Archive for Monday, May 28, 2012

100 years ago: First ‘moving picture’ to be made of Lawrence

May 28, 2012


From the Lawrence Daily Journal-World for May 28, 1912:

  • "Lawrence will be photographed on Monday and Tuesday of next week. The final plans were made this afternoon and the picture man and his machine will be here the first of next week. A picture 1000 feet long will be taken on this occasion and by Friday afternoon it will be ready for exhibition and will be shown the first time in either the Grand or Aurora theater on that afternoon. The scheme is now in the hands of the commercial club which organization is backing it up and will see that the film is sent out over the state.... In this picture there will be included scenes from Kansas University, from Haskell, the city schools, churches, private residences, the dam and bridge and Massachusetts street concluding with a panorama view from the J. B. Watkins residence on Mount Oread. On Monday afternoon at 12:30 the street scene will be secured. President Hults of the Commercial club is planning on filling the street with autos and carriages and people at that time.When this film is completed it will be placed in the hands of a booking house and sent out over the country to advertise Lawrence."
  • "The complete program for the Decoration Day exercises in Lawrence has been announced by the Washington Post, G.A.R. It includes the regular visit in the morning to the cemeteries where the graves of the soldiers are to be decorated with flags and flowers. In the afternoon patriotic exercises will be held at the Bowersock opera house."


FlintlockRifle 5 years, 9 months ago

Miss Sarah, do you know if there is a copy of this ""Moving Picture"" somewhere in town a person could view, or where the original moving picture is today. As always great story, thanks.

Angel Gillaspie 5 years, 9 months ago

FlintlockRifle, you can search YouTube - I found some vintage film of Lawrence from 1941 but did not find the one this discussion is about.

Ron Holzwarth 5 years, 9 months ago

I think it's interesting that the length of the movie was measured by the length of the film in feet, and not the running time as we do today.

I took a quick look at the history of movie film, and from what I found, the film just about had to be a 35mm with 4 perforations per frame, and was most likely projected at 16 frames per second. 35mm 4 perf has 16 frames per foot of film, so it is very likely that the film was 1,000 seconds long, which results in a running time of only 16 minutes and 40 seconds. But at that time, a movie of that length would be typical.

The movie was certainly in black and white, and cellulose nitrate was used. Cellulose nitrate is extremely flammable, and so many copies of films into the 1930 have simply burned up or deteriorated and there are no extant copies, even of many Hollywood productions..

The stages of deteriotion: 1) Amber discoloration of film base. Noticeable fading of the image.

2) The film base becomes brittle. The negative becomes sticky, tending to adhere to paper enclosures or other negatives.

3) The film base is extremely brittle, exhibiting noticeable bubbles and emitting a noxious odor.

4) The film base softens and readily adheres to paper enclosures and other negatives. A strong noxious odor is evident.

5) The film disintegrates into a brown, acrid powder.


So, in answer to FlintlockRifle's inquiry, the unfortunate answer is that it is a virtual certainty that there are no surviving copies of the film.

FlintlockRifle 5 years, 9 months ago

Thanks for info. Ron. I knew a lot of old film would catch fire from the lamps use for projection.

Sarah St. John 5 years, 9 months ago

It's sad, isn't it? I wish it were still in existence, but at least with all the still photos I've seen of old Lawrence, I can almost imagine it. I was actually imagining it as being even shorter than that, Ron -- maybe just a few minutes. But can't you just see it -- the flickering images, silent of course, perhaps with a few intertitles -- "Lawrence, Kansas" -- "View From the Bridge" -- etc. I have a list somewhere of the houses they included in the film -- I'll add those here later today.

Tyson Travis 5 years, 9 months ago

Thanks, Ron, for the super commentary on why there are very few surviving films originally done in the cellulose nitrate base medium. I was going to comment on this, but you did a much better job. I hope our present-day digital stuff doesn't suffer the same type of electronic deterioration. Sarah, a list of the houses would be nice, could you also tell us about the locations of the Grand and Aurora theaters? I'll bet one of them was across from the DC Courthouse.

Sarah St. John 5 years, 9 months ago

Hi jazzttt! I'm sorry I was unable to get those up yesterday. I'll try to get that info this evening, and I'll send you a PM to let you know I've posted it here. Thanks!!

Ron Holzwarth 5 years, 9 months ago

Obviously, there are some movies that were originally filmed on cellulose nitrate film base that still exist. The ones that come to my mind first are the Charlie Chaplin and Laurel and Hardy films. I think, but do not know for sure, that they survived because there were copies made of copies of copies, and so those films survived the generations, but with a noticeable loss in image sharpness. But a short film of Lawrence, Kansas almost certainly was not considered to be important enough to make copies of copies and then later be archived.

This is a wonderful example of many silent film comedians from the teens, all to the song: 'Chattanooga Choo Choo' - performed by the Glenn Miller Orchestra

Ron Holzwarth 5 years, 9 months ago

The youtube movies on the link above show evidence of the deterioration of the original films, in that many of them are not sharp, which shows that they are copies of copies of copies, some of them show obvious signs of damage due to age, stages 2 and 3, and one of the sharpest images shows the first stage of deterioration, amber discoloration of the film base, at 3:42.

I love this film clip! And when you're watching it, remember - this was all done before there was anything like Photoshop! Those stunts were real!

It makes me wonder - how many people were injured or killed making films back in those days?

Sarah St. John 5 years, 9 months ago

Okay, here's what I was looking for! "Following are the buildings to be photographed: "Kansas University -- Museum, Library, Law, Fraser, Blake Hall, Green Hall, Snow Hall, Chemistry, Gymnasium, Administration, Engineering, Medical, Fowler Shops, Physics. "Haskell Institute. "Schools -- Manual, High, Central. "Churches -- First Baptist, First Presbyterian, Congregational, Methodist, Catholic, Christian. "Homes -- 1209 Tenn. St., Prof. F. H. Billings; 1621 Tenn. St., Thatcher homestead; 1541 Tenn. St., Acacia; 1539 Tenn. St., Beta; Outlook; Breezedale, 4 houses in row; Gen. Roberts 1301 Mass. "Special -- Dam and bridge, street parade, Y.M.C.A., Public Library, panorama from house Outlook, Court House."

Seems they were concentrating pretty hard on Tennessee Street for the houses! Outlook, don't forget, was the J.B. Watkins house adjoining the KU campus which is now the Chancellor's residence, as written about here:

Sarah St. John 5 years, 9 months ago

Oh, nearly forgot your other question, jazzttt!

The Aurora was at 733 Massachusetts and was open from 1910 to 1916. The Grand was at 736 Mass and opened in 1911; also closed in 1916.


Tyson Travis 5 years, 9 months ago

Thank you, Sarah and Ron for your research. This is off the top of my head, but the street number addresses on some of these have changed. The Thatcher Homestead listed as 1621 Tenn has to be the Thatcher/Maupin Italianate now at 1613 Tenn, 1539 Beta is probably the Usher house at 1425 Tenn, which was purchased by them in 1912 and is still the Beta house. I'm guessing that 1541 Tenn/Acacia may have been the old Bowersock house where Sigma Chi sits today, but there were other houses on the block as well, many of which were torn down to build newer houses. Breezedale was a pioneer development at 23rd and Mass, there's still a gateway/bench with that name on it, and Roberts/1301 Mass is of course the Castle Tea Room. The three schools were all at 9th and Ky, only the stone foundation of Central is still standing. At KU, Museum still the same, Library turned into the Spooner-Thayer Anthro museum, Law might have been Old North College, Fraser was old Fraser demolished in '65, Blake was the predecessor of the new bldg at the site, Green hall is the one with the statue out front (maybe the Law school hadn't moved in yet), Snow hall was located on the front lawn of Watson Library until the early '30s, Chemistry was probably today's Bailey Hall, which used to have lots of smokestacks to vent the lab fumes, Gymnasium was old Robinson, Admin was Strong Hall, probably still in its three-part construction, engineering would have been Marvin, on medical, I'm not sure, but it might have been the "Shack" just east of Watson Library, Fowler Shops got turned into the J-School, not sure on physics, thought Old Blake was constructed for that. Enough on this, it's been fun churning my mind.

Sarah St. John 5 years, 9 months ago

Ahhhh, fun indeed! Thank you so much! I believe Strong Hall had been constructed only up to the first 1/3 (if that) and if I remember correctly, it didn't get any "forrader" than that for quite some time because of the Great War.

I didn't know about the stone foundation of Central. Where can I see that?

About the house addresses -- I'm 90 percent sure that they were typos (original 1912 ones, not mine). The early newspaper was rife with misspellings, etc. Sometimes entire paragraphs were printed upside-down. Makes for fun reading as well as rather difficult research!

Tyson Travis 5 years, 9 months ago

The original 1890 LHS was at the SE corner of 9th and Ky, Manual was cater-corner where DCB sits now, and Central was built around 1899-1900 on the SW corner to replace an earlier school at the site. When LHS opened at 19th and La. in 1954, and the 3 Junior Highs moved into the vacated LMHS, Old LHS and Central were demolished, but they preserved the first story limestone work from Central as part of an office building. It's still there today, but some of the original windows were walled over during reconstruction. My father worked for a construction company in 1955 and bought a slate chalkboard from Central for us to draw on, it's still in our family house in Lawrence.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.