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Visit 1940s Chicago With a Film Discovered at a Garage Sale

The film, produced in around 1945, offers a thorough, fact-filled tour of the city

smithsonian.com

A $40-dollar find at a recent estate sale turned out to be the short color film above showcasing Chicago in the 1940s. As CityLab reports, Jeff Altman, who works in film post-production, found a canister labeled "Chicago" and "Print 1," bought it and fixed some minor issues before uploading it for general enjoyment

Altman writes, "It's 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 short film gives credit to the Chicago Board of Education for its production and thanks United Airlines for the aerial shots.

The narrator’s voice bursts with pride as the viewer is treated to aerial views, panoramas from the top of the city’s "man-made mountains of steel and stone" and shots along the "autodrives" crowded with round-topped vehicles in cherry-red, canary-yellow, turquoise and gleaming black. Citylab notes:

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.

Shots highlight the imposing facades of the Museum of Natural History, the Chicago Art Institute, the public library "with its collection of almost two million books," the Museum of Science and Industry, the University of Chicago and more. We can see hundreds of people strolling across lawns and enjoying a golf competition in some of the city’s many parks and preserves.

The tour is thorough. Even less glamorous aspects of Chicago get consideration—such as some of the high schools, elementary schools, general stores, machinery manufacturing factory, "the world’s largest lumbar market and distributing center" and the meatpacking and stockyards.

Take the time to enjoy the film and acquaint yourself with "the most American of American cities: Chicago." In the 1940s, the city is "young in years but challenging in its immensity."

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