Nelson Edwards, Cinematographer: Part 2

001 JakeEd03Serendipity is one of the pleasures that can happen when you blog.

Earlier, I wrote about Nelson Edwards’ cinematography career, but only the first part of it was available to read online.

So what a pleasant surprise when the two authors—Cooper C. Graham and Ron van Dopperen—not only got in touch but also sent me the whole issue.

Fascinating, well researched, and well written, their article summarizes Nelson’s professional career in photography and newsreels.


I finished my earlier post at the year 1912, when Nelson was working in New York City as a still photographer, part of the media empire headed by wealthy William Randolph Hearst.

After experimenting with the newly invented moving picture camera, and undertook his first major assignment in 1914, getting news films of the Mexican revolution, including capturing Pancho Villa–on film, of course.

He filmed Thomas Edison on the inventor’s 68th birthday, sailed to Europe near the start of WW1, on a ship provided by car manufacturer, Henry Ford, and photographed a new building in NYC while hanging 500 feet off the ground.

It wasn’t all pleasant. While covering a strike at Standard Oil in New Jersey, he was shot at and had bricks thrown at him, before escaping a mob of strikers by sheltering in a doorway. In the 1930s, in Maryland, he was in the dangerous situation of photographing a mob after an African-American man had been lynched.

Just before WW1 started, Nelson traveled throughout Europe and to Turkey, and later, he photographed actual trench battles on the Western Front. His material was shown in American theaters.  After the US declared war, Nelson and his four brothers joined the army.  One, Corporal Hobart D. Edwards, was killed in France, in 1918. After the six-day battle at Meuse-Argonne, only 27 survivors remained of Hobart’s 227-man company. Nelson named his son, born in 1920, Robert Hobart Edwards.

Discharged in 1919, Nelson returned home to his old job, and he married Cornelia Fisk.

Nelson pioneered aerial photography, starting in 1911, and this work included footage of the Navy’s 1919 transatlantic flight. He became the New York bureau manager and head cameraman for the new company, Fox News, covering human interest items, disasters, political events, and art. After moving to Baltimore, he joined another photographer, with clients that included businesses and government departments. In 1930, he was a freelancer for Paramount News. In 1935, he covered Lindbergh’s flight from Paris. As one of the White House photographers, he covered inaugurations and the activities of presidents, including Roosevelt and Truman.

Tragedy struck again during WWII. His son Robert had trained as a combat photographer and was supposed to organize the military photographers there. Instead, he volunteered to fly missions and was killed while over the English Channel. The article includes a photo of Robert with his newsreel camera.

Three of Nelson’s brothers also went into the ‘newsreel business’–E.K. ‘Chuck’ Edwards (Denver), Roy Donald Edwards (New York), and Curry Edwards (Denver). The article includes a photo of the four brothers, around 1948. Nelson also helped his son-in-law, David Wiegman, become a professional newsreel photographer.

Nelson died at home, in Maryland, in 1954, aged 66.

Source:  Cooper C. Graham and Ron van Dopperen . Nelson Edwards and the Newsreels:  An American life.  Film History: An international journal. vol. 24, no. 3, 2012, pp 260-280.


Edwards trip to Baltimore 1941

I’m tired of reading old Edwards obituaries. So I was happy that the next item I grabbed from my Edwards genealogy box was my mother’s diary entries about her trip back east, in 1941.

I thought she was about 16 when she went on this trip, but see now that she was 20. I had also thought she was accompanied by her parents, but it was actually Fat and Henrietta who took her along with them. That made me wonder if and when her father, A.E. Edwards, ever visited his huge number of siblings, or if they ever visited him.

I don’t know most of the people mentioned:  James Gaddis, Price, Cora Jane Lamont Bauman, Pups, Nora & Ed Coffey, Irene Castro.  (Wasn’t there a Jane Bauman who wrote a column in the Hutchinson News?)

Thurs July 17.      Up at 4.00 A.M. Drove 640 Miles to Gaddis at Rushville, Illinois.

Fri July 18.      To McComb to see James Gaddis. Ate dinner at restaurant where he was eating. Stayed in cabin near Ohio Line.

Sat July 19.     Drove through Ohio, corners of Virginia, Penn., Maryland. Ate dinner in Wheeling West Va. Arrived at Nelsons at 9.00 P.M.


English: Baltimore Harbor as seen from World T...

English: Baltimore Harbor as seen from World Trade Center. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Sun July 20.     Took drive through woods west of Nelsons house. Tony’s friend, Linsey, here for lunch. Rained p.m.

Mon July 21.     Tony to Percheon Horse judging at Hagerstown. Nelson took us around city, Ft. McHenry, Green Mountain Cemetery where Wilkes Booth grave is.

Tues July 22.     Lee & Nelson drove us to Washington, Arlington Cemetery, Smithsonian Museum, Parks and White House.

Wed July 23.     Up early to go on boat S.S. Bay Belle to Seaside in Chesapeake Bay. Took 4 hours and was about 50 miles. Had a picnic on deck. Won 14 bingos.

Thurs July 24.     Tony & Fat to college to see livestock. Cornelia, Henrietta & I shopping in Baltimore, ate chow mein for dinner. Seafood for supper. Tony, Price and I looked up Cora Jane (Lamont) Bauman of Turon.

Fri July 25.     Left Baltimore at 5:00 A.M. for New York. 515 Miles. Saw Pups, Nora & Ed Coffey. Was down Broadway in N.Y. about midnight . . . Tony said it would be bright as day. I stayed with Coffeys at New Rochelle.

Sat July 26.     I came to Pups and we went back to Baltimore. Ate at Peter Poppas restaurant in Baltimore.

Sun July 27.     Cornelia to church. Irene Casto here p.m. Nelson drove us through Green Spring Valley tonight–so cool.

Mon July 28.     Left at 5.24 A.M. for home. Ate lunch on road and supper in Uniontown. Stayed at cabin near Springfield, Ohio. 438 miles.

Tues July 29.     6:00–breakfast near Kingdown. Supper at Big Boy Restaurant. Hot.

Wed July 30.     Ate at camp. Dinner at Olathe. Stormy P.M. Ate a bite at Florence. Stopped at Emporia Sale. Home at 6.00 P.M.

Four Edwards items

Here are some miscellaneous items re Edward family.  From left to right:

ITEM 1.1.  and ITEM 1.2.

Card of Thanks  (No date but another notice is the V.F.W. Auxiliary serving chicken and noodle dinners on Election Day, Nov. 8, so could have been close to that date. No year given)

We sincerely want to thank all of our friends and neighbors for the food, flowers and kind words of sympathy during the illness and death of our Beloved Husband, Father, and Grandfather. Your kindness will long remain in our hearts. May God bestow his richest blessings on each and every one of you.

The Family of A.E. Edwards

For Sale
Three bedroom home 1 block from main street. Has double garage, chicken and brooder house. Ideal for retired farmer—if there is such a person. See Fred Edwards or call MO 5-8592, Hutchinson.  J 16-23 c

ITEM 2  Edwards-Allison Wedding

Friends of Mr. and Mrs. Lloyd Allison are extending congratulations and best wishes to them. Theywere married in Hutchinson last Saturday morning, returning to Sylvia that evening and are living in the former N. Housinger house, which they had furnished and ready to start housekeeping.

Mrs. Allison, formerly Miss Charlotte Edwards, is the daughter of Mr. A.E. Edwards and for the past several years has been employed in Hutchinson. The groom is the son of the late Mr. and Mrs. S. Allison, and is employed by the State Highway department as road-maintainer on highway No. 61 between Sylvia and Turon.

ITEM 3  Sylvia Hardware Co.  Sales docket to ‘A.E. Edwards by Fred’, on October 29, 1927. for 12 gauge shells. $1.00.

ITEM 4  Public Auction conducted by Reiser Auction Company

The auction was held on the main street of Sylvia August 9, 1965, with items from the estate of Pearl A. Edwards. I don’t know this auction company but assume it was local to Sylvia.
Reading the list of items, I remembered the cream separator at Pop and Mameen’s farm. It was inside, on the back porch by the kitchen.

i44 nes items 4047

Nelson Edwards & the Newsreels: Part 1

After sending my last post, I wondered if there was anything about Nelson Edwards on the Web, given that he was well-known for his film reportage in the 1930s and 1940s.

I found two links to an article about him, published in 2012, by Cooper C. Graham and Ron The new strain of wheat, Turkey Red, brought in by the Russian Mennonites, helped Kansas become famous as the Wheat State. Perhaps Jake Edwards had been persuaded to move to Kansas by reports of the money to be made in wheat.van Dopperen. The article is interesting not only because of the account of Nelson’s career, but also because of details about his younger years, including his family’s decision to travel by covered wagon and settle in Kansas.

Abstract of the article

Nelson Edwards (1887–1954) was among the first newsreel cameramen in American film history. From 1914 he filmed for Hearst International News Service and covered the Mexican Revolution. In 1916 he filmed the Turkish and the German side of the World War. He was also chief cameraman for Fox Newsreel during the year of its birth, and thereafter a longtime stringer for Paramount News. The essay describes Edwards’s life and work, as well as some of the background of Hearst’s first attempts to get into the newsreel business, based on research in Edwards’s personal documents, reports in the press and interviews with his family.

The start of the article, titled ‘Nelson Edwards and the Newsreels: An American life’,  is summarized below. I don’t have a way to get the whole article–my town library doesn’t have access–but thought Edwards family members would be interested in reading a little bit about Nelson.

Nelson’s early years

Edwards was one of the best-known photographers in the early period of newsreels. His career included working for William Randolph Hearst  before and during World War I, being head cameraman for Fox newsreels and later a stringer for Paramount Newsreel. In these roles, he was part of many major historical events.

Nelson Elisha Edwards was born in Point Pleasant, Mason County, West Virginia on 25 November 1887. His parents, Jake C. and Margaret Edwards, farmed in West Virginia. When Nelson was six months old, the family moved, by covered wagon, to Plevna, Reno County, Kansas, a journey that took between two and three and a half months. It is possible that the family was convinced to move because of he success of the new strain of wheat, Turkey Red, brought in by the Russian Mennonites.

They lived in a sod dugout, what Nelson called “a hole in the ground”. By 1915, photographs show that the family now had a solid house and farm. Jake served twice as a member of the Kansas State House of Representatives, in 1915 and 1917, and was also appointed county chairman. The Edwards had nine sons and one daughter: Preston, Nelson, Cecil, Clarence, Roy, Hobart, E.K., Morry (who died in infancy), Naomi, and Curry. Some of Nelson’s brothers would also become newsreel cameramen.

Nelson was described in the article as “a tall, muscular man with prominent cheekbones, a hawk nose, lighthouse eyes peering out at the world from under heavy eyebrows, and thick, dark hair which photographed jet black”, who was “stocky, but . . . quite large” and was also athletic.

Subsistence farming apparently did not suit Nelson. In 1908, he went to New Orleans to learn photography. By 191o, he was in New Jersey, working for a ‘celebrated photographer’, whose sister-in-law, Cornelia Fisk, eventually married Nelson. In 1912, he was working as a still photographer in New York for the chief of photo syndication, the International News Service.

Source:  Cooper C. Graham and Ron van Dopperen (2012). “Nelson Edwards and the Newsreels:  An American Life. Film History (vol. 24), pp. 260-280. ISSN:  0892-2160.

Ron van Dopperen studied history at the University of Utrecht, Holland, where he wrote his Master of Arts thesis on the American World War I documentary films (1988). He now works as a communication advisor for the Dutch government. Correspondence to
Cooper C. Graham is retired from the Library of Congress where he was a curator in the Motion Picture, Broadcasting and Recorded Sound Division. He is the author of numerous articles, as well as Leni Riefenstahl’s “Olympia” and (in collaboration) D.W. Griffith and the Biograph Company. He is presently working on a series of World War I film subjects.  Corespondence to



Final Christmas Cards

I think this is the last set of Christmas cards I have in my Edwards box of stuff.

The first one has a drawing of a girl in a blizzard, a photograph of what looks like a farm house, and a couple in silhouette, the man behind and slightly left of the woman. The inscription:  Best wishes for a Merry Christmas and a year of happy days.  Mr. and Mrs. Jake Edwards.

QUERY: Does anyone know where they lived, and if this photograph was their home?


img446 last 3 Xmas cards034

The other black-and-white card shows a snow scene, and is signed, Nelson & family. I wonder if Nelson was the one who took that photo, similar to the other photo-cards of his that I’ve provided in other posts. There’s no year given. It’s a change from the humorous ones in the early ’30s.

The  red-and-black card postcard is difficult to see, even in the original, so I’ve worked on it a bit.

Img446 redblack edwards card

What a lovely card!  On the back is this inscription: Nelson Edwards family Baltimore

Fire & Death at A.E. Edwards Farm–

The Front page of the Turon Weekly, Thursday 30 June, 1921, covers the death of a local girl, Bernice, who helped my maternal grandparents, A.E. and Icea Edwards, with house and family.

My mother, born on 13 January 1921,  was a baby when the fire broke out. She told me that she and her sister Virginia were left in a safe spot outside while the rest of the family who were there unsuccessfully fought the fire. Bernice suffered extensive burns and died hours later.

At some point, my mother found and framed two items from the fire–small sewing scissors and a squashed thimble. Do any other Edwards relatives have relics from the fire, or know more about it? If so, click on the Comment option to the left.

Some years ago now, I took back to Australia the small frame, which my mother used to mount the two items. (My brother bought the house after my parents died, and I wasn’t sure what was going to happen to their possessions.)

At the Wichita Airport, I was pulled up by security for having a weapon in my carry-on. I thought they were crazy, until I saw the scan and realized it was the scissors. I explained what they were and what they meant. They told me to put them in my checked luggage or kiss them goodbye. Lucky it was a small airport. I raced back, and the staff at the check-in counter caught my bag just in time before it disappeared to be loaded onto the plane!

I’ve typed out the relevant articles from the Turon paper. Scroll down to read them.

img446033Newspaper article about fire and death at A.E. Edwards farm.

The paper provides an account of the fire, with the headline Fatally Burned (column 3),  a Card of Thanks from Bub and Pearle Edwards (col. 2), and Memorial, the death notice for Bernice Helen Hodson (col. 2) .

Some relatives will know more about the fire than I do. Mom said that Bernice was brought out of the house, horribly burned, and was put in the back of a wagon. She apologised to A.E. Edwards for her mistake. I’m not sure if she died there at the farm, or later. The obit mentions that Bernice was a member of Glendale Church. A.E. Edwards and his family were also members. The church is no longer there, but the Glendale cemetery is.
Does anyone know if the Rev. J.N. Edwards, of the Glendale church, is a relative of A.E. Edwards?

Fatally Burned

Miss Bernice Hodson of Sylvia, who was at the A.E. Edwards home six miles north of Turon, assisting Mrs. Edwards with the harvest work, was fatally burned Saturday evening about five o’clock when she attempted to hasten a slow fire in the kitchen range by pouring kerosene on it. The can was a 5-gallon one and contained only about a gallon of oil, leaving space for the accumulation of a good deal of gas.

The explosion which followed the attempt threw burning oil all over Miss Hodson and also set fire to the house. Mrs. Edwards was burned about the hands and arms in trying to save the girl, as also was Mr. Edwards, who was coming in from the field at the time of the explosion and hurried to the house as quickly as possible.

Miss Hodson was so terribly burned that she died at midnight and the house and contents were entirely destroyed. The property loss is partially covered by insurance.

Card of Thanks

We want to thank our friends and neighbors for their warm sympathy and generous assistance in our recent misfortune.

Mr. and Mrs. A.E. Edwards


Bernice Helen Hodson was born in Sylvia, Kans., Feb. 4th, 1903. She was converted and joined the United Brethren church at Glendale at the age of nine, was baptized by Rev. Givens and has lived a devoted Christian life ever since.

She went to her eternal home June 26th, 1921, aged eighteen years, five months and twenty-two days. She was president of the Christian Endeavor Society of Glendale and the last time she was at church led one of the best meetings ever held there.

She was graduated from the Sylvia High School in a class of fourteen, May 26th, 1921. She was very patent in time of suffering and all who knew her loved her. Her chosen life work was to help the sick and suffering.

She leaves to mourn her loss, her father and mother, Mr. and Mrs. James Hodson, of Sylvia; one sister, Bertha; two brothers, Harry and Albert; an aged grandfather and grandmother, Mr. and Mrs. John Proctor of Nickerson; and a large number of relatives and friends.

Funeral services were held at the Glendale church Monday at 2 p.m., conducted by the pastor, Rev. J.N. Edwards. A mixed quartet from Sylvia furnished the music and six girls from her graduating class were pallbearers and her body was laid to rest in the Sylvia cemetery.



Sylvia KS, 1887-1987

Slyvia KS 1887-1987 - PS

Cover of Sylvia KS centenary book

This is the cover of a book titled Sylvia, Kansas, 1887-1987.

Over 1,000 Sylvia residents, current and former, were asked to provide their family histories. The two main developers of this project were Donna Graber, who chaired the centennial committee, and Mary Ellen Roberts, who chaired the history book committee.

The book is bound with 83 pages and a number of black-and-white photographs, old and modern.

I enjoyed looking at the earliest photos, when Sylvia had a main street lined with shops, plus it boasted a garage, post office, electric power plant, restaurant, associations, churches, and even an opera house.

This map of Reno County, Kansas, USA, is copie...

Reno County, KS. Sylvia is located near the left border. (Wikipedia)

The last time I drove by Sylvia, I passed it in the blink of an eye. In the 2013 census, it is listed as having 216 residents. Its boom year was 1910, when it had 634 people.



A website that lists sights and amenities for towns provide only one entry for Sylvia, a Mexican restaurant.

This book provides an engaging look into the past. Its table of contents:

Dedication, Centennial Celebration, In the Beginning, Agriculture, Churches, Organizations, Schools, Families, Photo Gallery, Memorials, Boosters, and Photo Gallery.

I thought perhaps the Hutchinson library may want this book, but when I checked its online catalogue I found that it already has two copies in its genealogy room upstairs.