Lost 1930s news reels discovered in Davenport

Published: Dec. 25, 2018 at 9:32 PM CST
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When business owner Rodney Sebastian bought an old building in downtown Davenport, the basement needed a good cleaning.

As he was organizing and tossing away trash, Sebastian stumbled across more than two dozen motion picture reels dating back to the 1930s.

The labels on the silver-colored and somewhat rusty canisters contained intriguing labels such as “Lincoln Tomb.”

It turns out the 35 millimeter reels contain footage of news events from around the Midwest in the 1930s, including film shot in 1933 and 1934 of the Chicago World’s Fair.

The Lincoln Tomb footage, Sebastian later learned, was taken in June 1931 on the day President Lincoln’s tomb was dedicated in Springfield, Illinois.

Sebastian, a history buff, was eager to take a look – but soon realized that 35MM film is rare these days and few video companies have the equipment to digitize it.

To complicate matters more, film back then was actually made with flammable nitrate, which means the US Postal Service will not deliver it.

KWQC hand-delivered a sample of Sebastian’s film to the Chicago Film Archives, one of the few places in the Midwest that deals with old 35MM film.

Watch the story above to see what happened next.