This home movie captures scenes of the Great Houston Flood of 1935, primarily of the flooded downtown district, including Main, Milam, Prairie, and Texas Streets. Houstonians are seen rowing canoes down these metropolitan streets, alongside submerged storefronts and homes. Brown then includes before and after shots of the downtown district. The flood began on December 6, 1935, with a downpour that went on for two days, causing massive flooding of Buffalo and White Oak Bayous. Eight people were killed, and the Port of Houston was shut down for 8 months as its docks were submerged, the ship channel was clogged with mud and debris, and miles of railroad tracks were uprooted. Twenty-five blocks of downtown were underwater, as were 100 residential blocks. Property damage was estimated at $2.5 million, approximately $42 million in 2012 dollars. The damage and loss of life caused by this flood resulted in the creation of the Harris County Flood Control District, legislation passed by the 45th Texas Legislature in 1937.
Orris Dorr Brown was born in 1890 in Henderson, Texas. He married Edna Myra Webb in 1923, and together they traveled domestically and abroad teaching cake decorating techniques using edible sugar. Brown became interested in filmmaking in the early 1930s and began filming scenery and sites as he traveled. Texas became the focus of many of his films, and he traveled extensively throughout the state to document historical figures and locations, most notably scenes of Uncle Jeff Hamilton, Sam Houston's personal slave (watch this film in the TAMI library). In 1936, Brown filed for a U.S. patent for a Moving Picture Machine through which to view films. He moved into professional filmmaking as an employee of Empire and Superior Studios in the 1940s and 50s to film full-length pictures. Orris D. Brown was a Shriner and a Free Mason. He passed away in 1965.
The digital preservation of this collection was made possible by a grant to the Texas Archive of the Moving Image and the Houston Public Library from the Texas State Library and Archives Commission and the U.S. Institute of Museum and Library Services.
The Orris Brown films, and many other interesting films about Texas, are available on the Houston Public Library Houston Area Digital Archives website.