A still image from late-1930s footage of Mahatma Gandhi. PHOTO COURTESY OF NORTHEAST HISTORIC FILM

Possibly historic Gandhi film is part of Bucksport archive

BUCKSPORTNortheast Historic Film has what may be the first color film footage of Mahatma Gandhi, shot by the late Blue Hill philanthropist Adelaide Pearson, and a digital copy will soon be en route to the National Film Archive of India.

Here’s the cast of characters:

Gandhi (1869-1948) is credited with leading his country to freedom from British colonial rule using his philosophy of nonviolence, which in turn has inspired other civil rights leaders worldwide. He was assassinated in 1948.

Pearson, born to a wealthy Boston family in 1875, founded Rowantrees Pottery in Blue Hill. She moved to Blue Hill in 1928 and became a major patron of the Blue Hill Library.

The film archive in India thinks that the clip is the first of Gandhi in color and reached out to Northeast Historic Film recently.

Executive Director David Weiss said Pearson had gone to India hoping to learn about pottery because she was planning to open Rowantrees.

Northeast Historic Film has known about the existence of the footage.

“It didn’t occur to us that India might have an interest in this until we got an email from the national archives recently saying they’d like to have it,” said Weiss. “We’ll send them a digital file of that, and I believe they wanted other footage of India she might have taken at that time.”

The director said the footage of Gandhi is pretty short.

“Adelaide went to the place he lived and was there for a few hours,” Weiss said. “There’s a lot of footage of the place, kids playing and people doing stuff. There’s a flurry of activity and he arrives in a car and walks toward her. It’s pretty much just his arrival.”

Karen Wyatt, former Blue Hill Library assistant director, has researched Pearson and provided context.
Pearson, starting at age 17, took trips around the world every year for years and years, Wyatt said.

This particular trip began in December of 1938 when Pearson and her assistant Ms. Paddock went to an All-India Women’s Conference and Exhibition, Wyatt said.

“Then they went to the headquarters of the India National Congress and Gandhi’s ashram. She [Pearson] kept a ledger of expenses and Ms. [Laura] Paddock would take notes of what they did during the day.”

According to the records, from Feb. 1-4, Pearson talked with Gandhi every day and took the color film of him, Wyatt said. However, Wyatt said she cannot confirm that this would have been the first color footage shot of Gandhi.

The film footage, courtesy of Northeast Historic Film, may be viewed at https://oldfilm.org/collection/Detail/occurrences/8635. Gandhi appears at 9 minutes, 3 seconds in, according to Northeast Historic Film Marketing Director Jane Donnell.

Editor’s Note: This article was edited Dec. 4 to amend the dates that Pearson met with Gandhi.

Jennifer Osborn

Jennifer Osborn

Reporter and columnist at The Ellsworth American
News Reporter Jennifer Osborn covers news and features on the Blue Hill Peninsula and Deer Isle-Stonington. She welcomes tips and story ideas. She also writes the Gone Shopping column. Email Jennifer with your suggestions at [email protected] or call 667-2576.
Jennifer Osborn

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