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Wreck of the U.S.S. Maine, June 7th, 1911

[Detail] Wreck of the U.S.S. Maine, June 7th, 1911

U.S. History

The Spanish-American War in Motion Pictures contains some of the first movies of American troops ever made during wartime. The collection, which includes considerable background information in the Special Presentation The Motion Picture Camera Goes to War, is a resource for understanding how Americans experienced the war and how the media's coverage of the war influenced national identity during and after the conflict. Another Special Presentation made by the Hispanic Division of the Library of Congress, The World of 1898: The Spanish-American War, contains helpful historical background and includes essays on the war from the perspectives of Cuba, Spain, and Puerto Rico.

The collection also features actuality footage (films taken of real events as they happen) and reenactments of events that took place in the Philippines following the Spanish-American War, which led to the Philippine Revolution.

1) Spanish-American War Events

The Spanish-American War in Motion Pictures includes footage of many important events of the Spanish-American War, from the arrival of the first members of the U.S. Expeditionary Force in U.S. Troops Landing at Daiquiri, Cuba to the triumphant celebration of victory in General Lee's Procession, Havana.

Browse the Topical List to see a chronology of the war's events and films for each topic.

2) Troops

The collection contains actuality footage of American troops at the turn of the century and shows the realities of being a soldier during this period.

Search on soldiers or sailors for titles such as Soldiers Washing Dishes and Troops Making Military Road in Front of Santiago.


3) Events in the Philippines

The collection includes actualities of the war in the Philippines, and reenactments of key battles there. More resources on the Philippine Revolution are available in the Special Presentation The World of 1898, including a chronology.

Search on Philippines for titles such as Aguinaldo's Navy and Advance of Kansas Volunteers at Caloocan.

4) Motion picture coverage of the war

The collection shows the rise of motion pictures as entertainment and as a source of information, as audiences flocked to vaudeville theaters to see these films of war events.

Films such as Burial of the Maine Victims, Wreck of the Battleship Maine, and Cuban Refugees Waiting for Rations substantiated newspaper accounts of alleged Spanish atrocities for the public. War Correspondents and New York Journal Despatch Yacht Buccaneer put the journalists themselves, and their quest to get the story, at center stage. See Remember the Maine in the Special Presentation for more background information on the role of motion pictures during the war.

5) Individualism

The Spanish-American War created a boon for flamboyant individuals seeking to make their mark, from competing newspaper publishers William Randolph Hearst and Joseph Pulitzer to journalists and camera men, to wealthy private citizens who recruited their own volunteer military regiments to fight in the war.

Astor Battery on Parade

Astor Battery on Parade, Jan. 27, 1899

Astor Battery on Parade features the unit outfitted by prominent businessman John Jacob Astor. Theodore Roosevelt's Rough Riders, a volunteer regiment recruited by the future president, shown in the film President Roosevelt and the Rough Riders, were also a popular subject for the press.


6) Nationalism

The collection contains many examples of the outpouring of nationalism which occurred in America during the war, including several parades honoring war heroes Admiral William T. Sampson and Admiral George Dewey. Reenactments of Spanish fights with the Cubans served to justify American participation in the war against Spain and to heighten nationalism.

Search on parades for titles such as The Dandy Fifth. Search on Spain or Spanish for reenactments such as Shooting Captured Insurgents.

7) African American troops

The collection shows the role of minorities during the war, particularly African Americans who fought in segregated regiments. The role of the 25th Infantry is discussed briefly in The Philippine Revolution, part of the Special Presentation.

Search on afro american troops for films such as 25th Infantry.

8) Images of empire

Film images helped make military strength and dominance over foreign countries more central to Americans' national identity, contributing to ideas of empire.

Films such as Troops at Evacuation of Havana, Raising Old Glory Over Morro Castle, and Filipinos Retreat from Trenches portray a victorious American army.