Champlin, Nathaniel Collection

Champlin, Nathaniel Collection
Credit: Nathaniel Champlin Collection, Northeast Historic Film. Mission bell dune shack owned by the Champlin family. Provincetown, Massachusetts; 1976.
      film (3538 ft) : si., col. ; Super 8
      1969 – 1979
      Provincetown, Massachusetts
      Cape Cod National Seashore
      Provincetown Municipal Airport
      Long Point, Provincetown, Massachusetts
      Newport, Rhode Island
      The collection consists of a total of 3,538 feet of amateur super 8mm film from the late 1960s-1970s, shot primarily by Nathaniel Champlin. The films document his family and neighbors who lived in the dune shacks in the Peaked Hill Bars Historic District of the Cape Cod National Seashore. They take place mostly in Provincetown, Massachusetts and include some footage taken in Newport, Rhode Island. Coverage of family recreation includes boating, fishing, sailing, scuba diving, snorkeling, swimming, water skiing, and other summertime activities around Provincetown, Massachusetts. Champlin recorded many aerial images of the dune shacks and the Cape Cod National Seashore, in addition to historical events such as the Newport, Rhode Island Tall Ships Festival held in 1976 to commemorate America’s Bicentennial. Of particular interest are the reels documenting daily life in the Provincetown dune shacks and the rich history of the fishing community, such as the "Blessing of the Fleet" tradition.

      Nathaniel L. Champlin was born in Newport, Rhode Island in 1919.  As a teenager, Nathaniel learned from John Howard Benson in his art studio and studied photography, eventually taking pictures for the yearbook in both high school and college. In 1939 he received his BA from Pratt Institute in Brooklyn.

      During World War II he participated in the Italian Campaign and Anzio Invasion as a 2nd Lt. in the army. Under the GI Bill, Nathaniel received his Master's and Doctorate from Columbia University. He later became a Professor at Wayne State University College of Education in Detroit, and taught art and photography at Cranbook Art Academy.

      In 1948, while fishing with friends in the Peaked Hill Bars area of Cape Cod, Nathaniel discovered a shack which had been built in the early 1930s by Jake Loring, the operator of Loring’s Taxi, and carpenter Dominic Avila. Dominic had built the shack with wood salvaged from a 100-year old home he was paid to demolish in Truro, Massachusetts.

      When Nathaniel purchased the shack from Dominic in 1953 it was derelict and he spent the next few years making repairs and salvaging building materials from houses that were being torn down in Brooklyn, NY. The shack became known as “Mission Bell” for a bell that Nathaniel obtained from a one-room schoolhouse in Michigan, and suspended on old telephone poles outside of their Cape Cod home.

      Nathaniel married Mildred Kautto Champlin and they had three children: Maia Champlin Peck, Andrea Champlin, and Paul Champlin.  He began filming on super 8mm shortly after the birth of his son Paul. Over the next several decades, Nathaniel shot and edited many films which document his family's activities in Provincetown. He also made films on scuba diving and bottle collecting which were exhibited in schools and other educational settings.

      Nathaniel died on March 16, 2015 at the age of 95, at which time his family still occupied the Mission Bell dune shack in Cape Cod.

        Authorization to reuse and/or reproduce must be obtained from Northeast Historic Film. See for more information.

        10 Items in this collection