Feature Video–Thanksgiving 2012–Mr Zero gives to the needy

What do you think of when you think of Thanksgiving? Turkey, family gatherings, football, Macy’s parade, pumpkin pie, Pilgrims?

Historically, Thanksgiving began as a tradition of celebrating the harvest of the year, as Harvest festivals are celebrated around the world, usually in Sept/Oct time. Here, in the United States the Thanksgiving holiday is celebrated on the third Thursday of November, and was established by Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War. Previous to this official recognition by Lincoln, President George Washington proclaimed Thursday the 26th of November 1789 a day of “public thanksgiving and prayer”.

In reverence to the giving of thanks, some people are able to use the holiday time to remember the things they have received over the year and extend the hand of fellowship and generosity to those fellow human beings less fortunate than themselves. Our feature video this week gives respect to a man who was dogged in his work to help the more unfortunate in life. His is a name forgotten by most but his deeds should not go unnoticed and perhaps in the fluctuating world we live in today we should remember the good Samaritans of the past.

This video shows Mr Ledoux with some of the men that he helped to feed and clothe in the holiday season in New York City in the 1920s. I also include a brief biography of him here to highlight the good work that he did throughout the year and not just at Thanksgiving or at Xmas. This man was a frequent sight on the streets of New York and in the newsreels and newspapers in the 1920s and it seems such a shame that his name is no longer known. 

Urbain J. Ledoux, also known as Mr. Zero, (1874 – 1941)

This man was a godsend to the homeless and jobless of not only New York City but of the entire nation.  Perhaps a deep religious instinct sent Urbain J. Ledoux among the poor and disinherited on the street of forgotten men. He would say that he was inspired by biblical text from the Sermon on the Mount, but we don’t really know what led him to dedicate his life to helping the men and women that he saw on the streets of the cities that he lived in. Not much is known about him. He was born in Quebec, of a poor family, who had worked the cotton mills of Conneticut. He was an educated man, who was appointed to the United States consulate at Quebec at the age of 21 and was later the commercial consul at Bordeaux, and Prague. He was noted there for having introduced the first file index system Prague had ever seen. He later became an executive for a firm producing denatured alcohol and about this time began to preach the universal brotherhood of man. He worked for world peace and even went to the Hague as a United States delegate.

In 1917, Ledoux worked for the Government War Camp Community Service, helping to feed and shelter transient soldiers.  The sight of so many dispossessed soldiers who had fought for the liberty of the nation affected him deeply and after the war he took up the cause of jobless soldiers. He opened a bakery in Broadway to feed and shelter them. In January 1921, he led a ragged delegation into Trinity Church in silent appeal for aid. He then hit on the idea of selling jobless soldiers at auction to highlight their cause, referring back to the auctioneering of slaves in previous times. “Here is an ex-soldier,” he would say. “He was with the sixth Marines in France. He was wounded. He is a carpenter. Who will bid?” The auction won country-wide attention but not universal approval.

Here is a picture from the Library of Congress showing Ledoux auctioning off one of his soldiers:

http://www.loc.gov/pictures/resource/ggbain.33055/

In September, 1921, Ledoux tried to auction soldiers in Bryant Park in Manhattan, and on the steps of the Public Library but the New York City police would not let him.

The New York Times reported: “Scenes of wild disorder ensued upon the refusal of the police to allow Urbain Ledoux, to auction off jobless men in Bryant Park. Thousands of persons had gathered to witness the novel effort to find work for the men, and there were some thousand workers on hand, their indignation already whetted by the action of the police earlier in the day in refusing to allow Ledoux to feed them a wagon load of buns he had bought for them, or to permit him to hold a meeting in their behalf in a hall he had hired for that purpose.

“Milling crowds fought with police in front of the public library between 11 o’clock and midnight last night when the police, in heavy force, descended upon the jobless and drove them away. The police throughout the day, had exorted themselves to an extraordinary degree to thwart Ledoux’s efforts in behalf of those out of work. They had broken up and chased his crowds and prevented his meetings, as well as preventing his efforts to feed those he wanted to aid. Efforts were made last night to learn the purpose of the authorities in adopting such tactics but communication with Chief Inspector William J. Lahey and others failed to elicit any explanation. When Chief Inspector Lahey was asked for an explanation, he said: “No, I won’t give you any explanation. Good Night.”

“Liberty is dying in America,” Ledoux said. “You have seen today that the right of assembly and the right to petition have been denied. Freedom in America is slowly dying. What hope is there for it? Simply that public opinion may, in it’s great common sense, rise and protect these violated liberties which are guaranteed by the constitution. If New York stands for such things as I have seen today, what hope is there? My God, what will the end be? ”

Quotations like that remind me of the Occupy Wall St protestors that were seen last year in New York City, and his words are eerily prophetic of such scenes as the clearing of Zucotti park in which the protestors were encamped in November 2011. History repeating itself 90 years later?

In 1925, Ledoux opened a restaurant called ‘The Tub’ near the Bowery to feed and shelter the homeless. Ledoux himself explains “The Tub is one of the cleanest little restaurants in New York, where you can get meals for 5 cents – all you can eat. There is a barber shop where expert tonsorial work is dispensed for [almost nothing], and a tailor who cleans, presses and repairs a suit for 10 cents. There are expert electricians, carpenters, stationary engineers, pipefitters, plumbers, and other artisans temporarily out of work. A bookkeeper, a former C.P.A., accounts for every cent taken in.”

In 1928, Ledoux was responsible for saving many lives as the temperatures in New York City over the winter hit record lows. Lodging houses were turning away unfortunates after they had been filled to capacity. About 200 men, ranging in age from 20 to 75 years, were befriended by Urbain Ledoux, who distributed overcoats, sweaters, socks and shoes and other clothing to those most in need and even gave them entertainment in the form of songs, dances, and recitations, as well as soup and coffee at the Tub.

At holiday times Ledoux’s efforts were needed and appreciated even more, especially after the start of the Great Depression in 1929. This film featured from our collection of Fox Movietone News, shows Ledoux himself, with the men he was feeding and clothing, at Thanksgiving in 1929. The New York Times also reported on this generosity:

“Thanksgiving Feast Stewing At the Tub”  New York Times – 11/27/29

The special Mulligan Stew, with 1,000 turkeys to give it body, which will be served at The Tub, 12 St. Mark’s Place, on Thanksgiving Day, is being concocted, according to Urbain Ledoux, the owner, who is known as “Mr. Zero.”

The Mulligan, together with 1,000 pies and bread and coffee and other food, will be served to the Bowery’s wayfarers at the nominal price of 5 cents, cripples and others being exempted from any charge, Mr. Zero said, and he added that there would be a surprise feature for the day.

That will be the distribution of scores of overcoats and hundreds of leather jerkins, woolen shirts and other warm clothing, as he said a survey of the Bowery had revealed an unusual number in need of these articles.

This program will include prizes for songs, dances, recitations, jokes, the longest noses, feet, ears and legs, and the handsomest man and the homeliest man. The entire celebration being the largest Mr. Zero has ever planned.

This video, which you can watch in full here, http://mirc.sc.edu/fedora/repository/usc%3A1951 is the outtakes of the newsreel about Mr Zero, an event which was covered by several newsreels at the time. It shows Urbain as he speaks with the men who are being fed and shows them feasting on huge turkey legs.

Thanks to another newsreel from Universal, we have managed to name a few of the men featured. 4-5 mins into the newsreel two older gentlemen are shown, who we can name as Alfred Powell, 65, to the right of Mr Ledoux, and John Rist, 83, shown here on our left.

They seem to be enjoying their turkey to some kind of musical accompaniment. Urbain is then seen handing out turkey stew and later chatting with the men as he helps them into overcoats to help them survive the winter.

“What do you think of me as a tailor?…I got you well you couldn’t do any better on Baxter street…watch out that the tinpan market doesn’t get it …You wear it well… a muffler for you and what colour? …your eyes sparkle.”

A charming man, who seems to care for the men that he is helping. This was before the Great Depression fully kicked in and brought the country to its knees and soup kitchens weren’t as prevalent at this time as they were to become a few years later. Most places that would accept transients or down and outs were city run houses which were very strict and poorly resourced for helping the needy. Mr Zero was able to fill a gap in the system that for some people, especially returning soldiers, was a life saver.

Urbain Ledoux died in 1941, at the age of 66. The advent of the New Deal ended the desperate need for his labors. Men who had swarmed to his “Tubs” for hot coffee and unbuttered bread found that they could do better on government relief, a plan he had always urged. Mr. Zero became Urbain Ledoux again, having helped and been an inspiration to so many. Think of him this Thanksgiving and give thanks for the many unsung heroes in this world, like Mr Zero, who dedicate their lives to helping others in need and ask no thanks in return.

–Lydia Pappas, Curator, MIRC

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UFO – mystery film

Nesting birds–Gibbes–home movies

Its time for a UFO again and this month our Unidentified Filmed Object consists of 2 items, the area and the subject. This film is of nesting birds in a lake or wetlands area and we would like you to name the species of bird and, if possible, the lake or area that is filmed.

We don’t have much to go on ourselves. We do know that this film is from the Gibbes collection and was probably shot somewhere in South Carolina around 1939. What can you tell us about this film? Do you know where it was shot? We would love to be able to add more information to our description of this film and need your help to do so.

Please comment below or email us at: MIRC@sc.edu

 

Watch the entire video here: http://mirc.sc.edu/fedora/repository/usc%3A1375

View more films from this collection: http://mirc.sc.edu/fedora/repository/usc%3Agibbes/-/collection

Lydia Pappas, Curator, MIRC

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Feature Video–October 20th–Owens Field–Gibbes–home movies

Home Movie Day is upon us again and this year it is the 10th anniversary of the annual event. I have attended and assisted this event for the last few years in London, and this year will be both attending and extending my assistance to the Columbia, SC version that will be taking place at Conundrum Music Hall in West Columbia, from 3:30pm through to 6:30pm this saturday, October 20th.

Come One, Come All and bring your films too!

The film on the featured video is from a prominent Columbia family and shows Owens Field at its dedication in 1930, when it was called Columbia Municipal Airport and was the only airport serving the city. More than 15,000 people attended this opening and were amazed by spectacular flying machines.

This film comes from the collection of the Gibbes family. The collection was donated by Mrs Susan Gibbes Robinson, and were all shot by her father, J. Heyward Gibbes, a prominent Doctor and Chief Medical Consultant at the Veterans Hospital in Columbia. The films are a wonderful collection of home movies from the region and mainly feature Dr. Gibbes and his family enjoying their free time at home, at the beach, hunting and fishing and even playing golf. They range from the 1920s through to the 1960s and show some wonderful images of a family in the pursuit of various activities.

This picture shows Susan Gibbes and her sister Eugenia at the airfield and this weekend at Hollings Special Collections at Thomas Cooper Library you can see an exhibition of Home Movies selected by curators from MIRC, which includes a selection of clips of Susan over the years as captured on film. There will be screens where films will play on a loop so you can drop in anytime to have a look at some of the home movie collections available for viewing. The selection will feature:

Screen 1: Susan Gibbes Robinson, a lifetime on film and

Screen 2: Cruise ships and Kodachrome, 30 years of home movie making

For more home movies from the Gibbes collection: http://mirc.sc.edu/fedora/repository/usc%3Agibbes/-/collection

For more information about Home Movie Day: http://homemovieday.com

For more information about HMD at Columbia: http://www.facebook.com/events/197294000403290/

Blog written by Lydia Pappas, Curator, MIRC

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Feature Video – Sept 20th – Olympic Athletes return

The Olympics, and Para-Olympics, are over in London,  and returning athletes from both these competitions are already home. However, in previous Olympics which took place around the world, it may have been many weeks or months before the athletes could return home, depending on where they had to travel to, and get back from.

Our feature video for this week shows athletes returning to the Port of New York from the 1920 Olympic Games, or the Games of the VII Olympiad, held in Antwerp, Belgium. Although we do not have a record of most of the athletes that are featured returning on this transport ship, we do know that the close up of a single athlete is of Mr. Patrick McDonald, a policeman with the City of New York and a prominent Irish-American.

Pat McDonald won the gold medal at the Olympic Games that year for the 56 pound weight throw event. In fact, not only did he win the event (at the age of forty) , but he set the world record which to this day has not been beaten.  He had preciously won the gold for the shot putt at the 1912 Stockholm Olympics, although the weight throw event was his speciality, a popular event in Irelands traditional games and one at which his family excelled. After moving to America in the early 1900′s, he joined the police department in NYC in 1905, and served the force for over 40 years, retiring as a captain. He was a prominent member of the Irish American Athletic Club in the city and won many national and metropolitan championships in weight throwing.  He was a popular traffic cop, was nicknamed ‘Babe’, although he often stood out in his uniform at 6 foot 4 and over 280 pounds. To attend the Olympics he took a leave of absence without pay.

We would like to be able to name the other athletes that returned on the same transport ship as Patrick McDonald – can you help us identify them? One of them could be Hawaii born, Duke Kahanamoku, who had won an Olympic gold medal for the 100 meters freestyle and the men’s 4x200m relay in the swimming competition. One of them could also be Paddy Ryan, another Irish NY policeman, who not only won the silver in the same event as Pat McDonald, but who also went on to win the gold in the Hammer Throw event. Other athletes who attended this Olympics for the United States include Charley Paddock (Men’s 100m, Gold), Frankie Genaro (Boxing, Flyweight, Gold), Brutus Hamilton (Men’s Decathlon, Silver), and Nat Pendleton (Wrestling, Heavyweight, Silver).

Watch the whole video here: http://mirc.sc.edu/fedora/repository/usc%3A2108

Blog written by Lydia Pappas, Curator, MIRC

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UFO – Unidentified men on the street

Where were you on January 24th 1973? Were you in Florence, SC and were you stopped by a WBTW reporter on that day?

If so, you might recognize yourself in this featured video. We don’t know much about this local television news item.

http://mirc.sc.edu/fedora/repository/usc%3A1155

It was possibly filmed in Florence, SC – can you identify this building perhaps? Several men were stopped and asked their opinions about the peace accord with North Vietnam that was brokered by President Nixon the previous day. Were you one of them? Or can you identify these men?

Please contact us if you know who these passers by are or where this news film was filmed: MIRC@mailbox.sc.edu

Or leave a comment here on our blog for us.

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Honea Path and the End of Summer

Claude Cannon, Lee Crawford, Ira Davis, E. M. “Bill” Knight, Maxie Peterson, C. R. Rucker and Thomas Yarborough all celebrated Labor Day for the last time on September 3, 1934 in the small town of Honea Path, South Carolina.  Three days later six were dead and one was mortally wounded.

The general textile workers strike of 1934 strained relations between mill owners, management and workers throughout the eastern United States.  The strike began in the south on September 1st and grew to become the largest general strike in U. S. history.  In Honea Path, three days into the strike, hundreds of workers from the Chiquola Milll were picketing outside the mill when violence erupted. What happened to start the violence remains unclear.  Whatever the flashpoint, when the guns fell silent six mill workers were dead (the seventh died days later) and  dozens were wounded.

Fox Movietone News Story 23-157 documents the funeral held for the murdered textile workers on September 9th.  George L. Googe, Southern Regional Director for the American Federation of Labor, spoke at the funeral as did John A. Peel of the United Textile Workers.

The scope of the funeral is itself a testament to the significance of this event.  According to one source, over 10,000 people attended–a figure that is plausible based on what is visible in this film (note: the film’s audio was poorly recorded at the time).

A large crowd assembles for the funeral of the six men killed at Chiquola Mill

The full story of the Chiquola Mill massacre remained unknown for most of the 20th Century.  Frank Beacham (grandson of Honea Path’s mayor at the time) has written movingly about how in 1994 he came to learn the truth about the killings, killings which he acknowledges may well have been ordered by his grandfather.

Labor Day began as a celebration of the dignity of labor and while most Americans (including me) see the day foremost as the end of summer we ought to remember that the labor of men and women over the generations has help make this country great.  Some, like Cannon, Crawford, Davis, Knight, Peterson, Rucker and Yarborough gave their lives to make our nation better.

– Greg Wilsbacher

 

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A Fine Feathered Friend Farewell

Sarah Rice, one of our talented colorists, is leaving for Scotland to pursue her masters in film curation. We’re thrilled that she is going on to bigger and better things, but we are also extremely sad to see her go. To commemorate the occasion, we asked her to write about her favorite film: 

When presented with the idea of writing a blog entry about my favorite piece of film at MIRC before leaving my job behind to go devote the next year of my life to hunting the Loch Ness Monster, I honestly couldn’t think of anything.  Of course, I don’t mean this in a bad way.  For something to be special to you, it does not necessarily need to be…well, special.  It can also be extremely useless, random, and stupid.  To say I have become a connoisseur (though a somewhat amateur one) of the cute, weird, and always lovable cute-weird combo would be an understatement.  From puppies to human pincushions to playing Where’s Waldo with Hitler, Mussolini, and Stalin, I could never- NEVER- chose a favorite.  In these final moments, the images are all a jumble – mixed in with each face and memory I am leaving behind.  Sometimes, when everything is lovely, sparkly and special to you, the thing that stands out the most is usually the dirtiest or ugliest one of the bunch . . . or not.  Sometimes, it just HONKS out to you.  I don’t know.  I hear something that somewhat resembles a quack, so I go with it.  I will be the first to admit, I am easily manipulated by even the thought of an animal doing basically anything.  Call it the “YouTube Generation” part of me.  I have no shame.  Basically, my overactive yet simple mind can think no more.  So on this day, I simply present the world with the very first memory I have of what was formerly known as the Newsfilm Library: A Mad Swan.  Yes, a mad swan is what I remember.  No, I can’t really explain why because I don’t know.  Something about a staged story of a fake poacher and a swan.  A very, very mad swan.  Like, really mad.  And if swans don’t really do it for you, the world famous squirrel and dog duo make a most welcomed appearance.  But I digress: Fox Movietone News Story 14-633 reels 1 and 2.  Title: Mad Swan in Tanglewood.  Date: May 22-23, 1932.  Location: Tanglewood, Long Island, New York.  These things will always compose some strange memory of a place far, far away with the acronym MIRC which kind of sounds like my boss’s name, Mark.

  

“DID YOU KNOW!?” fact time: Did you know that swans were almost extinct in the US during the 1930’s?  A lot of protection measures were apparently taken to preserve their population.  And there you have it:  Mad Swan in Tanglewood from 1932 is exactly what they did in that decade to protect the near extinct species of birds.  They purposefully pissed them off – until, on this fateful day, the swan was like, “Okay, one day I will come back in the form of millions and kill you all.  Prepare for swan war!  Also known from this day forth as SWAR WORLD I!”  Be warned.  I also learned when researching for this blog that swans do not attack humans without a given cause and that they have the ability to recognize a person that has been nice to them in the past.  Please, I beg you to remember this.  It could mean your life.  I have seen both the movie Birds AND countless hours of WWII material here at work.  I know.

When I brought this blog topic up with my coworker and good friend, Brittany, I mentioned this song was playing in my head when I came up with the idea:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_Q-iCpanPiU

She thought it was weird that I did not associate the tune with what it really was: Stars and Stripes Forever.  In fact, when I hear said Stars and Stripes Forever, I always hear the lyrics to this song as if it existed before the well-known Sousa piece.  Maybe this makes me a bad American.  Maybe this means I am meant to go to Scotland.  Maybe this means I love ducks too much.  In fact, I was somewhat of a child prodigy when it came to drawing ducks.  At arts and crafts time in Kindergarten, the kids used to crowd around me while I would grab a crayon and go at it.  Drawing ducks.  Mostly the ones where you start out drawing a number 2 and then embellish from there.  God, I was good.  I still have a composition notebook full of them.  It has become somewhat of a relic – a family heirloom I will pass down to my uninterested, most likely non-existent children.

If I can trace some path from the origin of my duck love to the discovery of Mad Swan in Tanglewood, it would probably lead me to believe I was pre-destined to work at MIRC.  I don’t know.  This may be a bit of a stretch.  I also loved elephants as a child, but when has that ever come in handy?

Anyways, Wikipedia presents the shortened version of the lyrics as such:

Be kind to your web-footed friends

For a duck may be somebody’s mother

Be kind to your friends in the swamp

Where the weather is very, very damp

Now, you may think that this is the end…

WELL, IT IS!

And as abruptly as the song end, this ends.  For me and for all that eventually pass through these doors (but please, not the film).  I take my memories, swans and all.  Thank you MIRC for the web-footed and human-footed friends you have given me.  I will hold these thoughts close when I am crying on the floor of my apartment from all of the haggis, scotch, and seasonable depression I must suffer through on my island of rain.  The things we endure for higher education.

If I leave you with anything, please always remember:  A duck may be somebody’s mother.  Don’t question this.  Just accept it.

I did.  Now look at me.

Nevermind.  Disregard.

Sarah Rice

Watch the mad swan in the MIRC-DVR: mirc.sc.edu/fedora/repository/usc%3A2142

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UFO–Unidentified Fauxhoho Object

Here at MIRC we often come across bizarre bits of footage about which we would like to know more – this especially is one and that is why it was picked by our curators as the featured unidentified filmed object in this series.

In this blog we usually try and cover the information behind a piece of film that doesn’t get covered in the metadata attached to the film. Sadly, we have no more information about this film that what is mentioned in the metadata, however, we would love to know more. Therefore we show this to you and feature it here in the off chance that someone somewhere may be able to identify these children.

Filmed on September 7, 1929, although the reason behind the filming is also unknown, we do know that it took place in Central Park, NYC. If you turn the sound up you can hear the camera man instructing the children to laugh over and over again, although we don’t know why. We don’t think that this piece was ever used in any news story so perhaps it was for stock footage, or to be used cut into other stories for effect.

Can you help? Can you identify any of these children? Based on an assumption of their ages in 1929, they would be very mature adults today, well into their 80s. They may be able to identify themselves or their families might recognize them. Please do pass these images on to any families who lived in New York City in the 1920s and who had children who may have played in Central Park when this film was taken.

Watch the whole film here: http://mirc.sc.edu/fedora/repository/usc%3A1986

  

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