corvallis, Oregon. Dreikurs followed the methods of Alfred Adler, which in this case focuses on changing children’s behavior without reward or punishment.

Nepal Royalty Visit University of Oregon, 1960

20 May

I’ve discovered another hidden pocket of film in the library’s basement, and in the process of documenting it I found another piece of film to add to the Nepal trove. It is a short newsfilm, likely produced by KGW TV in Portland, of the Nepal king and queen’s visit to Oregon in 1960 [watch it here].

Mahendra of Nepal and his wife Lady Ratna Rajya Lakshmi Devi came to Oregon in part to recognize the American Nepal Education Foundation’s work to establish an education system in Nepal in the 1950s.

The transfer is low-res and greenish, unfortunately, but such is the state of our film chain.


County Outline (1956?)

9 Jun
Director  Harry Paget (and photographer)
Producer  Multnomah County Library
Contributors Made under the auspices of Elizabeth H. Harmond Fund of the Library Association of Portland.

Musical score by Robert Crowley

Length  30 min
B&W/Color  Black & White
UO Library Catalog description:  Portland, Or. : Multnomah County Library
Call # Mc24
Genre Government-Sponsored
Rare  YES
Online  NO
Copyright status  Public Domain
Physical condition  Fair
Oregon-related  YES


The Multnomah County Library produced this film about Multnomah County in which the city of Portland is contained.  It details nearly all aspects of the county including geographical, geological and economical filming surrounding landscape and industry.  The film details the processes of government such as voting practices, city planning, and property taxes.  Local schools, children, and social workers within the juvenile detention system are filmed as well.

The University of Oregon’s medical school is mentioned in their filming of the county hospital, the Multnomah Hospital.  The medical center was run by medical faculty from the U of O and educated medical interns.  Local law enforcement and so much more is highlighted in this report which recounts nearly all infrastructures in the county.

This film obviously holds great historical and cultural value for the University of Oregon, the city of Portland, Multnomah County, and the state of Oregon.  In our catalog the date is listed as 1956 but it’s true production date is unknown as of yet.

Oregon Today (1962)

9 Jun
Director  Don Horter
Producer  Don Horter Productions
Contributors Oregon Dept. of Planning and Development

Narrator, Tex Antoine

Music, Al Corelli

Photographers, Fred Miller, Eric Horter, and Harold Laney

Length  28 min
B&W/Color  Color
UO Library Catalog description:   Describes the industrial production of Oregon from the basic forest products to new electronic space devices. Includes views of the scenery in Oregon and shows the activity on farms and in cities.
Call # Mc213
Genre  Government-Sponsored
Rare  YES
Online  NO
Copyright status  Public Domain
Physical condition  Poor
Oregon-related  YES


I found that in 1956 Don Horter made a film called White Peril which, according to a plot summary of the film on, detailed the snow patrol on duty in the Cascade Mountains of Washington state. Also on eos.web I found a film that he also made called Of Ships and Cargo in 1960, which is a promotional film to draw in business to Portland, OR.  This seemed very similar in intention to Oregon Today.

While screening this film an old splice broke and I was obliged to repair it.  The film is extremely brittle, has extensive emulsion scratching, surface damage, and color degradation.  The film is extremely red and in poor condition.

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