Saturday, January 10, 2009

Cool stuff from the National Archives: Abraham Zapruder's movie camera

The National Archives: the nation's closet
Mr. Zapruder's Bell & Howell

Washington is a pretty staid place. Important buildings, important people, important, important, important. But there's plenty of cool stuff for an eccentric roadside traveler to gawk at. Take the National Archives, for instance. This is where America, a place that seemingly never throws anything out, keeps its stuff. We took a tour in 2007 and it was full of delights. Among the standouts were Abraham Zapruder's movie camera. He's the fellow that got the only moving pictures of President Kennedy being killed in Dallas, the most significant amateur recording of a news event in history. These home movies were so incendiary that the public was not allowed to view the footage in its entirety until the late 1970s when Congress held hearings about the assassination. And there's his camera, a perfectly normal looking Bell & Howell Model 414PD, the kind Mr. Wolf next door when I was a kid and countless other dads and camera buffs would have used in 1963. What I'd like to know is, what else was on that roll of film? Abe Junior's little league game? Little Janie Zapruder's ballet recital? Aunt Lottie's birthday party? And does a big road sign get in the way at the ultimate moment of all of those events, too, like with JFK? Poor Mr. Zapruder probably never made another home movie after that terrible day.
Here's some more about him:

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