'Let's Explore Ohio' films: Ohio at Play and Industrial Ohio, 1938

Wednesday, March 20, 2024

In 1935, the Standard Oil Company of Ohio (SOHIO) launched a campaign promoting its home state called 'Let's Explore Ohio.' It started with a series of newspaper ads about Ohio's history. Various publicity efforts under the 'Let's Explore Ohio' banner lasted in some form or another into the 1960s with minimal branding and rarely a mention of SOHIO's products.  

In 1938, SOHIO commissioned Escar Motion Pictures Inc., a Cleveland-based film producer, to create motion pictures for the campaign. That same year, W. Ward Marsh, a film columnist for the Cleveland Plain Dealer, wrote about the "amazingly rapid" growth of advertising films "since the advent of the talkies." (Talkies is an informal term for films with sound that became popular after 1927) In that same article, he touted the quality of the 'Let's Explore Ohio' film series. He wrote of the films:

"They were made by the Standard Oil Co. of Ohio, and SOHIO isn't selling oil this time, but it is 'selling Ohio.' That puts the 'advertising film' in an entirely different light, for other than the opening and concluding titles, there is no advertising of SOHIO products...The scripts are being written by Dave Adam of Standard Oil Co. The subjects are well-handled, the editing is well-done, and the story is told as simply as possible...SOHIO is to be congratulated for these nice records of the state preserved in celluloid and made available to practically any group asking for them."

Bob Welchans and Frank Siedel worked on the 'Let's Explore Ohio' films for Escar in 1938. They would later go on to be major players at Cinecraft Productions. Cinecraft's archive landed at Hagley in 2019. Among the thousands of cans of film in the collection, we found two copies from the 1938 'Let's Explore Ohio' series: Ohio at Play in 2020 and Industrial Ohio in 2023. Both are available for viewing via our online archives and YouTube. You can also watch them here:


Kevin Martin is the Chief Curator of Library Collections at Hagley Museum and Library