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

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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.

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