On Board a Great Lakes Freighter

The film above was discovered with no info such as who shot it, or when and where the scenes were captured. It clearly features Duluth at the beginning and end, however, and appears to be circa 1937.

“What we do know is that it was taken onboard a Great Lakes freighter by an amateur cameraman with what looks like a 16mm silent movie camera,” notes the Speed Graphic Film and Video description on YouTube.

Can anyone find clues to help date the film? The obvious one is that it was shot after the Aerial Bridge was converted to a lift bridge in 1929.

The description includes this speculative outline:

0:05 – Loading the cargo. Appears to be coal.
0:38 – Entering a set of locks. Location unknown.
1:09 – On board the freighter are three well-dressed couples and a younger woman. Who are they? Lost to time.
1:18 – The Great Lakes Steamship Company’s Horace S. Wilkinson is seen passing through the locks. Built 1917, converted to a barge 1962.
1:25 – On a broad channel next to a city. Could this be Cleveland?
2:12 – The three older women debark. It takes courage to wear white on a freighter.
2:39 – Hulett unloaders go to work unloading the cargo. Again, location unknown.
3:22 – Brief shot of the R. R. Richardson of Duluth. Built 1902 as the J. M. Jenks. Renamed R. R. Richardson, 1916. Renamed Ralph S. Caulkins, 1942.
3:31 – Shot of a man (the captain?) in the forward wheelhouse. Another shot of the other men and the young woman.
3:45 – Passing under Duluth’s iconic lift bridge.

As for the opening scene, it appears to be shot in West Duluth at the DM&IR Ore Docks. Various docks were built and torn down there in the early 20th Century, but by 1927 docks 1, 2, 3 and 4 were gone. So, in theory, we should be looking at Dock 6 on the left and Dock 5 on the right, correct?

Across the bay are coal docks in Superior.

Dock 5 is the still-standing dock that isn’t used anymore; Dock 6 is the still-functioning dock. Both are presently controlled by Wisconsin Central Ltd., a subsidiary of Canadian National Railway.



about 3 years ago

This is a great film! Thank you for sharing.

1:25 - (broad channel next to city) - The city skyline is that of Detroit. The bridge is the Ambassador Bridge (opened November 1929). One of the buildings visible is the Barlum or Cadillac Tower. It had a rooftop sign when it was completed in 1927, and at some point after the stock market crash in 1929, the sign was removed. The sign is not there in this film. I have found several photos and postcards of the building still with the sign, or the sign's framework without letters, marked ca. 1930 and on.

Paul Lundgren

about 3 years ago

It seems the footage was almost entirely shot on perhaps the same freighter.

There is this scene in which the cameraperson appears to have got off the vessel and photographed it along with a similar looking freighter. So, in theory, the film was shot on the R.R. Richardson or similar-looking freighter.

Paul Lundgren

about 3 years ago

Here is a stitch-together panorama of the end scene of the film, which shows the Canal Park area. Any clues there to help support or debunk that it's 1937?

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