"Let Dynamite Do It!": The oldest DuPont film in Hagley's collection

Video of the Month
Monday, October 22, 2018

The DuPont Company was among the first companies to use motion pictures to market and promote their business. The earliest examples came in 1911 when the company used a short film called "Farming With Dynamite" to promote the use of explosives to clear fields for planting and related land management tasks. The film was used as part of a DuPont marketing campaign where salesmen demonstrated their product being used in various locations throughout the U.S in coordination with local businesses.

Salesmen would advertise upcoming dynamite demonstrations in the local newspaper -- an event that would no doubt draw a fair share of people simply interested in seeing things blow up. In conjunction with the demo, a local theater would show "Farming With Dynamite" as part of their daily motion picture shows that could be advertised along with the demo. Below is an ad from The San Bernardino County Sun from 1912 showing an example:

Unfortunately, as far as I can tell, no copies of "Farming With Dynamite" survive. It likely suffered the same fate as most films made prior to 1930; it was either burned or discarded due to the combustible nature of nitrate film. As many of 90% of all films made prior to 1930 are considered lost. "Safety film," as it came to be known, on stable acetate became the standard for all 16mm film starting in the 1930's and for 35mm in the 1950's.  

Fortunately, Hagley does have one copy of a pre-1930 DuPont film titled "Letting Dynamite Do It" distributed by the company starting in 1926. It is one of a series of films that DuPont made available for free through the company's publicity department. A section in the DuPont Magazine from 1927 titled 'Question and Answers' provides a full list of films available during that time: 

We recently digitized "Letting Dynamite Do It." The film is silent and includes descriptive titles throughout. It seems our copy is incomplete as you will notice as the film ends. This film currently stands as the oldest DuPont motion picture film in the Hagley collection:

For more information about the Hagley Library film collection, please contact us at askhagley@hagley.org.


A newspaper article from The Ogden Standard (7 July 1913) had the following: "Among the first to derive advertising results directly through the use of moving pictures were the DuPont Company, the International Harvester Company, and Pacific Coast Borax Company, and the Larkin Soap Company." In that article, they reference the campaign surrounding 'Farming for Dynamite" as "the most completely arranged and effective."

The 90% loss rate of films made prior to 1930 is well known and accepted among film preservationists. See Library of Congress "A Study of the Current State of American Film Preservation"

The 1926 first distribution date for  "Lettering Dynamite Do It" comes from a search of the Newspapers.com database.

The film titled "The Story of Dynamite" is another known survivor from the list published in the DuPont Magazine in 1927. The original resides at the U.S. National Archives and can be seen on YouTube. 

Kevin J. Martin is the Andrew W. Mellon Curator of Audiovisual and Digital Collections at Hagley Museum and Library.