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Seeing and Hearing History

Seeing And Hearing History

May 2024
4min read

Early America

Reaching back into the early period of American history, recent audio-visual aids supply realistic impressions of those distant years. Library and museum items constitute the chief materials in the 35mm. filmstrip, The Age of Exploration (Museum Extension Service, 10 East 43rd Street, N.Y. 17). Pictures, portraits, maps and prints reveal the widening of geographical knowledge. Major steps in the unfolding of the world horizon are traced in many colorful, contemporary materials. The treatment is impressive but incomplete.

Dawn of America (Family Theater, 7201 Sunset Boulevard, Hollywood 46) details the difficulties and setbacks encountered by Columbus in seeking support for his venturesome plans. This Spanish-made, feature-length motion picture is available on 16mm. film with dubbed-in English dialogue. The film also follows Columbus across the Atlantic and closes with his triumphal return. Subsequent events are developed in the 16mm. film, Spanish Conquest of the New World (Coronet Films, Coronet Building, Chicago 1). The camera looks over portraits of leaders, shows scenes of their activities, and partially reveals the outcome of the clash of cultures in the New World.

Not to be confused with the Coronet production is Spanish Conquest in the New World (Teaching Film Custodians, 25 West 43rd Street, N.Y. 36). An excerpt from the 20th Century-Fox feature, Captain from Castile , starring Tyrone Power, the 16mm. version was edited for educational use by the Audio Visual Committee of the National Council for the Social Studies.

Pocahontas and Captain John Smith (Enrichment Recordings, 246 Fifth Avenue, N.Y. 1) dramatizes Smith’s role in the establishment of the Virginia colony and his relations with the Indians. The re-enactment has a life-like quality and provides appreciation for the significance of the historic events. The concluding sentimental expressions attributed to Pocahontas are neither convincing nor authentic. Nevertheless, the recording should be valuable in upper elementary and lower high school classes.

A visual account of the same subject is the 15-minute color motion picture, Captain John Smith—Explorer (Film Production Service, The Virginia Department of Education, Richmond 16). The film shows some of the actual areas explored by Smith. The camera moves about as if Smith’s own eyes were observing the Virginia tidewater, the Jamestown settlement, and the incident with Powhatan and Pocahontas, thus giving a sense of realism with a minimum of live characters. The rich heritage of the peninsula on the James River is delineated in Jamestown, Williamsburg, and Yorktown (Bill Park Films, 666 North Robertson Boulevard, Los Angeles 46).

The American Revolution

A trilogy of 16mm. films on the American Revolution (Coronet) highlights political, economic, and diplomatic developments set against the course of military action. The material consists largely of camera shots of paintings and drawings of persons and events of the war; there are also views of some actual spots of the conflict. The three 11-minute films—“The Background Period,” “The War Years,” and “The Post-War Period”—are designed to supplement reading and discussion of the subject.

Two of the recent 35mm. filmstrips in The Pageant of America series (Yale University Press Film Service, 386 Fourth Avenue, N.Y. 16), “Patriots and Minutemen” and “The Thirteen Colonies Win Independence,” carefully document American history from 1763 to 1783. Most of the frames show scenes of action. The artistic style of the pictorial collection is uneven and chronologically mixed, and information about the source and origin of the pictures is incomplete. Moreover, the insertion of maps would have increased the teaching value of these items.

The Winter at Valley Forge (Enrichment) is a 15-minute re-enactment of the critical winter of 1777–78. The struggle to obtain supplies and the problems of training of troops are dramatized in a crisp and effective fashion. The choral ending of the recording, however, is not in keeping with the realism of the rest of the presentation.

The Young Nation

Approximately three-quarters of a century of history pass in vivid review in the series of 35mm. filmstrips, The Growth of Our Nation (Eye Gate House, 2716-41st Avenue, Long Island City 1, N.Y.), designed for use in intermediate and junior high grades. Individual subjects in the series are: “A Difficult Period, 1783–1788,” “The New Plan of Government,” “Problems of the New Nation,” “The War of 1812,” “Westward Ho!,” “The Spread of Democracy,” “Andrew Jackson and Texan Independence,” “The Nation Grows,” and “Better Ways of Living.” A wealth of pictorial information is included in the colorful drawings. Two Pageant of America filmstrips picture the history of the young republic. “Free Americans Establish a New Nation” illustrates the problems confronted by the American states after winning independence. The pictorial material chronicles the difficulties which led to the Constitutional Convention and the creation of the national government. “The Young Nation and Foreign Affairs” deals with diplomatic relations of the United States from the Treaty of Paris to the Monroe Doctrine.

Edward Everett Hale’s famous tale of The Man Without a Country (Young America Films, 18 East 41st Street, N.Y. 17), set in this period, is available as a 15-minute 16mm. motion picture.

Western Americana

Westward expansion is set forth in two more of The Pageant of America filmstrips. “Westward to the Mississippi” describes the advance of the frontier across the Appalachians, while “Winning the Far West” carries the frontier on to the Pacific. Both strips sketch the physical surroundings encountered in occupying the continent.

Two important individuals in the movement westward are the subjects of recent Enrichment recordings. Daniel Boone—The Opening of the Wilderness furnishes a clear-cut characterization of Boone, his exploits, and life on the Kentucky frontier. Sam Houston—The Tallest Texan recounts some of the details of the American settlement of Texas and the conflict with Mexico.

American Lives

Biographies of nine Leaders of America (Eye Gate House) are displayed in filmstrip form. Subjects of the series are: John Paul Jones, Haym Solomon, Robert E. Lee, Andrew Carnegie, Luther Burbank, Theodore Roosevelt, Henry Ford, George Washington Carver, and a combined sketch of both George W. Goethals and William C. Gorgas. The diversity of fields represented by these Americans constitutes a useful survey of historic activities. The full-color drawings are clearly and accurately designed.

Musical Americana

The Old South comes to life in the recorded musical demonstration of The Confederacy (Columbia Records, SL-220). The suite, by Richard Bales, is based on the popular music of the South during the Civil War years and is here performed by the National Gallery orchestra with soloists and choir. Bales combines contrasting musical expressions into an impressive document.

Harry Dichter (5458 Montgomery Avenue, Philadelphia 31) has devoted himself to making available the sources of our musical history. In a noble, ambitious, personal program, Mr. Dichter plans to provide authentic facsimiles of outstanding items of musical Americana. His releases, so far, consist of: An Introduction to the Singing of Psalm Tunes , by the Reverend Mr. Tufts, the earliest American publication devoted exclusively to music, made from one of the two known copies dating from 1726; A Compilation of the Litanies and Vespers Hymns and Anthems as They are Sung in the Catholic Church , by John Aitken, from the Philadelphia edition of 1787; Seven Songs for the Harpsichord , by Francis Hopkinson and dedicated by him to George Washington in Philadelphia in 1788, the first collection of secular music by a native American; and Baseball in Music and Song , a portfolio of fourteen pieces of sheet music relating to the national pastime as originally published between 1860 and 1894.

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