Imagine working on your family history and suddenly you’re sidetracked by a bit of information. That’s what happened to my guest, James Castellan. His pursuit of one man’s story led to a new understanding of World War I and to his becoming a film scholar on American cinematographers in Germany. He won a writing award fromThe International Society of Family History Writers and Editors for his article The Memoir of Eleanor Castellan: The Years in the Pacific Northwest, 1910-1919. Edited by James W. Castellan and Norman H. Clark Pacific Northwest Quarterly Volume 91 Number 1 (Winter 1999/2000).
Along the way, he located a lost film and together with other scholars they researched the film and reconstructed it. Links are in the show notes.
It’s proof that you never know where a love of family history can take you.
- The restored 1915 Wilbur H. Durborough film On the Firing Line With the Germans was posted online by the Library of Congress. You can view it via Ron van Dopperen’s WWI film blog.
- The short article in the Journal of Film Preservation documents the institutions, events, and individuals that enabled this lost film to be reconstructed. Read it here.
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About My Guest:
Researching his Schuette family relations immediately after retiring in 2001, James Castellan began regularly “commuting” to the Library of Congress to capture Oswald F. Schuette’s WWI bylined dispatches from Berlin. Schuette covered the Central Powers for the Chicago Daily News. He noticed a headline praising Schuette as a great reporter by cinematographer Wilbur H. Durborough just back from Germany where he had filmed On the Firing Line With the Germans.
James went looking for the film hoping to buy a DVD and possibly find a few scenes with Schuette. He linked up with two WWI film scholars (Dr. Cooper C. Graham, then recently retired film curator at the Library of Congress, and Ron van Dopperen in the Netherlands. Together they wrote, “American Cinematographers in the Great War, 1914-1918” and did the research that enabled the Library of Congress to reconstruct Durborough’s lost film (after two earlier attempts got nowhere). It was featured at the Pordenone annual silent film festival in 1915. (Yes, it does indeed have several scenes with Schuette.)
About Maureen Taylor:
Maureen is a frequent keynote speaker on photo identification, photograph preservation, and family history at historical and genealogical societies, museums, conferences, libraries, and other organizations across the U.S., London, and Canada. She’s the author of several books and hundreds of articles and her television appearances include The View and The Today Show (where she researched and presented a complete family tree for host Meredith Vieira). She’s been featured in The Wall Street Journal, Better Homes and Gardens, The Boston Globe, Martha Stewart Living, Germany’s top newspaper Der Spiegel, American Spirit, and The New York Times. Maureen was recently a spokesperson and photograph expert for MyHeritage.com, an internationally known family history website and also writes guidebooks, scholarly articles and online columns for such media as Smithsonian.com. Learn more at Maureentaylor.com