Sunday, April 1, 2012

Screen shot 2012-04-01 at 11.54.42 AM.png Screen shot 2011-07-24 at 2.50.42 PM.png

Sometimes I'll be talking or e-mailing with someone about Permanent Record, and I'll mention some specific aspect of the project and then say, "You know, like in the movie." And the other person will often say, "What movie?"

The movie I'm referring to in these situations is Manhattan Trade School for Girls, a 16-minute silent film that was shot in 1911. It's a remarkable document of the school where my report collection came from. As you can see in screen shots shown above, in some scenes you can actually read what's written on the blackboard! (Here's my favorite example of that.) It's another example of how incredibly lucky I was to have found report cards from such a special, well-documented school, instead of just any old school.

I described the movie and linked to it in the third article from last year's Slate series. But when I mention it to fans of the series, they're usually unfamiliar with it. Maybe they didn't bother to click on the link to the movie, or maybe they meant to come back to it and watch it later but never got around to it. Either way, anyone interested in PermaRec should definitely see this film, so I've decided to link to it again (there's no way to embed it, unfortunately) -- check it out.

A few notes:

• As you'll see on the page where the movie hosted, you have a choice of watching the film with commentary or without. The commentary, from a cinema professor, is interesting and provides some good insights, but it also contains some factual errors. I recommend watching the comment-free version first.

• It's not clear why the film was made -- maybe just for promotional purposes, or perhaps to assist in soliciting donations.

• The background music heard in the video version of the film was added in 2006. The original film was silent.

• The film follows the progress of several Manhattan Trade students. Unfortunately, none of those girls is represented in my report card collection.

• In 1911, when the film was shot, Manhattan Trade was at the second of its three locations, at 209-213 East 23rd Street. It had moved to this address from its original location -- a townhouse on West 14th Street -- in 1906. About 40% of the students in my report card collection attended Manhattan Trade while it was at the location shown in the film. (In 1918 the school would move again, to the northwest corner of Lexington Avenue and 22nd Street. That building is still in use today as a high school, with its original "Manhattan Trade School for Girls" lettering chiseled into the fa├žade.)

• The very end of the film shows customers at a retail boutique. Although it isn't explained in the film, this was an outlet shop just off the school's lobby where students could earn extra money by selling the clothing they'd made for class assignments.

Okay, enough of my chatter -- enjoy the film.

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