IM film clips from 1914 to be presented at library

IRON MOUNTAIN – Century-old film clips showing Iron Mountain around the Fourth of July, 1914, are featured in a new DVD produced by the Menominee Range Historical Foundation. Entitled “The Way We Were: Iron Mountain, Michigan 1914,” the film, augmented by still photographs, is one hour and ten minutes in length and will be shown publicly for the first time in the Multi-Purpose Room of the Dickinson County Library on Thursday, Aug. 7 at 1:30 p.m. and 6:15 p.m. Admission is free.

“Few communities are fortunate enough to have filmed documentation dating back to the early twentieth century,” Bill Cummings, Foundation vice president, noted. “This footage allows us authentic glimpses of life in Iron Mountain as nothing else can provide. Some long-time residents may recognize their grandparents or great-grandparents.”

The film clips were donated to the Foundation in the late 1970’s. They were in a 35mm format and were discovered in the projection booth of the Braumart Theater. The exact content of the small canisters of film was unknown, and Foundation Treasurer Donnell Mitchell sent them to New York to be transferred to a 16mm format so they could be viewed.

The film clips are about twenty minutes long and were shown by Cummings, then manager of the Menominee Range Historical Museum, in a number of presentations in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s. Cummings gathered some “old-timers” in the museum archives to view the film, who were able to identify places, some individuals and add information regarding the footage.

In 2013 the Foundation Board authorized Cummings to have the 16mm film digitized so that it would be used with today’s technology to produce an organized presentation showing life in Iron Mountain 100 years ago.

Working with Nicholas Gayan, computer teacher at Kingsford High School, Cummings finished putting together a program featuring the movie clips on July 18.

The program replicates a silent movie format with ragtime piano accompaniment. The first feature film originally presented as a “talkie” was “The Jazz Singer,” starring Al Jolson, which was released in October, 1927, some 13 years after the Iron Mountain footage was recorded.

An introductory segment contains chronologically arranged historical items showing what happened during 1914 to help the viewer relate to world and national events at the time the footage was shot. Among items which occurred that year were Henry Ford’s introduction of the $5 wage for an eight-hour work day, “Babe” Ruth signing his first professional baseball contract and the beginning of the Great War, later known as World War I.

The viewer is then taken to Iron Mountain’s Bijou Theater at 104-106 West Ludington Street, across for today’s U.S. Post Office, to watch the film. Contemporary theater slides, such as “Ladies Kindly Remove Your Hats,” explain proper decorum in the theater to acclimate the viewer to the era, and the presentation begins.

Historic photographs from the Menominee Range Historical Foundation’s collection and the private collection of William J. Cummings and others have been added to the footage, together with historical information about the views seen on film.

Overviews of the city’s West Side are included in the first film clips. Mining views showing miners emerging from the cage at C Ludington Shaft of the Chapin Mine (Cornish Pumping Engine site) and from the Pewabic Mine follow. A series of clips of the Von Platen Sawmill complex (site of today’s V.A. Hospital and the Midtown Mall) are next.

Steam engines entering and leaving the Chicago & Northwestern Railway Station (today’s Steven’s Decorating & Framing) and the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railway Station (across from the Braumart Theater) follow.

Footage of the city’s Hose Company No. 1 at the former City Hall building on East Ludington Street and Hose Company No. 2 at 709 Vulcan Street show horse-drawn hook and ladder wagons exiting from those buildings. A lengthy clip of children having fun with a fire hose, possibly on the North Side, is also included.

Views of the South Stephenson Avenue commercial district follow, including Eugene J. DeGayner’s The Club, the Rahm & Will Jewelry Store (Gust Rahm and Louis J. Will), the Abe Sackim Company department store, Seibert’s Drug Store (George and Margaret Seibert and Samuel Cudlip), the M. Levy & Company department store, and the L.M. Hansen Livery Stable (today the site of B’s Caf) are included.

Pedestrians wave at the camera from the steps in front of the Dickinson County Court House at both corners on Stephenson Avenue.

Other views of commercial sites include the Sanitary Laundry, the Bijou Theatre, the Iron Mountain Tribune-Gazette office, Miench & Son House Movers (Anton and Dalbert Miench), the City Lumber Yard (Festus C. Cole), the J.M. Garvey Feed & Grain store, Best Bros. Creamery (Edward A. and Alexander Best), the Milliman Hotel (Frank M. and Claude H. Milliman) and the Henze-Tollen Brewing Company (L.A. Henze and Gustaf Tollen).

Additional footage shows brief views of the St. George Hospital, the Nelson P. Hulst School and the current Iron Mountain High School just two years after its construction.

The Pine Grove Golf Club (today’s Pine Grove Country Club) and the Hydraulic Power Company on the Menominee River have more extensive footage.

The remainder of the film footage shows the Fourth of July celebration, including the parade, The Big Fun Factory carnival, various racing competitions and the Iron Mountain and Norway baseball teams. Dignitaries riding in decorated early automobiles, horse-drawn carriages and floats, the fire department’s steamer engine and several marching bands are included

The highlight of the 1914 Fourth of July celebration captured on film is the first “aeroplane” flight on the Menominee Iron Range by Lieut. Roy N. Francis, who traveled by rail with his plane from San Francisco, California, and was a well-known “barnstormer” and early pilot. Local businessmen paid $800 for this special exhibition.

The DVD will be available for sale following the Library programs and soon will be available at the Cornish Pumping Engine & Mining Museum Gift Shop at a cost of $10.00. All money goes to the Menominee Range Historical Foundation to help offset the cost of digitizing the film and providing resources for more displays and programs. The digitization cost was just over $500.