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Vintage Robert Frost Film Footage Added to Digital Collection

July 28, 2014

MIDDLEBURY, Vt. -- The spirit of Robert Frost is never far from mind during the summer months in Ripton, Vermont. Now the College's Special Collections and Archives offers a glimpse of how Frost spent his summers, through recently digitized 16mm film footage. The two-minute full-color, soundless clip (circa 1948) shows Frost hiking his idyllic property, harvesting vegetables and enjoying his dog and horses.



"Fans of Robert Frost will get a thrill out of seeing moving images of him that have never been seen," said Joseph Watson, preservation manager at the Davis Family Library. "Moving images inform our view of the past in ways still images and the written word can’t.  When we see moving images we get more of a sense of what it was like to be there."

The Homer Noble Farm shown in the clip was Frost's summer home from 1939-1962, and is just down the road from Middlebury's Bread Loaf Mountain campus, where Frost made regular appearances at both the Bread Loaf School of English and Bread Loaf Writers' Conference.

The Frost footage is part of an effort by Special Collections and Archives to digitize numerous short films from the 1930s, 40s, and 50s. There are about 100 16mm films in total, most of which will be digitized and released in the coming years as time and budgets allow, says Watson. Some remarkable scenes yet to be published include the "Flying Club" taking off from the Middlebury Airport and shooting aerial footage of Addison County and the campus, and students on snow skis being pulled behind an airplane on what appears to be a frozen Lake Champlain.

Special Collections and Archives has created a blog where the newly digitized films and other noteworthy digital content are posted.


My mother, Madeline Ferland Spies, was born and raised in Middlebury, Vermont. Like many adolescent girls, she loved horses. She fondly and proudly told us she rode one of Robert Frost's horses in a parade in Middlebury. If this film was shot in 1948 when my mother was probably 12 or 13 years old, there is a good chance the horse shown was the one she rode. It is also possible, 2-3 years later, she rode the filly or colt shown or an entirely different horse. Thanks for sharing!

by Richard Spies (not verified)

Robert Frost would come down to the College once or twice a year to read his poetry to the student body. He usually packed the chapel. On one occasion, after reading several of his better known poems, he told us he would like to try out a new poem on us that he had written a few days before. Looking skyward from the pulpit he said, "It's a prayer, so it's appropriate to our surroundings". Then he recited, "Dear Lord, please forgive my little tricks on Thee, and I'll forgive Thy great big one on me". We were a quiet audience
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for about 10 seconds as we struggled to figure out what he had just said. Then there were a few giggles, then a few more, and then the chapel erupted in laughter. Those were good times.
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by John McEwan (not verified)

So wonderful to view these. Thank you for them! As poet and historian Carl Sandburg's grandniece, I would love to have similar footage of him. I did spend summertime with Uncle Carl, Aunt Lillian, and daughter, Janet and recall fondly enjoying them and the goat cheese made from their Nubian goats. Congratulations on your acquisition. We can ALL enjoy a summer stroll with Frost now! Linda Andersen Granddaughter of Esther Sandburg Wachs (Carl's sister)

by Linda Andersen (not verified)

Like John McEwan. I remember Robert Frost visiting Middlebury - I think it was my senior year - and he "said" his poems from the pulpit in the chapel. I was awe struck by the way he would begin reciting a poem, then interrupt himself and begin to tell us something about the poem (like what prompted him to write it or or when or where he had written it) and then continue "saying" the poem picking up right where he had interrupted himself. That evening was the highlight of my years at Middlebury - and he passed
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away a few months later. Debby Elliott, class of 1963
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by Debby Elliott (not verified)

Watching this film brought back my early childhood memories of Frost. Our family had a farmhouse near the Bread Loaf summer school. We spent every summer there. My grandfather, Chester Brooks was friends with Frost. They used to walk in the woods together, hunting for wild orchids - a passion they shared. My parents were also friendly with Frost, so I was introduced to him at a cocktail party one summer evening in Ripton when I was 8 years old. At age 9 my parents took our whole family to hear Frost read his poetry in the barn at
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Bread Loaf, an unforgettable event in my life. I remember being transfixed during the entire evening. At that time, he seemed like a magician to me. At age 13 I babysat for Kay Morrison's grandchildren at Homer Nobel Farm. This was after Frost had passed away, but I treasure the time I spent with Mrs. Morrison, the stories she told me about Frost, and the tour she gave me of his cabin. Of all things, I remember the tiny refrigerator he had in his cabin and the cozy corner where he sat to write. Thank you for restoring this film and sharing it!
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by Rosalind Brooks... (not verified)

The Frost film is a lively reminder of that '48 summer when Bill ('42) and I ('44) were re-painting our new-to-us Ripton farmhouse close to the Bread Loaf road -- about a mile south of Frost's summer cottage -- well memorialized in Peter Stanlis's ('42) book about Frost's rich talk with Pete, who had walked him to his cottage -- after Frost's hours of group talk in the Bread Loaf barn (where Pete was part of the kitchen help).. We saw our neighbor often. He always waved when he drove by. No, he didn't stop to chat.
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He no doubt had miles to go before he slept. For me, that chat moment had occurred 5 or 6 years earlier at the Midd Library, where, I remember, a few of us (from Beowulf Brown's English class?) sat on the floor at his feet (actually) as he rambled on in his inimitable voice. The topics are long gone, but the tone, right now, is loud in my head --. this feeling roused by seeing him ambling about his yard, looking so comfortably conversational.
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by Elizabeth Ring ... (not verified)