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Revealing Galveston's history through film




Galveston, Texas, is widely recognized as a bustling tourist destination filled with sandy beaches and vibrant nightlife. Yet beyond its immediate allure lies a deep historical tapestry that beckons exploration. In a recent episode of "Unboxing History," presented by the Galveston County Museum, we embarked on a journey through time to uncover some of the city’s most fascinating artifacts and moments that have shaped its identity.

Many museum collections include recorded video and audio. As technology changes, this footage is sometimes lost simply because the museum lacks  the equipment to play the footage. The Galveston County Museum has worked to maintain historic footage by transferring film reels into a format we can still show. In a recent episode of "Unboxing History," we discuss two unique films, from two distinct time periods.

Edison’s Galveston: Capturing History Through the Lens

The exploration begins with a remarkable piece of cinema history directly linked to the 1900 Storm—one of the deadliest natural disasters in U.S. history. Just days after the storm ravaged Galveston, a team sent by none other than Thomas Edison arrived to capture some of the first film footage in Texas. J.R. Shaw, host of the award-winning "Galveston Unscripted" podcast, shares the harrowing tale of Edison’s team who, despite the dangers of being shot under martial law, managed to film about 1,000 feet of moving pictures using their movie equipment that disguised them as surveyors.

This rare footage not only forms a crucial part of the museum’s exhibit on the 1900 Storm but also provides an authentic visual document of the sheer devastation and the resilient spirit of the people during that pivotal time. Shaw enhances this narrative by sharing a poignant letter sent to Edison describing the aftermath, giving us a deeper connection to the devastation.

A Cinematic Throwback: The Martini Theater in the 1950s

Transitioning from the grim aftermath of the 1900 Storm, the episode shifts to a lighter and more vibrant chapter of Galveston’s history with a dive into the 1950s through the lens of the Martini Movie Theater. Here, viewers are treated to vintage footage that captures the essence of Galveston during its mid-century prime. Visitors are encouraged to sit and watch the ten-minute video of Galveston in the 1950s, complete with the voiceover typical of the time. The film includes students getting out of school, families attending church, and people shopping in local businesses. 

The Heart of Galveston’s History: The County Museum

The Galveston County Museum, located in the historic courthouse at 722 Moody (or 21st Street), stands as a custodian of Galveston's heritage, with exhibitions that narrate the island's rich history through artifacts, photographs, and personal stories. Guests are encouraged to visit and engage with the past in a way that is both educational and deeply moving.

Visit and Connect with Galveston’s Past

If you're interested in exploring Galveston's history and 1900 Storm exhibit, we invite you to visit the Galveston County Museum.The museum is FREE on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, you can book a time to play the Padlock Mystery game or a private tour by contacting the museum or visiting their website.


The Unboxing History podcast brings to life the intriguing stories behind artifacts like the Edison reels of the 1900 Storm and the Martini Movie Theater reel. Through the preservation and shared memories of these historical items, we gain a deeper understanding of our past and the daily lives of the people who shaped our communities. More about the museum at www.galvestoncountyhistory.org.


Remember to tune in to Unboxing History, available on various podcast platforms, or check out the video version on the Museum’s YouTube channel or Pod NOW on i45NOW.



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