Library of Congress > Collections with Film and Videos > America at Work, America at Leisure: Motion Pictures from 1894-1915


Work, school, and leisure activities in the United States from 1894 to 1915 are featured in this presentation of 150 motion pictures. Highlights include films of the United States Postal Service from 1903, cattle breeding, fire fighters, ice manufacturing, logging, calisthenic and gymnastic exercises in schools, amusement parks, boxing, expositions, football, parades, swimming, and other sporting events.

America at Work, America at Leisure: Motion Pictures from 1894-1915 consists of 150 motion pictures, 62 of which also appear in other online collections. The majority of the films are from the Paper Print Collection, while the remainder are from the George Kleine Collection, both residing in the Motion Picture, Broadcasting and Recorded Sound Division (M/B/RS) of the Library of Congress. Both of these collections have printed catalogs available in the Motion Picture and Television Reading Room at the Library. The films were selected from these two collections on the basis of the activities pictured in the films and the quality of the available prints. As many different types of work, school, and leisure activities as could be found were sought in order to show the broadest possible representation of activities at the turn of the century. The selection is limited, however, by what is available from these collections; not every possible occupation or leisure activity from the turn of the century is represented.

The films in the Paper Print Collection were deposited for copyright from 1894 to 1912 as positive pictures on paper. Many were deposited in this manner on paper rolls frame by frame. For preservation and access purposes, the Library of Congress has made 16mm prints of these Paper Print titles, and has more recently been making 35mm prints of selected titles. For this presentation, 35mm and 16mm prints have been used as the original source material for digitization. Many of the 35mm prints have been produced especially for this Web presentation.

The George Kleine Collection consists of films obtained by film distributor and producer George Kleine. The collection includes films produced from 1898 to 1926, representing films by the Edison Company, French and Italian imports, and those produced by Kleine. The collection contains both 35mm and 16mm prints.

Links to films in other online collections, such as Inside an American Factory: The Westinghouse Works, 1904; The Last Days of a President: McKinley and the Pan-American Exposition; and Inventing Entertainment: The Early Motion Pictures and Sound Recordings of the Edison Companies are also in the presentation to add further diversity to the films listed.

The online collection offers films available in MPEG, QuickTime, and RealMedia formats. In the case of the first two formats, films are segmented when longer than four minutes so that file sizes will not be prohibitively large to download. (More information about the procedure used to digitize the collection is available in Building the Digital Collection.)

Digitizing the Collection

The motion pictures chosen for digitization in America at Work, America at Leisure: Motion Pictures from 1894-1915 are all black-and-white and silent, and are taken from the Paper Print Collection and the George Kleine Collection in the Motion Picture, Broadcasting and Recorded Sound Division. (More information about these collections can be found in About the Collection.)

The films taken from the Library's Paper Print Collection were deposited for copyright from 1894 to 1912. These films were printed on paper as positive pictures frame by frame. In recent years, in order to serve the goals of access and preservation, the Library of Congress has copied the paper rolls onto 35mm motion picture negative film at its laboratory in Dayton, Ohio. A positive film print is made from the 35mm negative and this is transferred to Betacam SP videotape to produce the master for digitization. In order to present an authentic record of the paper prints as artifacts, some of the edging and perforations evident on the originals have been left in the digital frame. Likewise, original labels, titles, and other tagging documentation found on the paper print itself have been retained, as well as other imperfections from the original.

The original films in the George Kleine Collection are in either 35mm or 16mm format.

The selected films are copied to Betacam SP videotape at Roland House in Arlington, Virginia. The original motion pictures were shot at varying frame rates; therefore, in the video mastering process, the playback speeds are adjusted to present the appearance of natural motion to the greatest degree possible. Main title frames for each film are added during the editing process.

Digitization of the films on videotape is performed at Bell Atlantic in Reston, Virginia. MPEG, QuickTime, and RealMedia digital versions of the films are available on the American Memory Web site. The MPEG and QuickTime versions of titles with running times greater than four minutes have been divided into segments to reduce the file sizes to 40MB or less. A typical 28.8 Internet connection achieves a theoretical maximum download rate of approximately 3.5 KB/sec (210 K/min) under ideal conditions. Therefore, a file of 40 MB would take approximately 190 minutes (3 hours, 10 minutes) in optimal conditions and possibly much longer than that (up to two to three times longer depending on Internet traffic load).

Rights and Access

The Library of Congress is providing access to these materials for educational and research purposes and makes no warranty with regard to their use for other purposes. The written permission of the copyright owners and/or other rights holders (such as holders of publicity and/or privacy rights) is required for distribution, reproduction, or other use of protected items beyond that allowed by fair use or other statutory exemptions.

While the Library is not aware of any U.S. copyright protection (see Title 17, U.S.C.) or any other restrictions in the materials in America at Work, America at Leisure: Motion Pictures from 1894-1915, there may be content protected as "works for hire" (copyright may be held by the party that commissioned the original work) and/or under the copyright or neighboring-rights laws of other nations. The Library is eager to hear from individuals or institutions that have information about these materials or know of their history.

Responsibility for making an independent legal assessment of an item and securing any necessary permissions ultimately rests with persons desiring to use the item. Users should consult the catalog information that accompanies each item for specific information. This catalog data provides the details known to the Library of Congress regarding the corresponding item and may assist users in making independent assessments of the legal status of these items as related to their desired uses.

Suggested credit line: Library of Congress, Motion Picture, Broadcasting and Recorded Sound Division.

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