Tragedy Real Photo Postcard, Bullock's film and the start of Motion Picture Journalism Collinwood Fire
What can we learn from a single real photo postcard? For one thing, the horror depicted here resulted from the Collinwood School fire of 1908, which killed 172 students and two teachers trapped in school just outside of Cleveland, Ohio. The event led to regulations requiring safety bar door releases in public buildings. So every time you push your way out of a public space rather than turn a knob is directly traced to this event.
However, as this is a blog about the visual...there is an even more remarkable aspect to this event. It was captured on FILM in 1908! The film was shot as the fire smoldered by twenty-three-year-old William Hubern Bullock, a moving picture operator nearby. Bullock rushed to the fire on a streetcar with his motion picture equipment. A week later he was SHOWING THE FILM in the Nickelodeon which employed him until Police, responding to complaints from grieving parents, forced him to stop. The film was discovered in the archives of the Motion Picture, Broadcasting and Recorded Sound division of the Library of Congress in 2008, 100 years after the young cameraman filmed it. It is believed that recently discovered footage represents only a portion of what was originally filmed.
It is a haunting, extraordinary film. No bodies are shown, but the silent, stark and steamy film will stun you as you are virtually seeing the invention of modern journalism. In fact, THIS VERY SCENE is captured in the second portion of the film! As Bullock pans the crowd, it is quite likely the photographer who shot this photo is shown. That certainly makes this one of the most remarkable real photo postcards imaginable, and gives testimony to their value as cultural and historical artifacts.
Some 30 years later, "The March of Time" was a staple in American Motion Picture Theaters. Today, as we watch events like Haiti unfold in real time before our eyes, one might think of young Mr. Bullock as he rides to tragedy with his bulky equipment.
Collinwood Real Photo Postcard 1908 Collection Jim Linderman