Harry, Auguste "Henry" TETT

(Londres, 1865-San Francisco, 1954)

Jean-Claude SEGUIN


Charles Tett épouse Sarah [Tett]. Descendance :


Les origines (1865-1895)

Fils d'un homme d'affaires et d'une professeur d'anglais, Harry Tett voit le jour en Angleterre. La famille est recensée à Londres en 1871. Après le décès de son père, la famille s'installe à Lyon où elle est recensée, au 38 cours Morand, en 1881. Alors qu'il est employé de banque (1885), il s'engage dans l'armée, à Lyon (11/08/1886) pour cinq ans au 1er régiment étranger où il obtient le grade de caporal le 9 juillet 1889 et sa naturalisation le 22 juin 1891. Ayant reçu son certificat de bonne conduite, il est libéré du service militaire le 11 août 1891. Il habite (10/08/1893) à Lyon (20, rue Mulet) jusqu'à son mariage, en avril 1894, et s'installe alors 7, place St-Pothin (05/05/1894). Il exercer alors la profession de comptable.

Le Cinématographe Lumière (1896-1897)

Alors que son épouse est enceinte de leur deuxième enfant, il est engagé par la maison Lumière pour s'occuper du cinématographe aux États-Unis. Il déclare aux autorités militaires qu'il "va voyager l'Amérique" (15/07/1896). Il quitte Le Havre, à bord de la Bretagne en compagnie d'autres opérateurs Lumière - Arthur BouliechJoseph Millet et Édouard Porta - et arrive à New York le 27 juillet 1896. L'inauguration a lieu le 14 septembre 1896 au Schiller Theatre sous la responsabilité du manager Robert Blei. On peut penser que dès le début, c'est Henry Tett qui tourne la manivelle comme il continue de le faire, à Chicago, quelques semaines plus tard :

"Eeet ees simple as a baby, I put ze peectures in so and turn ze crank so, and you see, ah, wonderful, b-e-a-utiful things on ze big curtain at ze front. That is all. I cannot explain him better."
This is the description of the cinematographe, as given by M. Tett, the representative of Lumiere, the inventor. His description of the marvelous little machine is hardly fair because nobody ever fully understood the mental and physical makeup of a baby, while the cinematographe is easily described.

Chicago Daily Tribune, Chicago, 5 octobre 1896, p. 9. 

L'accent français que lui prête le journaliste est-il aussi prononcé lorsque l'on sait qu'Henry Tett est né en Angleterre où il a vécu une partie de son enfance ? Comme il en a l'obligation, il se déclare résident à Chicago à partir du 7 octobre 1896. Par ailleurs, il est probable que l'opérateur soit resté à son poste jusqu'à la fin de l'année 1896 où dans les premiers semaines de 1897 lorsque les séances prennent fin. 

On ne sait si Henry Tett est alors rentré à Lyon où si son épouse est venue le rejoindre. Il faut attendre quelques mois pour avoir de nouveau des nouvelles de l'opérateur. À la fin du mois d'août 1897, il intervient au théâtre Orpheum de San Francisco où il est responsable du cinématographe Lumière dans un spectacle de Variétés conduit par Stanley Whiting. Tout se déroule normalement jusqu'au 5 septembre où une imprudence va provoquer un début d'incendie. Henry Tett explique ainsi ce qu'il s'est produit :

H. Sett [sic], the operator of the cimematograph [sic] projecting apparatus, was terribly burned, his hands and arms up to the elbows being seared through the skin, his face blistered by the heat, and the hair of this mustache, eyebrows and head singed to the roots. Immediately after the accident he was taken to the Baldwin Pharmacy, under the Baldwin Hotel.
Sett was suffering such acute pain he could not speak coherently, and the first thing given him was a soothing opiate. Then a physician dressed the burns. The hands and arms were dipped in a solution and held there till the pain subsided, after which they were swathed in bandages, and Sett's face covered with a salve to stop the scalding sensation.
As he moved about the burned hair fell upon his shoulders. His clothes were scorched, particularly about the knees and the front of his vest.
It was nearly two hours after the accident before Sett was able to tell of his experience in the fire that flashed up about him.
"I went up to the machine to prepare it for the exhibition," said he. "The apparatus is placed in the gallery over the main entrance, where calcium lights are usually kept. To keep its light from illuminating the house during the exhibition a frame-work just eight by ten feet was built around the cinematograph and covered with light-colored canvas on the outside and black muslin inside. As I passed into the dark house I lifted the covering, and like a flash it flew into flames. I grabbed at it and pulled it down and tried as hard as I could to put out the blazes.
"I didn't know what I was doing. It excited me and I forgot everything but the fire. Now I think I must have been frantic. There was an uproar and tremendous noise, but I was hardly conscious of what the people were doing, or what was going on about me, only I wanted to extinguish the fire. That was my one thought, and I felt the work was left to me. How long it took me to put out the fire I haven't the faintest idea. When it was all out I ran downstairs and got into the crowd to escape from the theatre with the people. That was the first time I thought of danger or trying to escape, and then all the danger was over.
"You can understand my condition when I didn't know I was burned until then. It was only when I got to the door that I began to feel the pain, and on looking at my hands I saw they sere horribly burned. The I came here to the drug store with friends.
"In my excitement I must have inhaled the flames, as my lips are so burned I can scarcely move them. The fire started from the bottom on the screen, and it is my opinion it was started by somebody throwing a cigarette or cigar stump against the muslin."

The Examiner, San Francisco, lundi (matin) 6 septembre 1897, p. 1.

Des dessins inquiétants illustrent l'incident.

san francisco 1896 cinematographe lumiere
The Examiner, San Francisco, lundi (matin) 6 septembre 1897, p. 1.

De fait, The Examiner joue sur la peur ce que va dénoncer l'autre journal local, The San Francisco Call qui intitule son article "Made much ado about nothing" qui commence ainsi :

Yellow journalism essayed to make a holocaust of the little blaze which occurred at the Orpheum Sunday night and tried in vain to find a few dead and maimed.
The truth of the occurrence, however, can be told in a few words. During the operation of the cinematograph Henry Tett, who was handing the machine, by accident placed a lighted candle too close to one of the films, and, as it was made of celluloid, a flash of light marked its destruction. The flame, brief as it was, communicated to a few yards of cloth draped around the stand on which the machine rested, and the thin material began to burn. Tett, with cool deliberation, took the burning fabric in his hands and extinguished the flames.
With the first flash of the film several excitable people started for the exit. A cry of "fire" from the gallery started a few more people toward the safe open air, but in a moment they were assured that they were in no danger and the "headlong rush" and "fire panic" was at an end.

The San Francisco Call, San Francisco, mardi 7 septembre 1897, p. 8.

Dans l'incendie, l'appareil cinématographique semble avoir souffert comme l'évoque le San Francisco Chronicle :

The machine was considerably damaged and has been taken out and no attempt will be made to replace it as a part of the performance. Aside from the damage to the machine the only other damage suffered was the breaking of the glass in the front doors.

San Francisco Chronicle, San Francisco, lundi 6 septembre 1897, p. 10.

Grâce à son matricule, on sait qu'il a déclaré sa résidence à San Francisco le 22 octobre 1897.

Et après... (1898-1954)

On ignore ce que devient Henri Tett dans les mois suivants, mais une brève publiée en mars 1899 montre que la situation de l'opérateur est dramatique :

Worked to death
The Mother of a Family os Small Children Suddenly Taken Away
In order to save herself, her husband and her three little children from starvation, Mrs Angela Tett of 12B Oak Grove avenue worked herself to death.
At noon yesterday while engaged in finishing a dress on her sewing machine she sank back into her chair and breathed her last.
When Coronert Hill arrived at the residence he found the bereaved husband, Henry Tett, almost distracted, and the children, the oldest of whom is only four years of age, hanging over the dead body and begging her to speak to them.
The family came from Niles, in this State, three months ago. Unable to secure employment the husband performed the household duties while his wife, an expert dressmaker, worked for the small pittance that barely kept soul and body together. She was only 29 years old, but her short life had been one of toil and sorrow.
There was not a dime in the house when death visited the self-sacrificing wife and mother, and unless charitable hands are interposed she will be buried as a pauper by the city undertaker.

The San Francisco Call, San Francisco, dimanche 5 mars 1899, p. 9.

Il réside à San Francisco au moins depuis 1904 où il est encore avec sa fille Juliette lors du recensement de 1910. C'est également le cas au cours des années suivantes : il figure comme décorateur dans le recensement de 1930. Toujours installé à San Francisco en 1940, il y décède en 1954.