This 1915 Clip Could Be The Earliest Footage Ever Found of Louis Armstrong
(Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
If it holds up, this 8-second black-and-white clip recorded in 1915 could predate by a decade the earliest known footage of Satchmo.
A handful of jazz archivists are debating whether an 8-second film recording from 1915 is the earliest known footage of the late Louis Armstrong.
Discovered by journalist, James Karst, in Getty Images' archive, the blink-and-you'll-miss-it clip is fixed on a bustling downtown New Orleans corner. And a few seconds in, a boy, who Karst believes is a 13 or 14-year-old Satchmo at a transitional period in his young life, turns and smiles big at the camera, flashing the day's edition of the New Orleans Item, a popular afternoon paper. Karst tells NPR, "I saw it and immediately recognized that Louis Armstrong, when he was a young man in this very year, was a newsboy in New Orleans, and was one of, apparently, relatively few black newsboys in New Orleans in this location."
Then, with the guidance of Dr. Kurt Luther -- a Virginia Tech professor who specialized in identifying people in Civil War era photos -- Karst began piecing together data from early census records and matching facial features to the earliest photos of Armstrong. He confirmed that there were only a handful of black newsies in New Orleans at that time and grew more confident in his analysis of Armstrong's facial features.
Karst notes that if it is Armstrong, the clip would have captured him in a period where menial work was the focus. Armstrong had just been released from an all-black boys' reformatory -- where he'd taken his first music lesson -- and was known to have sold papers for a short time before launching his music career.
And while it's yet to be confirmed by consensus amongst jazz historians, local NOLA publications are backing him up.
Watch the clip below.