Share in our discoveries across three projects as we work to provide the first intellectual access to our hidden treasures relating to work and labor in early 20th Century New England, the 1939-1940 New York World's Fair and its period, and Boston local TV news.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Gesture in the Factory and at Orphans 7

Work life is often invisible. For more than 20 years, however, the sometimes accidental records of labor have been front and center in my own work life. The image in this post is from a 16mm film collection donated by Dr. Guy Leadbetter, Jr., taken by his father at the John MacGregor Corporation, a Maine factory that made birch spools for the Clark Thread Company.

"Vintage wood thread spools" may be found on Ebay, if you haven't any around the house.

Work at the spool factory in South Lincoln was a dance among mechanized saws, lathes, drills, and tumblers. The women in this photo are sorting newly turned spools. Dr. Leadbetter tells us the reject spools became stove wood.

Bob Brodsky of Brodsky & Treadway ( reminded us at a Northeast Historic Film symposium that gesture is one of the most significant things captured in film. We look to moving images for evidence of the twentieth century accommodation of workers' movements and posture to machine pace and adjacencies.

Last week's Orphans 7 conference at NYU was a remarkable assembly of scholars, archivists, moving image creators, donors, families, students. Kathy Dudding brought a selection of films from New Zealand/Aotearoa. The amateur women filmmakers captured travel and also domestic and work life. My favorite sequence, from a sheep station owner, shows her partner hanging laundry, initiated with a memorable clothes-line wipe.

Screen capture: Leadbetter Collection, inspection line at South Lincoln, Maine, spool mill, ca. 1930.


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