Are Life's ONLY Replica!
a Victor Ciné Sales Corp advertisement, about 1925.
The home movie phenomenon was born in
1923 when the Eastman Kodak Company introduced a simple camera that used a film only 16 millimeters wide and
created especially for safe and easy use by non-professionals.
Movie-making thus became affordable and accessible to the general
public. From this beginning, a series of innovations over the
next fifty years contributed to the popularity of amateur filmmaking,
including the introductions of the smaller 8mm film format in
1932 and Super-8 in 1965, the availability of color film starting
in the mid-1930s, and the 1973 release by Kodak of a film camera
that allowed sound to be recorded directly on the film itself.
In their intended audiences, home movies
were similar to photograph albums-they
were made to share with family and friends. Unlike photograph
albums, viewing them required mechanical projection, and this
made the sharing of home movies more of an event for small audiences.
Favorite subjects in home movies also echo those of snapshot
albums and scrapbooks and include special family occasions, holidays,
travel, children, pets, and community events.
The Nebraska State Historical Society's
collections contain nearly 1000 reels of home movies from over seventy Nebraska families and individuals,
dating from 1923 into the 1980s. Here is sampling of scenes from
some of those films. (download Quicktime
Jesse Avery, a farmer and avid
amateur moviemaker living near Humboldt, Nebraska, captured these
scenes of rural family and agricultural life in rural Richardson
County in 1929. They include a Burlington train pulling into
the depot at Humboldt, the Missouri River Ferry near Brownville,
pony tricks, agricultural scenes, corn husking, friends and family,
and pets. (download Quicktime
Crawford, Nebraska, pharmacist
Arthur Howe captured these scenes of an event billed as "The
Last Great Gathering of the Sioux Nation" in September,
1934. The gathering drew huge numbers of participants and spectators,
including some 1000 Native Americans from nearby reservations.
Brownville farmer and home movie
enthusiast Frank Thomas documented the process of cutting ice
from the Missouri River in these scenes from 1940. (download
Glen Kellett, together with his
brother Leo, farmed 80 acres of land in Nebraska's North Platte
Valley near the towns of Gering and Scottsbluff. In the late
1930s and early '40s, Kellett created films that follow the production
of their various crops from planting through harvest and preparation
for market, and the building of their modern dairy barn. (download
Lincoln orchestra leader and music
store owner Edward Walt purchased a Kodak home movie camera in
1925 and began a family tradition of amateur filmmaking that
lasted well into the 1950s. These family and community scenes
from his earliest reel include views of the construction of the
Nebraska State Capitol Building and a portrait photographer snapping
a picture with a large-format still camera. (download Quicktime
The Cine-Kodak Model A was the
only hand-crank movie camera manufactured by the Eastman Kodak
Company. Introduced in January, 1923, it shot 16mm film and was
operated by turning the crank on the side of the camera at a
steady 2 revolutions per second.
The Cine-Kodak Eight Model 20,
introduced in 1932, was the first 8mm motion picture camera made
by the Eastman Kodak Company. It featured a spring motor that
was wound with a key located on the side of the camera.
The Kodascope Model EE 16mm projector
was sold by the Eastman Kodak Company starting around 1937. Powered
by electricity, it was designed for home use.
Many of the memory-keeping forms in
this exhibit have evolved new electronic counterparts on the
Internet. Facebook, MySpace, and
similar websites mirror the impulse to gather mementos (albeit
electronic) of friends that autograph books once did. Numerous
sites offer venues in which people can record their daily lives
in what have become known as "blogs." YouTube has become
a popular site for people to post moving images of themselves,
friends, family, and the events that they want to save and share.
Photograph albums and scrapbooks can now be compiled electronically.
The pressing question is: Will these
electronic versions last? As these
new formats continue to evolve, will the memories that they host
be saved, or will they be lost as the technologies that created
them become obsolete? The media has changed, but the impulse
remains: we want to remember and to be remembered. And it is
as simple, and as complex, as that.