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Guide to the H. Lee Waters Film Collection, 1936-2005, bulk 1936-1942

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Summary

Born in Caroleen, North Carolina in 1902, studio photographer Herbert Lee Waters supplemented his income from 1936 to 1942 by traveling across North Carolina and parts of Virginia, Tennessee, and South Carolina to film the people of small communities. He collaborated with local movie theaters to screen his films, which he called Movies of Local People. As a filmmaker, Waters produced 252 films across 118 communities. The H. Lee Waters Film Collection dates from 1936 to 2005 and primarily comprises 16 mm black and white reversal original motion picture films created by Waters during the filming of the Movies of Local People series. The collection, arranged alphabetically by town name, also includes various preservation elements created from the original footage: 16 mm internegatives; 16 mm screening prints; 3/4 inch Umatic, Betacam SP, and Digital Betacam preservation tape masters; and VHS and DVD use copies of Waters' works. The collection contains a small number of papers and physical objects related to Waters' film making, including: a photocopy of two log books (encompassed in one volume) maintained by Waters to record financial and business information during the filming of Movies of Local People; photocopied and original advertisements for screenings of Waters' films; photocopies of Waters' notes, receipts, and correspondence concerning film sales; related ephemera; copy of a 2005 master's thesis written on the films of H. Lee Waters; and oral histories with Mary Waters Spaulding and Tom Waters, the children of H. Lee Waters.

Collection Details

Collection Number
RL.10075
Title
H. Lee Waters Film collection
Date
1936-2005, bulk 1936-1942
Creator
Waters, H. Lee
Extent
50 Linear Feet
Repository
David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library

Collection Overview

The H. Lee Waters Film Collection dates from 1936 to 2005 and comprises primarily 16 mm black and white reversal original motion picture films created by Waters between 1936 and 1942 as he traveled across North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia filming the residents of small towns. Waters aimed to film as many residents in each community as possible, often setting up his camera at the main intersection in town to capture community members walking downtown. Waters also typically filmed school children entering or leaving school and workers arriving to or departing from mills, plants, and factories. Waters often included trick shots to engage his audience, such as trains moving backwards or children jumping in reverse. Although the films are dominated by shots of crowds and individual faces, Waters also captured a wide variety of activities, like school recitals, sports, mechanics at work, and manufacturing processes in factories.

The collection, arranged alphabetically by town name, includes various preservation elements created from the original footage: 16 mm internegatives; 16 mm screening prints; 3/4 inch Umatic, Betacam SP, and Digital Betacam preservation tape masters; and VHS and DVD use copies of Waters' works. The majority of films represented in the collection are silent, black and white, and were filmed in North Carolina. The collection includes a small number of color films and one film with sound. Reels containing mixed black and white and color footage were separated into two reels based on picture characteristic during the preservation process.

The collection also contains a small number of papers and physical objects related to Waters, including: photocopied and original advertisements for screenings of Waters' films; photocopies of Waters' notes, receipts, and correspondence concerning film sales; related ephemera; VHS copies of a news report and a film on Waters; a copy of the master's thesis written on the films of H. Lee Waters by University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill student Martin Johnson in 2005; and oral histories with Mary Waters Spaulding and Tom Waters, the children of H. Lee Waters. In addition, the collection contains a photocopy of two log books (encompassed in one volume) maintained by Waters between the years of 1936 and 1942 to document his earnings from the Movies of Local People films. The logs provide information about film screenings in the towns that he visited, including the dates of the screenings, the theaters where the films played, admission prices, the number of tickets sold, and advertising revenues. See the digital collection to view the logbooks.

More Biographical / Historical Info

Using These Materials

A majority of collections are stored off site and must be requested at least 2 full business days in advance for retrieval. Contact Rubenstein Library staff before visiting. Read More »

warning Access to the Collection

Collection is open for research. Digital use copies for much of the collection are available in this guide and on the H. Lee Waters Digital Collection page: http://library.duke.edu/digitalcollections/hleewaters/.

Original audiovisual materials are available, for inspection purposes only, by special request. For a full inventory of original film and video resources, please contact Research Services.

All or portions of this collection may be housed off-site in Duke University's Library Service Center. The library may require up to 48 hours to retrieve these materials for research use.

Please contact Research Services staff before visiting the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library to use this collection.

warning Use & Permissions

The copyright interests in this collection have not been transferred to Duke University. For more information, consult the copyright section of the Regulations and Procedures of the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library.

Copyright in Movies of Local People is undetermined. The publication status of these items is uncertain, making public domain determination difficult. To the extent these materials are protected by copyright, Duke has been granted permission to make digital reproductions and make them available to the public as part of a digital collection. For more information, consult the copyright section of the Regulations and Procedures of the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library: https://library.duke.edu/rubenstein/research/citations-and-permissions.

More copyright and citation information

How to Cite

[Identification of item], H. Lee Waters Film Collection, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University.

Contents of the Collection

1. Movies of Local People, 1936-1942

50 Linear Feet

Moving image resources from H. Lee Waters' Movies of Local People. For detailed inventories of film and video elements available for each community, please contact Rubenstein Library Research Services.

Arranged alphabetically by town name.

Albemarle (N.C.)
1936 (Reel 1), 1936
(TRT 00:10:35)
Asheboro (N.C.)
1939 November 23 (Reel 1), 1939 November 23
(TRT 00:04:03)
1940 (Reel 1), 1940
(TRT 00:27:03)
1940 March 1 (Reel 1), 1940 March 1
(TRT 00:15:29)
circa 1938-1939 (Reel 1), circa 1938-1939
(TRT 00:07:06)
Benson (N.C.)
circa 1937 (Reel 1), circa 1937
(TRT 00:19:30)
Boone (N.C.)
Caroleen (N.C.), Avondale (N.C.), Henrietta (N.C.)
1940 (Reel 1), 1940
(TRT 00:08:02)
Chapel Hill (N.C.)
1939 (Reel 1), 1939
(TRT 00:08:55)
1939 (Reel 2), 1939
(TRT 00:19:51)
Cherryville
1938 (Reel 1), 1938
(TRT 00:25:06)
Clayton (N.C.)
circa 1936-1937 (Reel 1), circa 1936-1937
(TRT 00:13:23)
Cliffside (N.C.)
1937 (Reel 1), 1937
(TRT 00:19:17)
1940 (Reel 1), 1940
(TRT 00:20:26)
Cramerton (N.C.)
circa 1938-1939, circa 1938-1939
(TRT 00:11:37)
circa 1938-1939 Part 1), circa 1938-1939
(TRT 00:10:31)
circa 1938-1939 Part 2), circa 1938-1939
(TRT 00:02:37)
circa 1938-1939 Part 3), circa 1938-1939
(TRT 00:11:50)
Damascus (Va.)
1940 (Reel 1), 1940
(TRT 00:23:02)
Dante (Va.)
1940 (Reel 1), 1940
(TRT 00:12:37)
1940 (Reel 2), 1940
(TRT 00:15:29)
Denton (N.C.)
circa 1939-1941 (Reel 1), circa 1939-1941
(TRT 00:36:47)
circa 1939-1941 (Reel 2), circa 1939-1941
(TRT 00:11:48)
circa 1939-1941 (Reel 3), circa 1939-1941
(TRT 00:11:07)
Erwin (N.C.)
circa 1937-1939 (Reel 1), circa 1937-1939
(TRT 00:44:47)
Fuquay-Varina (N.C.)
circa 1937 (Reel 1), circa 1937
(TRT 00:17:19)
Gastonia (N.C.)
1939 (Reel 1), 1939
(TRT 00:15:06)
1939 (Reel 2), 1939
(TRT 00:17:36)
1939 (Reel 3), 1939
(TRT 00:13:51)
1940 (Reel 1), 1940
(TRT 00:14:48)
1940 (Reel 2), 1940
(TRT 00:15:21)
Granite Falls (N.C.)
circa 1938 (Reel 1), circa 1938
(TRT 00:13:00)
circa 1938 (Reel 2), circa 1938
(TRT 00:11:32)
circa 1938 (Reel 3), circa 1938
(TRT 00:13:04)
circa 1938 (Reel 4), circa 1938
(TRT 00:12:04)
circa 1938 (Reel 5), circa 1938
(TRT 00:01:21)
circa 1941-1942 (Reel 1), circa 1941-1942
(TRT 00:40:00)
Greensboro (N.C.)
circa 1939 (Reel 1), circa 1939
(TRT 00:21:23)
Henderson (N.C.)
circa 1938 (Reel 1), circa 1938
(TRT 00:32:49)
Jackson (N.C.)
1939 (Reel 1), 1939
(TRT 00:22:10)
Kannapolis (N.C.)
1941 (Reel 1), 1941
(TRT 00:34:52)
1941 (Reel 2), 1941
(TRT 00:55:18)
1941 (Reel 3), 1941
(TRT 00:47:10)
Lebanon (Va.)
1940 (Reel 1), 1940
(TRT 00:07:25)
Lenoir (N.C.)
1937 (Reel 1), 1937
(TRT 00:22:02)
Lexington (N.C.)
1935-1953 (Reel 1), 1935-1953
(TRT 00:27:04)
circa 1937-1945 (Reel 1), circa 1937-1945
(TRT 00:32:53)
Lillington (N.C.)
circa 1939 (Reel 1), circa 1939
(TRT 00:07:23)
circa 1939 (Reel 2), circa 1939
(TRT 00:21:33)
circa 1939 (Reel 3), circa 1939
(TRT 00:10:41)
Louisburg (N.C.)
circa 1936-1937 (Reel 1), circa 1936-1937
(TRT 00:10:39)
Madison (N.C.) and Mayodan (N.C.)
circa 1939-1941 (Reel 1), circa 1939-1941
(TRT 00:32:32)
circa 1939-1941 (Reel 2), circa 1939-1941
(TRT 00:39:35)
circa 1939-1941 (Reel 3), circa 1939-1941
(TRT 00:56:40)
Martinsville (Va.)
circa 1937-1939 (Reel 1, 2), circa 1937-1939
(TRT 00:35:36)
Mooresville (N.C.)
circa 1937-1939 (Reel 1), circa 1937-1939
(TRT 00:43:18)
circa 1937-1939 (Reel 2), circa 1937-1939
(TRT 00:34:39)
Mount Airy (N.C.)
1941 (Reel 1), 1941
(TRT 00:26:14)
Mount Holly (N.C.)
North Wilkesboro (N.C.)
1937-1941 (Reel 1), 1937-1941
(TRT 00:44:58)
1937-1941 (Reel 2), 1937-1941
(TRT 00:37:11)
Oxford (N.C.)
1938-1941 (Reel 1), 1938-1941
(TRT 00:36:24)
Pilot Mountain (N.C.)
circa 1939 (Reel 1), circa 1939
(TRT 00:16:52)
circa 1939 (Reel 2), circa 1939
(TRT 00:11:08)
Raeford (N.C.)
circa 1938 (Reel 1), circa 1938
(TRT 00:22:21)
Red Springs (N.C.)
Roxboro (N.C.)
1938 (Reel 1), 1938
(TRT 00:20:17)
1939 (Reel 1), 1939
(TRT 00:35:12)
circa 1936-1937 (Reel 1), circa 1936-1937
(TRT 00:15:53)
circa 1936-1941 (Reel 1), circa 1936-1941
(TRT 00:19:31)
circa 1937 (Reel 1), circa 1937
(TRT 00:10:48)
circa 1940 (Reel 1), circa 1940
(TRT 00:43:09)
circa 1941 (Reel 1), circa 1941
(TRT 00:15:34)
Rutherfordton (N.C.)
1937 (Reel 1), 1937
(TRT 00:14:45)
Salisbury (N.C.)
1940 (Reel 1), 1940
(TRT 01:02:59)
1940 (Reel 2), 1940
(TRT 00:16:45)
Scotland Neck (N.C.)
1939 (Reel 1), 1939
(TRT 00:18:59)
Siler City (N.C.)
1937-1939 (Reel 1), 1937-1939
(TRT 00:56:08)
1937-1939 (Reel 2), 1937-1939
(TRT 00:59:04)
1937-1942 (Reel 1), 1937-1942
(TRT 01:17:27)
Smithfield (N.C.) and Selma (N.C.)
1937 (Reel 1), 1937
(TRT 00:20:14)
1937 (Reel 2), 1937
(TRT 00:20:04)
Spindale (N.C.)
1937 (Reel 1), 1937
(TRT 00:27:24)
Statesville (N.C.)
1940 (Reel 1), 1940
(TRT 00:13:43)
1940 (Reel 2), 1940
(TRT 00:15:28)
Swannanoa (N.C.)
1938 (Reel 1), 1938
(TRT 00:19:31)
Taylorsville (N.C.)
1939 (Reel 1), 1939
(TRT 00:25:24)
Thomasville (N.C.)
1936-1940 (Reel 1), 1936-1940
(TRT 00:18:50)
1936-1940 (Reel 2), 1936-1940
(TRT 00:15:52)
1938-1939 (Reel 1), 1938-1939
(TRT 00:16:57)
Troy (N.C.)
1936-1940 (Reel 1), 1936-1940
(TRT 00:50:16)
1936-1940 (Reel 2), 1936-1940
(TRT 00:44:45)
Whitmire (S.C.)
circa 1938-1939 (Reel 1), circa 1938-1939
(TRT 00:17:05)
Wytheville (Va.)
circa 1939 (Reel 1), circa 1939
(TRT 00:15:35)
circa 1939 (Reel 2), circa 1939
(TRT 00:18:13)
Home movies, 1930s
(1400 film feet)
Reversal original, 16mm, si., b&w and col.
Box 41
Film-reel RL10075-F16-0246
Home movies, 1940s
(1450 film feet)
Reversal original, 16mm, si., b&w and col.
Box 41
Film-reel RL10075-F16-0245
Home movies, 1940s
(1000 film feet)
Reversal original, 16mm, si., b&w and col.
Box 41
Film-reel RL10075-F16-0243
Home movies, 1930s-1940s
(650 film feet)
Reversal original, 16mm, si., b&w and col.
Box 41
Film-reel RL10075-F16-0244
Reversal original, 16mm, si., b&w and col.
Box 41
Film-reel RL10075-F16-0248
Football, reel 1, circa 1940s
(Severe acetate decay.)
Box 39
Film-reel RL10075-F16-0239
Football, reel 2, circa 1940s
(Severe acetate decay.)
Box 39
Film-reel RL10075-F16-0240
Little League Baseball, original 16mm color reversal, circa 1955
Box 37
Film-reel RL10075-F16-0236
Out of the Shadows, children with disabilities in Davidson county, original 16mm, col., b&w, reversal, 1956
Box 37
Film-reel RL10075-F16-0237
Mooresville, 1937, provided by Mooresville Public Library.
Box 36
Video-disc RL10075-DVD-0046
Rockingham and Albemarle, undated, provided by the North Carolina State Archives
Box 36
Video-cassette RL10075-VHS-0002
Siler City, 1937-1942, provided by Duane Hall.
Box 36
Video-disc RL10075-DVD-0047
Siler City, circa 1937, provided by Duane Hall.
Box 36
Video-disc RL10075-DVD-0048
Siler City, circa 1937, provided by Duane Hall.
Box 36
Video-disc RL10075-DVD-0049
Milo Holt interviewed by Duane Hall, 2008 November 9, provided by Duane Hall.
Box 36
Video-disc RL10075-DVD-0050
The cameraman has visited our town, by Tom Whiteside., 1989
(20 minutes)
Box 33
Video-cassette RL10075-VHS-0003
The movie man -- H. Lee Waters, "Assignment America," NBC Nightly News., 1990 January 19
(4 minutes)
Box 33
Video-cassette RL10075-VHS-0004
The preservation of the H. Lee Waters film known as "Chester, S.C." (October 1937)., 2007 June 11
(25 minutes)
Box 33
Video-disc RL10075-DVD-0051
The preservation of H. Lee Waters film known as "Chester, S.C." Julia Nicol emulsion peeling., 2009 November 19
(9 minutes)
Animation test workprint, Duke logo and countdown leader for preservation reels., 2004
Box 33
Film-reel RL10075-F16-0225
Animation test negative, Duke logo and countdown leader for preservation reels.
Box 33
Film-reel RL10075-F16-0226

Severely decayed film, Mayodan and Forest City, 1936-1942

Contains pieces of reels from Forest City and Mayodan, as well as several cans frozen shut with rust.

Box 40
Advertisements, undated
Oversize-folder 1
H. Lee Waters Movies of Local People Records, 1936-1942, 1936-1942
Box 34
Advertisements, circa 1960s and undated
Box 34
Notes, receipts, and correspondence, 1972-1974 and undated
Box 34
Martin Johnson's master thesis, 2005
Box 34
Shot lists, undated
Mary Waters Spaulding interviewed by Craig Breaden and Kirston Johnson, 2013-08-08
(01:02:17)

Mary Waters Spaulding talks about her father, H. Lee Waters, and growing up around her family's photography business in Lexington, North Carolina.

Tom Waters interviewed by Craig Breaden and Kirston Johnson, 2012-12-06
(00:49:49)

Tom Waters discusses the evolution of his father H. Lee Water's photography business in Lexington, how Waters came to make Movies of Local People, and the Waters' family life.

 

Historical Note

Born August 23, 1902, Herbert Lee Waters spent the majority of his life in Lexington, North Carolina operating a photography studio. Waters supplemented his income from 1936-1942 by traveling across North Carolina and parts of Virginia, Tennessee, and South Carolina to film the people of small communities. He collaborated with local movie theaters to screen his films, which he called Movies of Local People and billed with the phrase "See yourself in the movies!" As a filmmaker, Waters produced 252 films across 118 communities. In 1942, Waters returned to Lexington and continued operating his photographic studio until his death in 1997. The Library of Congress listed Waters' Kannapolis film on the National Film Registry in 2004.


Click to find related materials at Duke University Libraries.

Provenance

The H. Lee Waters Film Collection was received by the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library as a series of gifts and purchases beginning in 1988.

Processing Information

Processed and re-encoded by Craig Breaden, April 2014.

Processed by Lindsay Matson, October 2009