Charles S. Houston Collection
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Collection Identifier(s)
[Charles S. Houston--home movies], 1515
[Charles S. Houston--home movies] First American Karakoram Expedition, 1648
K2 1953 Lecture Film, 1723
Exploring the Heights, 1911
Credit: Charles S. Houston home movies, Charles S. Houston Collection, Northeast Historic Film. Admiring the summit while resting atop a peak on K-2, 1938.
Credit: Excerpt from Charles S. Houston home movies, Charles S. Houston Collection, Northeast Historic Film. Exploring human physiology in a high altitude simulator, 1949.
Primary Format and Extent
film (31,725 ft.) : si. and sd., b&w and col. ; 16 mm.
Collection Date Range
1925 - 1985
The Charles S. Houston Collection consists of 74 reels of film shot between 1925 and the 1980s. The bulk of the films are from 1930 to 1963 and are records of Houston’s various mountain climbing expeditions. The main four expeditions documented in this collection are Nanda Devi in India (1936), K2 in Pakistan (1938), Mount Everest in Nepal (1950), and a tragic return to K2 (1953) that would be his final expedition. There is also a significant amount of footage documenting family activities from summer vacations at Honnedaga Lake in upstate New York to Thanksgiving and Christmas celebrations with friends and family. Seven reels in the collection concern Houston’s tenure as the first country director of India for the Peace Corps in 1963. Houston was also an avid traveler and the collection includes a considerable amount of footage from his family’s travels around the globe, primarily in South and Southeast Asia. The collection contains a few commercial films about Houston’s, and other, mountain climbing expeditions, a medical film about an artificial heart designed by Houston, and a film produced by the U.S. Navy to document Operation Everest, an experiment conducted by Houston to explore human physiology in a high altitude simulator.
Biographical/Historical Notes
The creator and donor Charles S. Houston was an avid mountain climber and doctor who became an authority on the effects of high altitudes on human physiology. Born in 1913 in Manhattan, New York, he attended Harvard University and was a member of the Harvard Mountaineering Club. Though he has climbed mountains from Mt. Crillon in Alaska to Mt. Everest itself, his most famous expeditions were on K-2 in Pakistan. The first was in 1938, when he was the leader of the first American expedition on the mountain. He returned to the mountain in 1953 as part of an expedition that has become legendary for both heroism and tragedy when fellow climber Art Gilkey developed blood clots and the team gave up their ascent in an unsuccessful attempt to save his life. Houston and his fellow team members from his many expeditions have written several books about their exploits. He earned his Ph.D. from the College of Physicians and Surgeons at Columbia University in 1939 and quickly became a leading expert in the effects of high altitudes on human physiology. In 1946, Houston was the head of a famous study on the subject for the U.S. Navy entitled Operation Everest. In 1980, he authored the seminal text on the subject entitled "Going High," known as "Going Higher: Oxygen, Man and Mountains" in later editions. WorldCat

From 1962 to 1965, Houston was recruited to become the first Peace Corps country director for India and was instrumental in creating a Doctor’s Peace Corps. He remained active in the fields of mountaineering and medicine until his death in 2009.

Amateur, Documentary
Northeast Historic Film
The Collection is open for research.
Condition Governing Reproduction and Use
Authorization to reuse and/or reproduce must be obtained from Northeast Historic Film. See for more information.
Items in this collection: 60
Showing 1 - 10 of 60:
1) [Charles S. Houston—home movies] Reel 1
Delaware River. Footage of the river. Several shots of people in canoes, alone and in pairs. A group of rowers taking a break along the side of the river. Footage of a man in the wa...more
2) [Oscar R. Houston—home movies] Reel 2
Bash Bish Falls State Park in Mt. Washington, MA. Footage of a waterfall. A shot of two men in the surrounding rocks. Footage of a boy climbing up a fallen tree and over some rocks....more
3) [Crillon Mountain footage] Reel 3
Footage of men loading their gear onto a train. Scenes of men on a boat. Shots of the mountain landscape from the water. Footage of men carrying a canoe across a rocky path between t...more
4) [Crillon Mountain footage] Reel 4
Footage of three men hiking through the snow interspersed with shots of the surrounding mountains. Several men ski the slopes. A man sets a still camera and then rushes to join four m...more
5) [Oscar R. Houston—home movies] Reel 5
Footage of men and women diving off a higher and lower diving board into a pool of water. Several shots of people playing and swimming in the pool while others sit on the edge. A shot...more
6) [Oscar R. Houston—home movies] Reel 6
Intertitle: “CAMP 2 “THE ELYSIAN FIELDS” ON THE MORAINE OF WEST FORAKER GLACIER.” Shots of snow covered mountain peaks. Men take in the view. One man takes a picture. Intertitle: “...more
7) [Oscar R. Houston—home movies] Reel 7
Footage of people in small sailboats on Honnedaga Lake, NY. Shots of people on the dock along the lakefront. A shot of a sailboat. People on the docks. Two women exit a small sailbo...more
8) [Oscar R. Houston—home movies] Reel 8
Footage of a riverbank shot from a boat on the river including buildings, several local people washing and swimming in the river, boats passing by and shots of temples. A man sits next...more
9) [Oscar R. Houston—home movies] Reel 9
A shot of a crowd of men and a few pack animals near an automobile. A shot of several men rolling a log out of the water with poles. A local man weaves a basket. Footage of large bir...more
10) [Oscar R. Houston—home movies] Reel 10
Footage of a riverbank shot from the river including shots of buildings, temples, boats passing by, ferries unloading people on the shore, locals on the bank and in the river working, s...more
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