Official Nebraska Goverment Website Nebraska State Historical Society

  Saving Memories   

Home Movies

Motion-Picture Portraits Are Life's ONLY Replica!
     From 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 to view?)

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 to view?)

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. (download Quicktime to view?)

Brownville farmer and home movie enthusiast Frank Thomas documented the process of cutting ice from the Missouri River in these scenes from 1940. (download Quicktime to view?)

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 Quicktime to view?)

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 to view?)


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.


Future Memories

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.



Hide Paintings and
       Ledger Books

Diaries and Journals
  J.A. Hill, Civil War
  W. Richards, Surveyor
  J.S. Morton, Statesman
  Sara J. Price, Teacher
       & Homesteader
  W. Danley, Businessman
  J. & E. Green, Farmers        & Homesteaders
  S. Buck, Farm Wife

Autograph Albums
  S. & E. Allis, Missionaries
  E. & L. Correll, Suffragists
  W.J. Bryan, Orator
  Lucy Drexel, Student
  Viola Barnes, Student

  D. Canfield, Author
  Willa Cather, Author
  C. Calvert, Educator
  Fenton. B. Fleming,
  Myrtle Soulier, Student
  Verna Cort, Student
  Martha McKelvie,
       Movie Columnist
  Emogine Moor,
       Women's Army Corps
  Scrapbooking Today

Photograph Albums
  W. B. Watson, Porter
  Margaret and Edward
       Gehrke, Adventurers
  Nan Aspinwall,
  Frances M. Creech,

  Edith Withers Meyers,
  Sierra Nevada Bunnell,

Home Movies

Future Memories


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Last updated 25 June 2010  

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