African-American History

Staff Favorites: “Behind the Scene’s At Hutzler’s”

As we’ve previously pointed out, choosing a favorite thing among millions of archival materials stored at MdHS is a practically absurd task. While this writer skews toward more modern fare, say for example photography by local heroes Paul Henderson, Robert Kniesche, or Joseph Kohl, it’s still a Sophie’s choice.

Finding my arm twisted vigorously by the Society of American Archivists under the premise of American Archives Month, I have settled on one piece that’s long been especially close to my heart. A film from 1938, produced by Baltimore’s own Stark Films, “Behind the Scene’s at Hutzler’s.”

Special thanks to gracious friend of film, archives and MdHS, Dan Deacon for allowing us to include his music in this edited version of “Behind the Scene’s at Hutzler’s.”


The film was commissioned by the department store titan in celebration of its 50th anniversary. The second title card reads, “Watch for your own picture,” because the film was intended to be shown to Hutzler’s workers. This was a company that cared for its employees. It’s message was not, you can be working harder or more efficiently. It seems it was made to celebrate the company and the people who made it all possible, from the top executives to the delivery drivers. It feels like no one was left out. Well, almost.

One of the first things you’ll notice in the footage is what a large operation Hutzler’s once was. Let’s agree to omit the details of their later sprawl into the counties of Maryland—it’s too depressing to recount. But this 1938 view of a company 50 years in existence is plenty heartbreaking on it’s own. So much to lament.

Look at how exquisitely dressed the workforce was. People knew how to dress back then!

Look at the size of the workforce. It’s huge and it indicates how many people were once walking around on the sidewalks of Howard Street. How many people traveled to this block by foot, streetcar, or otherwise. Anyone familiar with the area can appreciate how this must have felt in the 1930s and ‘40s. Maybe one day the crowds will return.

Look at the kitchen staff and the lunchroom patrons. Notice where the black faces are and where they are not. These are facts captured in an industrial film. It either breaks your heart or it doesn’t. This is our history.

Notice the way everyone used to smoke cigarettes and eat at the same time. It’s absolutely repulsive and yet somehow sublimely beautiful.

Workers had time for naps and card games and ring toss during breaks. Carpenters competed against painters. Oh the humanity! While this is making something of a comeback in the tech industry, what do you have time for on your lunch break?

“Behind the Scene’s At Hutzler’s” is a beautiful film – you only get to see a little over seven minutes, about half of the complete running time, here. To see the rest you will have to visit the H. Furlong Baldwin Library or wait for us to screen the film in its entirety, though there are no current plans to do that.  It was preserved thanks to the Hutzler company for thinking to maintain their own archive and thanks to a National Film Preservation grant obtained by MdHS in 2003.

A note on Stark Films

Stark Films was located at 537 North Howard Street. It was started in 1927 by Milton Stark, a City College graduate. Little is known about the company today. More is known about the man responsible for it.

Obituary for Milton Stark, Baltimore Sun, April 29, 1976.

Obituary for Milton Stark, Baltimore Sun, April 29, 1976.


Milton Stark got his start in the industrial film business making training films for milk truck drivers. This led to an association with the American Dairy Association for which he made other documentaries. In 1931 he made “The Making of a Newspaper” for, or in partnership with, the Sunpapers. A seasoned producer by the 1950s, he made “Baltimore—World Port” in 1952 and “Admiral in the Making” in 1956 for the Naval Academy.

His greatest accomplishments, ones that made him a nationally recognized television producer, were a pair of films he made during the Olympics in the 1960s. “Hold High the Torch” (1961) was shot at the 1960 Olympics in Rome. “The World Is One” (1964) was shot at the winter games in Austria. Both were shown on TV nationally, and locally by WMAR.

According to his obituary in the Baltimore Sun, “By 1961, Mr. Stark had produced 125 films….” Stark died in Bal Harbour, Florida in 1976. (Joe Tropea)

Read more about Hutzler’s:

The (M)ad Men and Women of Hutzler’s

Hutzler’s: Where Baltimore Shops by Michael J. Lisicky.


4 Responses to “Staff Favorites: “Behind the Scene’s At Hutzler’s””

  1. Ah remember hutzlers on howard st.wasnt it on n.e. corner of saratoga..or lexinton st. Ah believe…long time ago…ma mom worked at hoshel kohns..thier cometitor. Same block ah think.

    Posted by mike palmere | 21. Oct, 2016, 6:24 am
  2. Correction..ah nean the s.w. corner of howard st…either lexinton AG think it was…

    Posted by mike palmere | 21. Oct, 2016, 6:38 am
  3. Ah remember the camel cigarette sign on howard st that blew smoke rings on s. W. Corner of balto st & howard.

    Posted by mike palmere | 21. Oct, 2016, 7:04 am
  4. Does ANYBODY.. remember the beautiful electric sign on the roof at n.e. corner of broadway and fayette st. For American beer…it was red white and blue and when was somethin ..great electric sign.

    Posted by mike palmere | 21. Oct, 2016, 7:07 am

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