George Eastman

Film on Friday

Ruth Rolland.jpg

We love movies here at the American Treasure Tour, and we’re not just talking about then blockbuster action thrillers and superhero films that are taking over the movie theaters these days.  We’re talking about movies since the beginning of the technology, which dates back to experiments made by William Kennedy Laurie Dickson in the West Orange, New Jersey laboratories of Thomas Edison, back in 1888. Using a celluloid strip photographic film developed by George Eastman of Kodak, the illusion of movement became a hugely successful form of entertainment (yes, we’re getting to Ruth Rolland here, somehow).  Films were silent, and the actors and actresses on the screen quickly became internationally famous movie stars.  Many of the early film celebrities are now long forgotten, but deserve a call out every now and again.

Ruth Rolland (1892 to 1937) was the first student at the now-famous Hollywood High School to become a movie star. That happened shortly after she appeared in the Kalem Film Studios’ A Chance Shot, which was released in 1911. In the next sixteen years, she performed in right around two hundred films (many short subject films) and became hugely successful.  Although she had a good voice for talkies, by 1930 her youth was gone and her career began to wane. Sadly, she died of cancer in 1937 at the age of forty-five. So, Ruth may not be well remembered by today’s film-going audience, but maybe we can help her star rise again!

Film on Friday

Movies. Cinema. Photoplays. Motion Pictures. Film. They all mean the same thing, but why? Funny thing. When Thomas Edison created the illusion of movement by putting together thousands of slightly different still images, inspired by Eadweard Muybridge (yes, that's his real name) and using technology perfected by George Eastman of Kodak fame, no one knew what to call it. So, you may have a favorite word or phrase that you use, but they're all correct.  Admittedly, photoplay didn't really stick, but it explains why photo players have their somewhat odd name. Back a hundred years ago, no one would have given that a second thought.

Sunrise (1927).jpg

So.  What, you may ask, is the first "talking picture," the first movie in which the sound is actually embedded in the film strip?  Okay, most people don't ask it, because they think they know it.  They claim it is the Al Jolson musical The Jazz Singer. But guess what: that's not it. The Jazz Singer was an innovative film, to be sure. Dialogue and sound was recorded for the film; however, it was originally a Vitaphone sound-on-disc system, which means the film would be playing simultaneous to a disc. If they were not played synchronously, then the sound wouldn't match the mouths. The movie was hugely popular after its release in 1927, so that, when the sound was eventually added to the film strip, people just assumed it was the first.  Actually, that honor goes to another film in 1927 called Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans, which earned the honor of receiving the Academy Award for Best Unique and Artistic Picture - the only year that award was ever handed out. Sunrise incorporated no dialogue, though, so the sound was only used for music and sound effects. But it paved the way for films as we enjoy them today.

Foghorn Leghorn - July 14, 2014

The American Treasure Tour is a growing, evolving site.  New items are regularly getting added to the collection, some of them big (like a nickelodeon or a calliope) and some of them small (such as a new model airplane).  This week, we have two new additions to our happy family:  one is another of the animated store displays that complement the band organ room in the Toy Box, and the other is a new stuffed animal.  It is not just any animal, though.  It is Foghorn Leghorn.

Considering how iconic this long-winded, loudmouthed rooster has become, it's surprising that he only starred in twenty-three cartoons between his creation in 1946 and 1963, which some regard as the end of the golden age of animation (when the popularity of television spelled the end of  theatrically-released cartoons).  His descriptive name identifies Foghorn as having a loud voice, and he is a leghorn rooster inspired by the popular radio character Senator Claghorn.  

QUESTION:  Foghorn was hired to promote what company's products in the 1980's?

A)  Chik Fil-A

B)  Campbell's Soup

C)  Oscar Meyer

D)  Heinz 

Answer Below


Many history teachers tell the story of how Peter Minuit bought the island of Manhattan on behalf of the Dutch from the Native Americans in 1626 for a token sum.  Four years later, and on this date, the governor of New Amsterdam (later to be known as New York City) extended their property with the purchase of a small island in the bay.  Named Oyster Island, it is now more familiarly called Ellis Island.  Three hundred and seventy-two years later, the states of New York and New Jersey would fight over who owned Ellis Island.  The answer:  New York owns the original island, New Jersey owns the landfill that has more than doubled its size.

The other day, we talked about the duel between Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton in 1804, remember?  Hamilton died today.  His gut shot proved fatal, but his death was slow and painful. Duels are bad, okay?


Few Americans deserve credit for changing more Americans' lives than George Eastman.  The man behind Kodak and mainstream photography was born today in 1854.  He 'developed' (get it?) roll film, which made picture taking much more affordable, and which led directly to the motion picture industry.  He used his massive fortune to establish schools and improve education throughout the United States and England.

An ATT favorite is celebrating his birthday today:  Tod Browning was born today in 1880.  As a teenager, he ran away with the circus (it actually DID happen!).  Then, he got involved in the new medium of film, first as an actor, then as a director.  Most famous for Dracula (1931) and Freaks (1932), he actually helmed over thirty movies during a long career!

QUOTE:  What we do during our work hours determines what we have.  What we do during our leisure hours determines who we are. - George Eastman

ANSWER:  C)  Oscar Meyer.  He also represented Kentucky Fried Chicken around the same time.