Henry Howse

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(b. Sunningdale, Berkshire **/**/1870 – d. **/**/1949?). Photographer, Cameraman. Henry Howse was born into the home of a railway platelayer/wood and coal merchant who was also a Methodist lay preacher. For some time he worked as a baker’s apprentice and then joined The Salvation Army, where he first became a stationary clerk in the publishing department. He held the rank of Captain when he married Lieutenant Elizabeth (Bessie) Charlotte Palmer on 12 December 1892 at Penge, in the London borough of Bromley. By 1897 he had transferred to the section that produced magic lantern slides for use at evangelistic meetings. In fact, in the 1901 Census his occupation is given as photographer and when, in 1903, The Salvation Army established a cinematograph department, he became its first cameraman under Major (later Brigadier) Frederick Cox. Besides shorts depicting William Booth on his journeys throughout Great Britain and even to the Holy Land in March 1905, there were segments on a variety of subjects, from London street scenes and a tour of the Zoological Gardens, to activities at a land colony at Hadleigh and an open-air meeting at Whitechapel Road. There were even some fictional shorts, which drew on themes borrowed from popular commercially produced films. Howse’s daughter, Mabel, remembered acting in one such film, entitled The New Minister, or The Drunkard’s Daughter. At these shows Major Cox was the lecturer and Adjutant Howse the operator. Much of the archival footage used in the documentary William Booth, God’s soldier (1978) by W. Hugh Baddeley was probably shot by Howse.

Howse claimed to have built his own film camera, with which he filmed Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee in 1897. The family may have been running a framing business in Penge in 1902 and there are also as yet unconfirmed suggestions that he shot some of Sir Thomas Lipton’s unsuccessful attempts to win the America’s Cup. There is more certainty about him having filmed the visit of the Prince and Princess of Wales to India in 1905-06. In an article written for Stage & Cinema of 24 February 1917, Howse states that he had “wandered among thirty-five nations”, had been captured by Bedouin robbers, spent time in a Turkish jail (1906) and visited both Tibet and China. Strangely, there is no mention of The Salvation Army. He also writes that he accompanied Shackleton on board the Nimrod to the North Pole. In fact, Shackleton was not on board when, in 1911, Captain R.V. Webster purchased the ship and equipped it for a voyage to the Arctic. Howes was employed through the Tyler Film Company to film “any matters of interest” and was accompanied by his son, William. The journey was not a success. Webster departed before the voyage had been completed, Howes obtained little useable footage and in 1913 the whole enterprise ended in a court case.

By 1915 Howes was back in Great Britain and produced at least two shorts for his own company. The Stronger Will and Meg of the Slums, were both released in January of the following year and both starred Helena Millais. Apparently they were not successful enough to keep him in England, for in that same year (1916) he joined the newly established African Film Productions in Johannesburg. Together with Joseph Albrecht he shot A Story of the Rand (1916) for Lorimer Johnston and followed this with An Artist’s Inspiration (1916) and The Silver Wolf (1916) for the same director. For the latter he also wrote the screenplay. These were followed by Harold M. Shaw’s The Voortrekkers (1916) on which he was one of four cameramen. In 1917 Stage & Cinema reported that he was the Works Manager at AFP and later that year it announced that he was the producer and editor of the African Mirror newsreel. However, after Harold M. Shaw’s feud with I.W. Schlesinger, Howse was one of those who left with him for Cape Town, joining cinematographer Ernest G. Palmer (his wife’s nephew) as ”general photographic expert” to work on Shaw’s The Rose of Rhodesia and Thoroughbreds All, both in 1918. When Shaw returned to England, Howse and Palmer left as well.

On 25 November 1919 he arrived in the United States, stating his occupation as “cinematographist” and giving the name of his son, W.H. Howse of in Penge as his nearest relative. This presumably means that he was estranged from his wife, who was still alive and frequently stayed with her family in Topeka, Kansas or with Ernest Palmer, first in New York and then in Los Angeles. However, before that, on 31 May 1919, it had been announced in The Moving Picture World that Henry Howse would be joining Harma Productions in New York as general manager. Harma Photoplays was an English company that produced some 23 films between 1917 and 1921. Howse would presumably be responsible for acquiring commercial outlets for these films, but it is not known how long he remained with the firm. After that we lose track of him until 1925, when he turns up as cameraman for India To-day, made by T.H. Baxter, Secretary of the Missionary Film Committee. In 1929 he photographed another Baxter documentary, this time on Palestine. (FO)


The Romance of the Cinematograph – London Magazine, March 1908

The Evening Post, Wellington, New Zealand, 23 April 1913

Stage & Cinema, 24 February 1917

Rand Daily Mail, 20 April 1918

The War Cry, 5 April 1969

The Salvationist, 15 May 2004

Bottomore, Stephen - From theatre manager to globetrotting cameraman: the strange career of Charles Rider Noble (1854-1914) (Film History, Vol. 24)

Cox, F. Hayter - He was there!: the story of Brigadier Cox - armour-bearer to William Booth

Rapp, Dean - The British Salvation Army, the early film industry and urban working-class adolescents, 1897-1918 (Twentieth Century British History, Vol. 7, No. 2)

Wiggins, Arch - The history of The Salvation Army, Volume 4 (1886-1904)



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