For 80 years, history buffs have been trying to solve the mystery of Amelia Earhart’s disappearance. But now Rochesterians are being called to solve a mystery closer to home. 9 years before she vanished, Earhart got a hero’s welcome at a rally outside Rochester. In this report, Maureen McGuire shows us a newly-discovered treasure – what’s believed to be the only film footage of Earhart in Western New York, right after she first shot to fame.
In the 1920’s and ’30’s, Livonia town doctor Harold Trott was one of Livingston County’s most colorful characters. With his motion picture camera, he filmed his exploits on his beloved open cockpit rag wing biplane.
Until now, no one knew Doc Trott’s home movies revealed a treasure except Mike West. “It’s really like, OMG!” he laughs.
35 years ago, West bought a slew of items from Doc Trott’s estate, including a box of Kodak film. Inside, on notes carefully typed out by Doc Trott himself, one name stands out:
Amelia Earhart, the most famous female pilot of all time.
In 1928, after Earhart became the first woman to fly across the Atlantic Ocean, she began travelling all over the country. On one occasion Doc trott was there – and filmed it. His notes suggest it was at the new airport in Leroy, in late 1928 or early 1929. Earhart speaks into a radio microphone with the call letters –
WFBL- that’s Syracuse.
They are believed to be the only moving images of Amelia Earhart on the celebrity circuit outside Rochester.
The film may never have seen the light of day were it not for preservationist Glenn Galbraith, who runs ROC Archive. Galbraith is also the unofficial Livonia town historian.
“It’s a very rare thing,” he says. “I’m not sure Mike West knew what he had. He was aware of the names but I don’t think he understood the significance.”
“I brought ’em home and they sat here for a long time,” West says about the reels of film. “I never did anything with them.”
Galbraith convinced West to search for the film, which was buried among the antiques in West’s warehouse. “These people were icons, American heroes, and I had a little piece of it right here in front of me!” he says.
Galbraith is now preserving the film, which also shows famous aviator Charles Lindbergh, at a 1928 fly-in in Bridgeport, Connecticut.
Trott also took home movies of early-20th century Livonia, boats on Hemlock Lake, and the long-gone Hemlock Airport. But it’s this 30-second clip of Amelia Earhart that may prove most priceless.
Galbraith is trying to identify the people who appear with Earhart on this film, to help fill out the story of her visit.
To watch Doc Trott’s film in its entirety, go to the Roc Archive YouTube channel.
For information on ROC Archive, click here.
Amelia Earhart and Charles Lindbergh.