Amazing Amateurs: Gadsden family home movie collection

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This article is part of our Amazing Amateurs series about home movies from the 1940s-60s, shot by the first generation of Australians with access to home film cameras.

We're currently digitising thousands of hours of home movies which have been donated by families of these pioneering filmmakers. The film reels contain all kinds of footage, from family holiday trips to the occasional only-known recording of important historical moments, and they provide an incredible snapshot of life in Australia in the middle of the 20th century.

Read more about process of digitisation, or check out other footage on YouTube.

Gadsden family films

It wasn’t just the Kodak factory in Coburg that produced amazing images during its hey-day. The then-industrial zone was also home to the Gadsden factory, which employed around 1000 workers in the 1960s, and specialised in can-making and packaging. The success of the business allowed two generations of Gadsden men, Stanley and his son Ronald, to pursue their interest in amateur filmmaking – a relatively expensive hobby for the time.

A man and woman leaning together, her in jodpurs, stand atop a hill looking out to sea (black and white)

We, and future generations, have benefited from their keen eye and passion for home movies, with a donation of films spanning the decades from the early 30s to the late 80s. The two cameramen captured the passage of time through their family, preserving a fascinating window into bygone days and customs.

Young woman on the beach in bathers with sunglasses on, her family and friends lie in the sun in the background Summer of 1948. (black and white)

Through the films we see early Melbourne, including some rare footage of a flooded Yarra River in the 1930s. Days at the beach, tennis, parties, interstate holidays and trips to the country have also been filmed, including a passion for skiing with many films in the collection featuring action both on the slopes and après–skiing at the lodge. You see the children growing up, the dapper fashions – a time when a dad and his kid in matching shirts was quite lovely.

Father with young son in matching red plaid shirts in the suburban driveway, with father seated on child's tricycle. (colour)

The collection also contains a hidden gem, a short film labelled ‘de Groot’, which may be the only footage of the infamous Sydney Harbour Bridge Opening ribbon cutter – wielding a sword atop a horse, Francis de Groot declared the Bridge open to the horror of the officiating party. He was unexpected and uninvited!

Children in bathers flock to the ice cream van resplendent with hand-painted sign-writing "Slips Special Fresh Fruit Ice Cream" c.a. 1940s (colour)

Here’s a few of the films for you to enjoy. 

Donate to the ACMI Collection to preserve our shared past.

Gadsden's Crusaders
Gwen's Wedding
Sundeck 1961
Cowes Christmas 1948- 1949
Gadsden Family Saga
Sydney 1936, De groot, Cowes, Cal departing