The following is from Jeff Altman’s Vimeo account:
This is a film I found at an estate sale on the south side of Chicago [Auburn Gresham]. It merely said ‘Chicago’ and ‘Print 1′ on the canister. I bought it because I was intrigued as to what might live inside.
Well, its hard to say exactly what this is. Its a film by the Chicago Board Of Education, produced sometime in the 1940s. I only know this because the narrator died in a horrible plane wreck around that time. Its hard to say the purpose of the film; it could be geared towards tourism or to entice companies to come to Chicago. This film could have just been used in the classroom. I’m not entirely sure.
The great thing about this film reel, is all the different views of the city they give. If you have any more info on this, I would love to know!
Interestingly a spokeswoman from the Chicago Board of Education said staff was searching the board’s archives to find a reference to the film but, so far, it seems unclear why the video was created and who saw it, according to DNAinfo Chicago.
Up to this point the only names anyone researched seems to be John Howatt, credited as the business manager of the film, and Johnnie Neblett, the film’s narrator. Howatt was elected to the Chicago Board of Education as a business manager on Jan. 8, 1945 and Neblett died on Sept. 15, 1946, according to NBC5.
So the the film had to have been released at some point between those two dates.
The official end of WWII, V-J Day, happened in between those dates on August 14, 1945. Because of this I think the film was an attempt to attract a combination of returning veterans, their families and businesses that were restructuring back to civilian/pre-war production levels to come settle in Chicago.
Digging around myself, I started researching the names listed in the opening credits and came across a Chicago Tribune obituary for Selma Jacobson dated from Dec. 23, 2000.
It describes her as a home economics teacher in the Chicago Public School system during the time the film would have been made. She left her teaching position at the Bridge School for a sabbatical in Sweden in 1950. She would alternate between Sweden and Chicago intermittently for the next few years.
The reason I think it’s her name in the credits is that in 1956 she was asked by Mayor Richard J. Daley to prepare a history of the Swedish in Chicago for a holiday folk fair. The fact a CPS home economics teacher was tapped by King Daley to put something like this together makes me think Jacobson had already successfully boosted for the city in the past.
Adding support to this theory was an obituary I found for Marie C. Frank, another name featured in the film’s opening credits. According to a Chicago Tribune obituary dated from May 19, 1972, she was a the director of the federal and state survey department of the Chicago Board of Education.
This adds to my theory that the film was designed to sell Chicago to as an ideal place for veterans and businesses to thrive in their return to civilian life.
I need to find more information on Jacobson and Frank to confirm if they were involved. I think that once I start digging into those two women’s history I might be able to find out why exactly the film was commissioned. Ω