In 2019, Hagley acquired an extensive collection of films from Cinecraft Productions, an industrial film producer founded in 1939 that continues in business today. Among the thousands of motion pictures in the production company’s collection, we found a handful of films promoting the city of Cleveland.
Cleveland's current population, about 372,000 people, is much smaller than the city's population a century ago. The peak population year for Cleveland was 1950 when its population was 915,000 and the city was the seventh largest in the United States. A mass movement of its citizens to the suburbs in the 1950s and 1960s led to economic decline in Cleveland. From the 1950s through the 1970s, Cleveland boosterism tried to put a rosy tint on a declining city to encourage outsiders to make the city their new home. Marketing Cleveland became necessary for businesses that equated population loss with revenue loss.
Cinecraft films, particularly those made for the Cleveland Electric Illuminating Company (CEI), demonstrate how certain companies sold the city as a place to live and do business. CEI had used film as early as the 1920s to promote their company and the metropolis. The Heart of Cleveland, a silent movie from 1924 that we have written about previously, touted the city by emphasizing the reach and capacity of electric power and the variety of its uses in specific business sectors. The more businesses in Cleveland the better for CEI’s bottom line. Thousands of Clevelanders saw the film upon its release.
In the early 1940s, CEI began promoting Cleveland as "The Best Location In the Nation" to attract new industries. The campaign included films and a television commercial produced by Cinecraft. CEI and Cinecraft emphasized the city’s proximity to natural resources and major markets as well as its transportation infrastructure, especially the maritime advantages of the Great Lakes.
The films below are just a few of those sponsored by CEI to advertise Cleveland:
The Land of Promise (1955)
The Cleveland Corridor (1959)
Cleveland Illuminating Company: "Best Location in the Nation" TV commercial (1959)
Various public groups and associations, such as the Greater Cleveland Growth Association, later adopted the "The Best Location In the Nation” slogan to promote the city during the industrial decline of the 1970s. Below are links to additional examples from the Cinecraft collection of films promoting the city:
Cleveland: City on Schedule (1962) - featuring Chet Huntley
Cleveland: A New Generation (1978)
The New Cleveland Campaign (1978)
Cleveland: A Special Place (1980)
Kevin J. Martin is the Curator of Archives and the Andrew W. Mellon Curator of Audiovisual and Digital Collections at Hagley Museum and Library.