Before Jackie Put the White House on TV, Mrs. Hoover Made Home Movies

This is a guest post by Stephen Leggett, a program coordinator of the National Film Preservation Board for the Library of Congress.

On the eve of the Great Depression, there were movies, but they were as devoid of brilliant hues as the economy was about to be. But even as those dark clouds moved in, a technological breakthrough captured a priceless record of the Hoover-era White House, in color: seven reels of home movies taken by then-first lady Lou Hoover.

Mrs. Hoover in the White House Rose Garden. Courtesy Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum.

Film clip of Mrs. Hoover in the White House Rose Garden. Courtesy of the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum.

Those movies, shot with a 16mm camera using the now-obsolete Kodacolor process, have been preserved by the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library, with a $5,600 federal grant from the National Film Preservation Foundation, the charitable affiliate of the Library of Congress’ advisory body, the National Film Preservation Board. The nonprofit NFPB has a mandate from Congress to provide national leadership in the field of film preservation.

As chronicled in a March 22 Washington Post article, this archived footage—preserved with grant funding provided by Congress—is believed to be the earliest color footage of the White House grounds. The exciting discovery of these films highlights once more the critical need for our nation to preserve its richly diverse moving-image heritage, so future generations may enjoy and study these works as a cultural record.

Since its inception in 1996, the foundation has raised $14 million, supplemented that sum with $7 million in federal funds from the Library and made that pool available as grants and preservation support to 284 institutions in all 50 states, saving 2,287 films. The NFPF receives federal money through the Library of Congress to distribute as grants, but raises operating and project funding from other sources.

View brief excerpts below of the newly discovered film footage. Courtesy of the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum.

Celebrating Women’s History: Women on the March

Hundreds of thousands of women marched on Washington, D.C., on inaugural weekend this year to voice their concerns about an array of issues. News outlets nationwide and overseas reported a massive turnout that exceeded all expectations. Crowd size aside, the march was not without precedent. More than a hundred years earlier, American women organized a […]

Pic of the Week: Celebrating Women’s History Month at the Library

Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden hosted a conversation with three dynamic leaders in the arts on March 22 in celebration of Women’s History Month at the Library of Congress. Hayden, who is the first woman to serve as Librarian of Congress, spoke with Marin Alsop, music director of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra; Deborah Rutter, president of the […]

New Book: “Picturing America: The Golden Age of Pictorial Maps”

Designed to educate, amuse or advertise, pictorial maps were a clever and colorful component of print culture in the mid-20th century, often overlooked in studies of cartography. A new book published by the Library of Congress in association with the University of Chicago Press, “Picturing America: The Golden Age of Pictorial Maps,” by Stephen J. […]

Bibliodiscotheque: Array of Events Planned to Celebrate Disco Culture

Today, the Library of Congress announced an exciting upcoming series: “Library of Congress Bibliodiscotheque.” Multiple events from April 12 through May 6 will explore disco culture, music, dance and fashion represented in the national collections. Disco’s influence on popular music and dance since the 1970s will be in focus through film screenings, performances, interviews and a […]

Inquiring Minds: Author Tells Story of Black Elite Through Library’s Daniel Murray

Daniel Murray, a pioneer in the black history movement, worked at the Library of Congress for 52 years, from 1871 to 1922. He began as special assistant to Librarian of Congress Ainsworth Rand Spofford, later serving as a librarian and a bibliographer of works by African-Americans. In “The Original Black Elite: Daniel Murray and the […]

World War I: Norvel Preston Clotfelter

(The following is a guest post by Rachel Telford, archivist with the Veterans History Project.) In 1917, Norvel Preston Clotfelter’s life was upended when he was drafted into the United States Army. He postponed his wedding, left his job as a school teacher in Mazie, Okla., and began his service at Camp Travis, Texas; he […]

Pic of the Week: Saint Patrick’s Day

What do parades, shamrocks, and green beer bring to mind? Saint Patrick’s Day, of course. The first Saint Patrick’s Day celebrations in the United States took place in the 18th century in Boston and New York, and festivities expanded in the 19th century as more and more Irish immigrated to the country. Today, Saint Patrick’s […]