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1920 Video Shows How Chicago Dealt With Snowstorms Nearly 100 Years Ago

The silent video from the University of South Carolina's Moving Image Research Collection shows people driving early cars down snowy streets in the Loop.

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This story first ran in DNAinfo in 2017.

DOWNTOWN — A video shows Chicago as it looked — old cars, historic buildings, period fashions and all — during a snowstorm here in 1920.

The silent video, which comes from the University of South Carolina’s Moving Image Research Collection, shows people driving early automobiles down snowy streets in the Loop. The first few moments of the film shows folks trying to push the cars and navigate them away from snow-packed curbs.

Later, the footage shows pedestrians decked in coats and gloves making their way along a sidewalk. Snow blows across the streets while Chicagoans of yesteryear try to hold down their hats.

There’s even a brief glimpse of the Art Institute of Chicago with its signature lions.

The footage was filmed Jan. 24, 1920, for a news story by Fox Movietone that would have been shown in movie theaters. The snowfall came in what was described as a 32-mile-an-hour Nor’Easter that “whistled around Chicago’s ears” the day before.

The Tribune reported that the city used “seven new motor snow plows” it had recently bought and described how 500 men were scheduled to go through the Loop with hand shovels to scoop up the piles the new plows had created.

The winter of 1919-1920 had about 32 inches of snow in Chicago, about as much as last winter’s snowfall.

Moving Image Research Collections seeks to preserve films made outside the feature film industry. It holds 11 million feet of fragile silent and sound films that document news and global events from the 1920s to 1940s that were produced by Fox Movietone.

The Fox library was given to the university by the Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corporation in 1980 and the university works to restore them and make them available to the public.