Unknown Meatpacking District Films, circa 1970s

When the Guggenheim Archives recently screened a selection of unmarked 8mm films, we were surprised by this discovery: a series of industrial street scenes from New York City’s Meatpacking District and Hudson River waterfront, circa the early 1970s. The film scenes range from manufacturing on the river, factory waste in the Meatpacking District, faint subway footage, industrial traffic, and, as seen in this clip, workers on the streets and trash cans. (Can anyone date the film based on the footage of the blowing newspapers?) Although we don’t know who made these films, the filmmaker’s point of view is clear, as shots of garbage and litter are interspersed with signs reading “Keep Our City Clean,” “Rubbish,” and “Clean up after your dog please.” We’re not sure how the films entered the collection—any ideas?

Do you have any information about this film? Can you identify when it was made?

  • Manhattan Past

    The newspaper visible in the trash barrel is from August 16, 1973. It makes reference to President Nixon’s public statement on Watergate (“Watergate Talk Tonight”) which was made on 8/16/73. Inside the paper is a headline about the Lodi chemical plant explosion that took place 8/15/73.

    • RH

      The main headline also references the end of the U.S. Raids on Cambodia which were ended in the summer of 1973.

  • Marcelo López Dinardi

    Perhaps someone related to his or Matta-Clark used his friends 8mm camera to record his own films. Meatpacking is potrayed in “Food” and the waste/trash was also a large concern in Matta-Clark’s work.

    • FrancineSnyder

      It’s particularly interesting when compared to “Fresh Kill” (1972). The unknown footage also contains scenes of large scale machinery, cranes and bulldozers, moving industrial waste as well as the impact of this waste on the Hudson River (not shown in the clip above). While we’ll need to investigate deeper to determine if these films are related to Matta-Clark, it’s certain that the filmmaker was influenced by similar concerns.

  • Nancy Rigney

    washington and 13th streets?

  • Patricia Fieldsteel

    the vegetable barrels are where Pastis is today. Nixon’s secret raids were from April to July 1970, but I believe the above viewer is correct about the newspaper dates. Have to check my files further to see where Jos Kenney was then.

  • Database51

    Artsy, fartsy, someone my age with a camera, art student took it, sophomore high school, 1973.

  • Allan Chin

    The scene towards the end with the man carrying the bags was shot from the corner where Pastis is today, looking east towards the buildings on the north side of Gansevoort Street in the background. The truck behind him, with its name partially obscured, says “zum zum”, a New York eatery I remember from the late 60s and early 70s. I attended Xavier nearby on 16th Street, and during 1977, we drove our driver’s ed cars to this enlarged intersection/plaza of Little West 12th, Gansevoort, and Ninth Avenue to practice parking and turns.

  • Mario Perroe

    That is 14 st 9 ave I worked there in 1959 Joseph Kenny meat packing and I worked ant Knickerbocker meats in the middle of 14 st. Was a great place to work as you can see not to clean in the street but the meat houses there were kept very clean every day. There were government inspectors who had offices in some of the meat houses and watched that whole area every day. Then cut backs came and the area went down hill I saw a lot of famous people come to that area to buy meat it was a great time. Everyone got along you could walk down 14 th st and joke with any worker from any of the many meat houses there. I have so many good memories of that street. I was there from 1959 t0 1967

    • Caitlin Dover

      Mario, thank you so much for sharing these fascinating, detailed recollections of your time in the Meatpacking District! Your description of the area is very interesting, especially considering how much the neighborhood changed in more recent years.

      • Mario Perroe

        Your Welcome Everything was simpler back then. Times change we made a lot of changes since then. And many more to come. Just wish people would change and get along! people have been fighting for millions of years. wishful thinking