February 23, 1998 Films of Spanish-American War Go On-Line

War Was First U.S. Conflict to Be Documented on Film

Contact: Guy Lamolinara (202) 707-9217

On Feb. 15, 100 years ago, the U.S.S. Maine was sunk in Havana Harbor by an explosion that killed more than 250 men. The incident led to the Spanish-American War.

A not widely known fact relating to the war is that it is the first U.S. war in which the motion picture camera played a role. In a new on-line collection from the American Memory Project of the Library of Congress, "The Spanish-American War in Motion Pictures" offers 52 films made by the Edison Manufacturing Company and the American Mutoscope & Biograph Company.

The films, available at http://www.loc.gov, consist of actualities filmed in the United States, Cuba and the Philippines showing troops, ships, notable figures and parades, as well as reenactments of battles and other wartime events. Also included are actualities and reenactments of the Philippine Insurrection, which resulted from the war. Another 16 films will become available in April, along with selected sound recordings relating to the war.

Most of the films are from the Paper Print Collection of the Library. Before the new copyright law was enacted in 1912, motion pictures were registered for copyright protection following the procedures originally developed from still photographs. Thus motion picture producers were required to deposit with the Library paper contact prints made directly from the film negatives. These paper prints ranged in length from a few frames to entire motion pictures. In the 1950s and 1960s, paper prints of films were restored to projectable film, and in recent years, new 33mm prints have been made for many of the films. The collection preserves approximately 3,000 comedy, drama, travelog and news films from 1894 to 1915.

A "Special Presentation" section offers a short history of the war and the featured motion pictures, as well as sources for additional information. A future "Learn More About It" page is intended for educators wishing to use this collection in the classroom.

Some films include: "Burial of the Maine Victims," "Roosevelt's Rough Riders Embarking for Santiago," "U.S. Troops Landing at Daiquiri, Cuba," "Raising Old Glory over Morro Castle" and other actualities and reenactments of events in Cuba and the Philippines.

American Memory is a project of the National Digital Library Program of the Library of Congress, which is aiming to make available over the Internet millions of the Library's unique American history collections. Already, more than two dozen collections are available, ranging from Civil War photographs of Mathew Brady and short films of Thomas Edison to documents relating to slavery and the civil rights movement and women's suffrage.


PR 98-029
ISSN 0731-3527