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.

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 […]

Trending: The Inauguration Will Not (Just) Be Televised

(The following post is featured in the January/February 2017 issue of the Library of Congress Magazine, LCM, and was written by Audrey Fischer, LCM editor. You can read the issue in its entirety here.) The inauguration of the 45th president will be the social media event of the year. Today, social media provides an unlimited […]

Library in the News: December 2016 Edition

Happy New Year! Let’s look back on some of the Library’s headlines in December. Topping the news was the announcement of the new selections to the National Film Registry. Outlets really picked up on the heavy 80s influence of the list. “It’s loaded with millennials,” said Christie D’Zurilla of The Los Angeles Times. “Ten of […]

What Do You Go to the Movies For?

This year’s entries to the Library of Congress National Film Registry, 25 in all (bringing the grand total of films of cultural, historic or aesthetic value to be preserved for posterity to 700), will fulfill many of our reasons for going to the pictures: “I go to the movies to be terrified.” – Well, we’re […]

World War I: On the Firing Line With the Germans (1915)

(The following post was written by Mike Mashon of the Motion Picture, Broadcasting and Recorded Sound Division and originally appeared on the Now See Hear! blog.) During the centenary observance of World War I, we’ve been prioritizing the preservation of films in our collection pertaining to the conflict. Foremost among these is a film called “On […]

Library in the News: December 2015 Edition

While the new year is upon us, the Library’s headlines in December are worth looking back on. Topping the news was the announcement of the new selections to the National Film Registry. Outlets noted recognizable films such as “Ghostbusters” and “Top Gun” along with some of the list’s more obscure titles. “If there are any […]

Good Timing for a Sliming

This year’s list of 25 noteworthy films named to the Library of Congress National Film Registry is out, and it includes some well-known favorites: “Ghostbusters,” “The Shawshank Redemption,” “Top Gun,” even the original Douglas Fairbanks vehicle “Zorro.”  Films are annually named to the registry that are culturally, historically or aesthetically important; the object is preservation […]

The Future is Now

Jumping gigawatts! Today, the future has arrived! If you were around in 1989, Oct. 21, 2015, may have seemed light-years away, and you might have thought we would all be riding around in flying cars or something. Well, your imagination isn’t as far-fetched as you think. On this day, Marty McFly jumped through time to […]

Lewis Helps Library Celebrate Acquisition of Personal Papers

(The following was written by Mark Hartsell, editor of the Library’s staff newsletter, The Gazette.) Jerry Lewis sat alone in the spotlight, reflecting on his career and on the passage of the years – for both him and the fans who filled the historic State Theatre. “At the time that I began, which was some […]