“Henry Ford’s Moving Picture Show: An Investigator’s Guide to the Films Produced by the Ford Motor Company, Volume One, 1914-1920” by Phillip W. Stewart turned out to be a truly fascinating book. I have to admit that I had no idea that Henry Ford was ever in the movie business at all, and even after hearing about this book, my expectations were not particularly high. Okay, old cars are fascinating, and Ford certainly was a genius, but how many movies about cars could there be?
The Preface and Introduction sections alone piqued my interest greatly. As it turns out, the surviving footage either acquired or produced by Ford Motor Company (FMC) between the years 1914 and 1954 is housed in the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), and the collection holds approximately 1,800,000 feet of film. The present volume of the “Henry Ford’s Moving Picture Show,” which is Volume 1, covers the 935 titles made between 1914 and 1920, and also seven films, donated to the Ford family by the famous inventor Thomas Alva Edison. Those films are even earlier, dating from 1903, 1905 and 1909.
The book is wonderfully organized. The chapters are organized by year, and within that, by alphabetical order. Each film gets a unique numerical identification, which works great in conjunction with the two indexes at the end of the book, one by title and another by subject. Each entry provides NARA’s catalog card reference number and, if available, its Archival Research Catalog identification number, as well as a description of the film’s contents, its length and whether it had captions or not. I believe that this very detailed and logical organization would make searching for a particular subject easy and intuitive.
And what a vast array of subject those films cover! Sure, there is a plethora of films about automobiles, tractors, ships, trucks, traffic, streetcars and horses, but the fun by no means stops there. National parks, animals, travel destinations around the world – including Cuba!, sports, industries and so much more all make part of this quaint collection. And best of all, many of those films are accessible on the Internet, and Mr. Stewart generously provides instructions on how to go about seeing them there or at NARA.
I found “Henry Ford’s Moving Picture Show: An Investigator’s Guide to the Films Produced by the Ford Motor Company, Volume One, 1914-1920” to be an extraordinarily organized and fascinating glimpse into the early American history, and I would highly recommend it to those who are in need of reference footage for a wide variety of projects.
Henry Ford’s Moving Picture Show: An Investigator’s Guide to the Films Produced by the Ford Motor Company, Volume One, 1914-1920
Phillip W. Stewart
pms press (2011)
Reviewed by Olivera Baumgartner-Jackson for Reader Views (5/11