Detroit’s past revived in historic news coverage

Tom Greenwood
The Detroit News

Listen up, if you love history, own a computer and have beaucoup time on your hands.

In what is being described as a visual encyclopedia, the Associated Press and British Movietone have joined forces to offer more than 1 million minutes of historic news videos centered on the people and events that have shaped the world through the decades. The digitized videos, which are now available on two YouTube channels, have been culled from more than 550,000 films and newsreels dating from as far back as 1895 to the present day.

Detroit and Michigan are well represented through a vast array of Michigan/Detroit area events, including:

■ Brutal footage from September 1950 showing Jake LaMotta retaining his championship at now long gone Olympia Stadium with a knockout of French opponent Laurent Dauthuille with only 13 seconds left in the fight.

■ Motor boat racing on the Detroit River featuring legendary racer Gar Wood.

■ A scratchy black and white video of the helmetless Red Wings losing the Stanley Cup to the Toronto Maple Leafs before 16,000 fans at Maple Leaf Gardens in the 1940s.

More includes grim video of helmet-wearing, shotgun toting police officers patrolling block after block of fire gutted buildings during the 1967 Detroit riot.

There is also footage of Belgian Professor Jean Piccard and his American wife, Jeannette, standing by their the circular metal gondola that would carry them via balloon to a record breaking height of 57,579 feet over Detroit and Lake Erie.

Their flight was on Oct. 23, 1934, and they took their pet turtle, Fleur de Lys, with them.

The official launch date of the service was July 22, according to Jenny Hammerton, the AP account manager for the United Kingdom and northern Europe.

“We decided to have two different channels rather than a combined one as Movietone was a cinema newsreel and AP is mostly raw news, which rarely includes commentary,” Hammerton said.

According to Hammerton, both channels ( and are international in scope, covering news making events from around the world.

For history buffs and culture vultures, the amazing menu spans everything from the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, mesmerizing footage of the bombing of Pearl Harbor, early film of Marilyn Monroe from the 1950s, crime, political milestones, oddball news, sports and more.

Some of the videos are silent, allowing the films to do the talking.

Others are narrated and can place you instantly on the scene, especially those of the “stay calm and carry on,” stiff upper lip demeanor of an imperturbable British narrator during the horror of the London Blitz.

“The offerings are international but the British Movietone collection does have a higher proportion of British stories while the AP archive has a higher proportion of American stories,” said Hammerton, who helps select which films are chosen for viewing. “I’ll be adding play lists to each channel and there will be new content regularly.”

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