ROCHESTER, N.Y. (USA TODAY) — Calling all history sleuths — there's an Amelia Earhart mystery to be solved.
Not THE Amelia Earhart mystery, of course. Eighty years after her airplane disappeared somewhere over the Pacific Ocean, no one has been able to say definitively how, or where, she died.
The puzzle at hand is more mundane, and hopefully easier to solve. Does a newly unearthed home film from the 1920s show her at the opening of the Woodward Airport in Le Roy, Genesee County, N.Y.?
There's no doubt it's the pioneering pilot Earhart standing at a podium, the only woman on a dais full of men, briefly addressing a crowd in front of a microphone with the call letters of a Syracuse, N.Y., radio station.
The only outstanding question is whether the film was taken in Le Roy or somewhere else. The local historical society mentions that Earhart visited on the occasion of the airport opening in 1928, but the film is tightly framed and makes it difficult to see the geographical context. An index card in the film canister only says "Amelia Earhart."
The film was taken by Harold Trott, a Livingston County doctor, early flying enthusiast and co-owner of Earhart's plane. It was donated to ROC Archive, a nascent regional audiovisual archive, by Mike West of Livonia, N.Y., who bought it many years ago from one of Trott's descendants.
ROC Archive founder Glenn Galbraith said he plans a screening in the near future.
"If someone could identify some of the other people there, it would really help nail down the timeframe we're looking at," he said.
The Earhart footage makes up only a few seconds of Trott's 42-minute film, which also includes footage of Charles Lindbergh in Bridgeport, Conn., as well as a number of scenes from Trott's own family.
Earhart was in Rochester a number of times, both as a working pilot and as a celebrity speaker. In a 1932 interview at the Times-Union, in the cringe-worthy fashion of the time, she was introduced as “a tall young woman whose shy charm belies the daring of her aviation exploits,” and asked what her husband thought of her flying; whether “the aviation business kept (her) from having a home life;” and whether women could fly as well as men.
“Heredity hampers most women flyers,” she responded. “We’ve been brought up to scream at the sight of a mouse. Fears of that sort are not the best thing for a woman who plans to fly. But I think considerable progress in aviation has been made recently by women.”
Her apparent final visit to Rochester was in 1936, when she “motored through, stopping only to inspect special photographic equipment designed by Eastman Kodak engineers for her 'flying laboratory.'”
That reference, uncovered in a local newspaper by one of many amateur Earhart sleuths, is suggestive to those who believe Earhart was participating in reconnaissance flights for the United States, and subsequently captured by the Japanese.
Anyone who believes they've proven the location of the Earhart footage can email firstname.lastname@example.org.