Mysterious Found Footage Offers a Rare Glimpse of 1940s Chicago

One man's stellar garage sale find gives us a peek into the past.

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Fading Eyes/Vimeo

At a recent estate sale on the south side of Chicago, Jeff Altman spotted a canister of film simply labeled "Chicago" and "Print 1." That tidbit of information was intriguing enough for Altman to drop $40 on the print.

Altman, who works in film post-production, took two weeks to inspect and fix minor issues before scanning and turning it into a digital video.

The result is this short film, a marvelous and thorough overview of 1940s Chicago, when the Wrigley and Tribune Towers were still considered modern landmarks.

In contrast to typical city promotional films, this video offers glimpses of downtown spots like Buckingham Fountain along with the city’s manufacturing plants and meat-packing facilities. The footage also comes with all sorts of statistics and facts. For example, Michigan Boulevard (now Michigan Avenue) carried more than 55,000 automobiles on an average day.

Based on the credits, it appears the video was produced by the Chicago Board of Education, with an assist from United Airlines (for the aerial shots). The release date of the film has also been pinned to between 1945 and 1946. John Howatt, credited as the Business Manager of the Board in the video, was elected on January 8, 1945, and Johnnie Neblett, the narrator, died on September 15, 1946.

Altman writes that he thinks the video was meant to attract people or companies to Chicago, or perhaps as a resource in the classroom. But according to DNAInfo, a spokesman from the Chicago Board of Education said that staff haven’t been able to find any reference to the film in its archives.

(h/t Urbanophile)

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