We have spent the summer at Hagley continuing to process films, still images, and paper from the Cinecraft collection. One of the many surprising discoveries is that some of the films in the collection were not produced by Cinecraft.
For a company in the business of making films, it makes sense that they would acquire prints from other companies. Older film prints could be used for footage in new productions or used for research in producing films for specific clients. In the case of Cinecraft, when they acquired another Cleveland-based company General Picture Film in 1970, that purchase included the General Pictures archive, which is another possible source for what we have found.
While the bulk of the films in the collection were produced by Cinecraft, the non-Cinecraft content, while small by comparison, is historically significant and has been the source of a few exciting discoveries. So not only do we have a tremendous archive of films produced by Cinecraft, we also have films they accumulated from other sources during their six decades of producing motion picture films.
The Heart of Cleveland is the most significant non-Cinecraft film we have found so far. A silent film produced for the Cleveland Electric Illuminating Company in 1924, we have found no records of this film’s existence anywhere else. It’s likely a “lost” film that was waiting for someone to find it in the Cinecraft archive. An estimated 75 to 90% of films made during the silent film era (before 1929) have been lost to history. The Heart of Cleveland is not the first “lost” film we have found at Hagley but it is always a thrill to find one!
Here is The Heart of Cleveland (see additional information and synopsis below):
The only references from contemporary sources about The Heart of Cleveland come from a 1925 article titled “Education at Five Cents per Capita” in a publication simply called Business published by the Burroughs Adding Machine Company of Detroit, Michigan. The article touts the effectiveness of the film and claims that from the time of its release in the fall of 1924 to May 1925 nearly a half million people saw it in Cleveland commercial theaters and other venues. It then provides valuable insight into the film’s distribution, technical considerations, and breakdown of attendance figures. You can read the full article here.
The version of the film in the Cinecraft archive is a 16mm negative copy. We guess that it was transferred from an original 35mm nitrate negative. If that is indeed what happened, we are grateful to whoever made that decision as all of the nitrate copies were likely destroyed. Nitrate is notoriously flammable.
The Cleveland Illuminating Company was a long-time client of Cinecraft which is another potential reason that they had the film in their archive. The aerial footage of Cleveland alone would have made it a great candidate to re-use footage for future productions. However, as far as we know, Cinecraft never used the footage.
We would be thrilled to hear from anyone who might have more information about the film or the places it depicts.
This is the first of many updates about the Cinecraft collection at Hagley. The paper portion of the Cinecraft Productions collection is now fully processed and a finding aid is now available online. We have also posted the start of our digital collection which includes about 100 films as well as scripts and still images. Check it out at digital.hagley.org/cinecraft
Cinecraft is still in business and specializes in eLearning and training & development projects for a national clientele and continues to develop various motion picture projects for business and non-profit clients. For more information, please visit www.cinecraft.com.
Summary of The Heart of Cleveland, produced by Rothacker Film Mfg, Co. (1924)
Film sponsored by the Cleveland Electric Illuminating Company promoting expanded electric services beyond urban areas often referred to as rural electrification. The film opens on a farm family outside of Cleveland without electricity and other 'modern conveniences.' While eating dinner, the family is interrupted by a man in an airplane who makes an emergency landing in their farm field. The pilot joins the family for dinner and then shows them his radio. The pilot then offers to take the farmer's children to Cleveland to teach them about electricity. The next day, the pilot and children fly to Cleveland. This part of the film includes aerial shots of Cleveland. Upon arrival in the city, the group goes to the pilot's sister's home where they are given a tour of a home with electricity. After seeing the many electrical appliances, the pilot takes the children to the Cleveland Illuminating Company Building at 75 Public Square where they are given a tour of offices. They then proceed to the Company's Lake Shore Station - the "world's largest steam-electric" plant -- where they are given a tour of the facility with detailed descriptions of the many facets of the power-producing operation. The film closes with the children touring various industrial facilities using electricity to do such things as bottling milk, loading iron ore, making clothes, melting steel, conveying steel billets, rolling steel bars, making automobile parts, arc-welding, manufacturing brick, making light bulbs, and printing newspapers. The film ends with the farm family in their newly electrified home courtesy of the expanded rural electric service of the Cleveland Electric Illuminating Company.
Kevin J. Martin is the Curator of Archives and the Andrew W. Mellon Curator of Audiovisual and Digital Collections at Hagley Museum and Library.