History

Interviews with Some of America's Oldest People—in 1929

Friday A/V Club: Americans born before the Civil War speak on camera.

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Movietone

In 1929, Movietone News interviewed some of the oldest men and women in America. The results would be interesting enough if they were simply a chance to hear the recollections of people born in the antebellum era. (The oldest subjects here entered the world in the 1820s.) But after a while, politics starts to creep in too.

A 103-year-old man informs an interviewer that while he's a Republican now, in the old days he "voted the Whig ticket." A 99-year-old man served as grand sachem of Tammany Hall, though sadly he doesn't say much about what that entailed. And a 94-year-old lady turns out to be Rebecca Latimer Felton, who was both the first woman and the final slaveowner to belong to the U.S. Senate. (Felton, a Georgia suffragist whose pet causes included prohibition, vocational education, and lynching—she favored all three—was a senator for just a day and a slaveowner for much longer.) She remembers witnessing the Trail of Tears when she was three years old: "I have an indistinct recollection of seeing the red men as they went through the woods."

Beyond that, there's the engineer in White Plains who'd been working various railroad jobs since the 1870s, the octogenarian Civil War vets in Florida who dance slowly to a fiddler's tune, and the Broadway theater manager who looks back on his youthful newspaper career, recalling what a sensation it was when "pictures of events of the day were printed at least two days after they happened." Enjoy:

(Hat tip: Terry Teachout. For past editions of the Friday A/V Club, go here.)

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