Thanhouser on Vimeo

As many will know, the name of the Thanhouser Film Company – a mid-ranking American company of the early cinema period – has been kept very much alive by the efforts of the Thanhouser family, with DVD releases, research and publications. Now Ned Thanhouser has gone one step further by releasing a number of Thanhouser films previously available on DVD through the Vimeo online video site.

Above, for example, is the famous The Evidence of the Film (1913). Discovered in 1999 on the floor of a Montana projection booth, it is a crime tale typical of the period made especially fascinating on acount of its filmmaking background. It has acquired the status of a classic, and in 2001 was selected inclusion in the National Film Registry by the National Film Preservation Board of the Library of Congress. It comes with original music composed and performed by Ray Brubacher.

Some fifty videos have been made available on the Thanhouser Vimeo channel over the past few weeks. They include The Voice of Conscience (1912), the five-reeler Woman in White (1917) based on Wilkie Collins’ novel, the Wagner-based Tannhäuser (1913), She (1911) with Marguerite Snow and James Cruze, a number of Shakespeare titles including The Winter’s Tale (1910), Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde (1912) with James Cruze in the dual role, and perhaps the most celebrated of all Thanhouser films, The Cry of the Children (1912), on child labour reform, which uses an Elizabeth Barrett Browning poem (Thanhouser was notable for its dedication towards the literary classics) to highlight the wretched living and working conditions of the contemporary poor.

Each of the videos comes with informative but not too extensive background notes, and all in all this is a bold and welcome move on Thanhouser’s part. Quite probably it’s a reaction to the several examples of these films which can be found on YouTube, which have been ripped from the DVD releases by other hands. Far better, of course, that the videos come from a legitimate source, and hopefully it will help promote DVD sales in any case and further the preservation and promotional work of the Thanhouser Company Film Preservation, Inc.

Update: There is now a page on the Thanhouser site which lists all 56 films, provides links to the videos, and supplies useful background notes. See

14 responses

  1. This is just a fan letter, thanking you for your yeoman’s work in finding and publicizing so much information about silent movies.


  2. Well thank you. It’s just good to have such a handy vehicle for telling people about what’s around and what’s going on. It’s something I’ve always done, professionally or personally.

  3. Thanks for the note on my putting all the Thanhouser videos online for free viewing…I have currently uploaded 45 of 56 as Vimeo only allows 5GB per week, so I run out of quota after a dozen or so uploads. I will have all of them uploaded soon and then I will publish a press release to get the word out broadly…there is a hidden page that will provide access to these that will go live when they are all up, here’s a preview: Your support is most appreciated.

  4. Wow, how did I get the date so wrong? I’ve corrected the post now. Anyway, many thanks for putting up the videos for all to share – a really praiseworthy gesture. And apologies if I’ve jumped the gun – I was just browsing through Vimeo on the off-chance and found this treasure trove.

  5. Truly a wonderful effort of preservation and access by Ned and the National Film Registry of the Library of Congress. These films are an essential part of our collective moving image heritage. I’m grateful for having them in close proximity after a century of stewardship!

    One quick question regarding The Evidence of the Film (1913). Does anyone know what type of machine is displayed in the right-hand corner of the laboratory scene? My first impression was that it was a film cleaning/polishing machine of some sort. Any thoughts?

  6. Thanks for the note, no problem on jumping the gun, but I would like people to go to vs. direct to Vimeo as I am asking for donations to continue this work. There is a link for voluntary donations via pay pal…there is no charge to view the videos online.
    Thanks! Ned Thanhouser

  7. I’ve added the link as an update to the post. Today I sent to the link to a Shakespeare listserv I belong to and had one request for information on the DVDs already – so online videos as an encouragement to DVD sales do work!

    Thank you also for the link to the Bioscope – it’s already brought some traffic this way.


  8. Erik,

    The equipment shown is a film winder/rewinder – used for inspection of reels and often for returning projected films back to the beginning (i.e. head out).

  9. Erik, several opinions exist on this including the one posted by urbanora (rewinder)…the others are 1) oiler to lay down oil on the film to make projection run smoother, and 2) anti-static machine used when winding or re-winding films. I am still looking for an expert on this particular item in the film.

  10. I originally thought that the anti-static machine theory seemed unfounded- static markings would usually occur on a developed emulsion by an electrical discharge at the surface, or within the emulsion previous to development, and not after. However, it might be possible that be looking at a machine that was developed out of the obscurity of ‘static trouble’ that worried manufacturers in the early days of the industry.

    I, for one, would love to see this machine turn out to be an applicator for Thanhouser’s manufacturer’s identification, printed in visible ink on the film’s margins. Either way, this film is in need of a dissertation!

  11. It’s official:

    FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – March 22, 2011
    Thanhouser Silent Films Available for Online Viewing
    Free Access to 56 Films Aimed at Improved Access
    PORTLAND, Oregon USA – Thanhouser Company Film Preservation, Inc. announced today that all 56 of the Thanhouser silent films currently distributed on DVD are now available for online viewing at no charge.
    The films are available for immediate viewing on the Thanhouser website at The 56 films were produced by the Thanhouser film enterprise based in New Rochelle, New York between 1910 and 1917. This collection provides a representative cross section of the company’s output during this important era in early film development.
    “This goldmine of rarely-before-seen films adds immeasurably to our understanding of the development of American silent cinema. Online access makes these delightful films available to researchers, film historians, media studies teachers and movie lovers everywhere,” said Kathryn Fuller-Seeley, Professor of Film Studies at Georgia State University.
    The films were assembled over the past 25 years with the cooperation of archives around the world, including The Library of Congress in Washington, DC, The British Film Institute in London, England, George Eastman House in Rochester, New York, The Museum of Modern Art in New York, New York, the Academy Film Archive in Los Angeles, California, the EYE Film Institute Netherlands in Amsterdam, Holland, and from the Thanhouser collection.
    “Making these films accessible for online viewing is intended to expand viewership and academic study of this pioneering studio,” said Ned Thanhouser, grandson of Thanhouser Company founders Edwin and Gertrude Thanhouser.
    Each film includes a summary and analysis written by film historian Victor Graf. Andrew Crow, Raymond A. Brubacher and Ben Model composed and performed original musical accompaniment commissioned exclusively for this collection.
    Titles in the collection include:
    • The Actor’s Children (1910): The first Thanhouser film released on March 15, 1910.
    • The Winter’s Tale (1910): The first of six Shakespeare plays brought to the screen by the Thanhouser Company.
    • Cinderella (1911): An elaborately produced version of the well known George O. Nichols fairy tale.
    • Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1912): One of the first film versions of the classic Robert Lewis Stevenson novel.
    • The Cry of the Children (1912): A critical pre-World War I film on child labor reform.
    • Petticoat Camp (1912): An early “women’s lib” social commentary with a comedy twist.
    • The Evidence of the Film (1913): A crime tale with film making as a subject.
    • A Dog’s Love (1914): A fantasy about the love between a child and her dog.
    • Their One Love (1915): A Civil War drama with spectacular night battle sequences.
    • Madam Blanche, Beauty Doctor (1915): A gender-bender comedy with satirical social observations.
    • The Vagabonds (1915): Flashbacks of a penniless, friendless tramp and his dog of his downfall due to drink.
    • The World and the Woman (1916): Jeanne Eagel’s film debut as a prostitute turned faith healer in this five reel feature.
    • The Woman in White (1917): One of Thanhouser’s last films, this five reel feature is based on Wilkie Collins popular 1859 novel.
    DVD versions of all 56 films are also available for purchase along with the companion CD-ROM Thanhouser Films: An Encyclopedia and History by noted historian Q. David Bowers. Each three-disc DVD set is priced at $24.95 and the CD-ROM at $39.95, plus shipping and handling. Available for immediate worldwide shipment, the DVDs and CD-ROM can be ordered directly from Thanhouser Company Film Preservation, Inc. at 8770 NW Kearney Street, Portland, OR 97229 or online from with PayPal, Visa or Master Card.
    Thanhouser Company Film Preservation, Inc. is a 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation established for the research, preservation and publication of educational materials related to early silent era, with a specific focus on Thanhouser.

    Thanhouser Company Film Preservation, Inc.
    8770 NW Kearney Street
    Portland, OR 97229 USA
    Press Contact: Ned Thanhouser

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