UW News

March 4, 2013

Lost and Found Films: The Tacoma Narrows Bridge and more, 1940

UW News

This week we present “Governor’s Day 2,” which sounds like the sequel to a Bill Murray movie but is in fact a silent, six-minute montage of colorful campus scenes dating back to 1940.

The film also boasts some great footage of the freshly collapsed Tacoma Narrows Bridge, nicknamed “Galloping Gertie” for its wavelike motions even while under construction. It shows F. B. Farquharson, a UW professor of engineering — and an eyewitness to the bridge’s dramatic Nov. 7, 1940, collapse — as he solemnly reviews the damage.

Lost and Found Films is an occasional UW Today series in which readers help identify and explain historic bits of film from the 1930s through the 1970s unearthed from the UW Audio Visual Materials Library by film archivist Hannah Palin. The films range from shadowy black-and-white snippets to thoughtfully produced color productions — and some, like this, right in between.

The film runs 5 minutes, 45 seconds and the early part bears the title “A Kaleidoscope of Campus Life” and seems to have been produced by University Campus Studios. The footage itself is framed at the start and finish with scenes of a man — Farquharson himself? — sitting down to watch a film as it is taken from the can and unreels on a projector.

We also see scenes from the Huskies 21-0 trouncing of the University of Idaho on Oct. 5, 1940, the game announcer, and the crowd waving pompoms and cheering.

Then the film’s topic turns to the Tacoma Narrows Bridge and newspaper headlines of its dramatic collapse, including one about a talk by Frederick K. Kirsten, then a professor of aeronautics.

We see Farquharson inspecting the broken bridge, followed by what appear to be scenes of tests on structural models of a similar bridge design.

It all winds up with sunny scenes of boats, ferries, swimming in Lake Washington and then, oddly, men skiing.

Palin is wondering if the gentleman featured watching the film might be Phil Jacobsen, who worked with Campus Studios. And she asks if anyone knows the name of the football announcer calling the game.

She added that UW Libraries has a great deal of information about the famous bridge collapsing, “but anything folks want to offer would be most welcome.”

If you have anything to add, take the plunge and offer it in the comments section below.

  • Palin on ‘Pie’: The new KCTS show “Pie” did a segment on Palin. Watch it online.