Microfilm and other adventures at the Rawlings Library

Week two of research was as the title states, an adventure.

The week before we had picked out our microfilms at the CF&I Archives and honestly, I was feeling pretty smart about it. Unfortunately, we learned the hard way that all microfilm is not created equal.



This is what the microfilm comes in. A little acid free box with the information printed on the front and the side. And here’s the thing that was frustrating for us. We didn’t realize that the microfilm we grabbed was only for the Steel Mill in Pueblo itself. Of course we didn’t know it would be frustrating, but as we started sifting through all of the employment cards we discovered that at least during the 1920’s, once you got a job at the Steel Mill, you never left. The only moves were changes in departments. This is in itself is a very interesting discovery, but not very good information for data that tracks employees across the Southwest or in Colorado. Next week we will try the records for the miners and hope that they are able to give us some better data.

I’ve never worked with microfilm before and thankfully the learning curve for the machine is low (as in low technology), but the viewer reminded me of a cross between a sewing machine and a microscope.  I took a picture of the basic function of the machine.



The microfilm reel is placed on a metal rod to the left and thread the film between two rollers that then pushes the film over the lighted glass portion and over to another reel on the other side. The plastic/rubber cog things above the glass are for focusing and zooming. The little knob on the bottom left is to move the film up and down so you can look at different portions of the film while zoomed in. There is also a little control “joystick” (for lack of better term) to control the forward, backwards, and rotation aspects of the film.

Here’s what the employment cards look like on the microfilm:


And here’s a close up of one of the cards. I’m sorry about the quality, a photo taken by a phone of bad microfilm doesn’t lend itself to the highest quality of images.




As you can see, it’s a whole bucket of fun.

After a frustrating hour of going through cards and not finding any that showed movement to anywhere than other departments of the Mill itself, Chris and I decided that for our sanity, we needed to decide on a topic for our Wiki page. The Rawlings Public Library has a lot of great things in its archives, and we quickly decided we wanted to look at an unprocessed box of things that were donated about a man named Joe Arridy.

Joe Arridy was born in Pueblo in to Syrian parents and had extremely limited mental capacities. He was infamous for being accused, convicted, and executed in 1939 for the murder and rape of a 15 year old girl who lived in Pueblo. He was very recently posthumously pardoned by Colorado because of his execution and conviction even in the face of overwhelming evidence that he was not mentally capable of being held responsible for the crimes he was accused of.


These are the boxes, with copies of old newspapers floating at the top.




With crazy newspapers like this, how could we not investigate further! This is definitely going to be our Wiki project, but there’s so much stuff, we’re not sure how we’re going to structure it.

Here are some teasers of the materials that this box had.


The trial transcript of Joe Arridy


Joe Arridy’s statement on the stand


The details of Joe Arridy’s first sanity hearing.

I don’t want to reveal too much of what we have at our fingertips because it would defeat the purpose of the wiki, but Chris and I are pretty excited about sifting through all of the box contents. We think this is the research of Robert Peske for his book Deadly Innocence?  and it’s very interesting to see the kinds of questions that get written in the margins of things.


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