And now the Scotsman

The Scotsman

I should have spotted this one before now. The first UK national newspaper to make its archive publicly available (as opposed to The Times, which is only available to institutional subscribers) was not The Guardian, but The Scotsman. At http://archive.scotsman.com you can access every issue of the paper 1817-1950. Searching is free and gives you the headlines. To view the full article you need to take out a subscription: a 24 hour pass is £7.95, a 48-hour pass £12.95, a weekly pass £19.95, and so on. Not cheap, but the search system is a good one, and the results promising: over 1,000 hits for the word ‘cinematograph’ between 1895 and 1930, for example.

I’ll do a round up soon of all these online newspaper archives of relevance to silent film research.

Guardian Digital Archive

As promised, The Guardian (1821-1975) and The Observer (1900-1975) newspapers have been placed online from today. The web address is http://archive.guardian.co.uk.

This is another huge boon for research in our area, and I’ve found and downloaded assorted gems from The Guardian already. A powerful eye-witness account of the Bazar de la charité fire in Paris (6 May 1897, p 8), an enthusiastic report on microcinematography (15 August 1903, p. 7), a leader on the rise of the picture theatre (3 July 1911, p 6), a report on Maurice Elvey filming Hindle Wakes (set in Lancashire) (28 October 1926, p 11), a fascinating article on watching films in Moscow in 1927 (5 January 1927, p 16), and a wonderful piece on ‘Flicker Alley’ (17 October 1911, p 14), the name given for Cecil Court, the short London street near Leicester Square, which was the home of London’s early film businesses before they all moved on to Wardour Street.

Its windows show wild-looking mechanical contrivances that, whatever they may really be, always seems so concentrated that one thinks of them as the very intestines of machinery; and the men who go in and out of the doors (usually in groups of four or five with a voluable one a little ahead) having a hustling, sharp-eyed, yet half-whimsical look … The cinematograph trade is yet too young to have evolved a type, but it seemed to me that the denizens of Flicker Alley (as they call this passage) all have something characteristic that marks them off from ordinary men. Possibly the endless films they look at affects the eye-nerves or teahes the mind to think of the eye as something to switch off and on – a glance, a calculation, another look, a “glad eye,” another calculation, and so on. They flicker. Their conversation flickers too, mainly in rapid Yankee slang jerked at a hard pace, a well-known figure there creating the flicker illusion best with an inimitable stutter. They run about all over Europe and America, these quick, handy, cheery people, and some seek to rival the cosmopolitanism of the cinematograph by making their speech a compote of foreign catchwords. You see no old men. The “father of the trade” looks about forty. With them antiquity was last week, and posterity is coming round to look at their films to-morrow.

I wrote earlier that the service would be free for the first month, but I was wrong – it is half price for this month, which means, for instance, that a twenty-four hour pass will cost you £3.97. Use the Advanced Search, not the Simple Search, as it allows you to sort results in date order, and to search across articles, or picitures, or advertisements. Searching itself is free; you pay to see the article, which can be printed or stored in a MyCollection page.

Some quibbles. I couldn’t make images print using Firefox; use Explorer instead. The search results give you an image of the heading of the item, which does not always indicate when it is relevant to your search, and some time is wasted opening up irrelevant pages. Your search word is underlined in blue on the selected documents, which has the unfortunate effect of sometimes obscuring the words underneath. You only get four or five results per page, which is frustrating and makes searching for the right record more of a chore than it should be. You cannot go from an article you’ve viewed to the rest of the newspaper for that day, though there is an alternative browse option which lets you look at the full newspaper for any one day. But you cannot narrow subject searches by day, or even year.

Minor gripes aside, this is a treasure trove. Remember that for most of this time period, the Guardian was based in Manchester, which gives a different slant to its news coverage. Also, despite The Observer search option saying that covers 1900-1975, there seem to be no records available prior to 1932.

Update: The Guardian is currently offering a free introductory 24-hour pass to its Digital Archive, presumably for a short period only.

New York Morning Telegraph

Just found this out on alt.movies.silent. During a 1980s research project on William Desmond Taylor, Bruce Long photocopied the ‘Pacific Coast News’ column of the New York Morning Telegraph, 1914-1922. As Long says:

During the silent film era, the New York Morning Telegraph had more coverage of the film industry than any other daily New York newspaper; its coverage included a weekly column of movie news from Los Angeles, initially titled “Pacific Coast News.” As the film industry in Hollywood expanded, that column also grew in size. Many of the “news items” came directly from publicity agents, but they still provide a useful historic glimpse into Hollywood’s growing silent film industry. Major Hollywood news stories would have been given separate articles instead of a mention inside this column. The columnists of “Pacific Coast News” included Edward V. Durling, Clem Pope, Margaret Ettinger, and Frances Agnew.

Long has now dusted down his photocopies and put them online. They are JPEGs only, and not word-searchable, but it looks like a handy research source for the patient.

Now here comes the Guardian and Observer

Regulars will know that we try and keep up with the steady stream of digitised newspapers collections appearing across the world, which are opening up research into silent film (and a few other subjects besides, of course). The latest is the British newspaper The Guardian, along with its Sunday partner The Observer. This article was published recently in The Guardian‘s Media section (with thanks once again to the eagle-eyed David Pierce for alerting The Bioscope):

Every edition of the Guardian and Observer newspapers is to be made available via a newly launched online digital archive.

The first phase of the Guardian News & Media archive, containing the Guardian from 1821 to 1975 and The Observer from 1900 to 1975, launch on November 3.

It will contain exact replicas of the original newspapers, both as full pages and individual articles. and will be fully searchable and viewable at guardian.co.uk/archive.

Readers will be offered free 24-hour access during November, but after this trial period charging will be introduced.

The rest of the archive will launch early in 2008, making more than 1.2m pages of digitised news content available, with Observer content available from its launch as the world’s first Sunday newspaper in 1791.

New reports featured in the archive cover events including the 1793 execution of Louis XVI, the defeat of Napoleon at Waterloo in 1815, and the 1833 abolition of the slave trade, the first and second world wars and the assassination of the US president, John F Kennedy.

“The launch of the archive will revolutionise the way in which users are able to access our historic content, whether for academic research or personal interest,” said Gerard Baines, the head of syndication and rights, GNM.

“The archive will offer historical coverage to both consumers and academics of the most important events recorded during 212 years of publishing history,” GNM added in a statement.

“With microfilm stock and paper copy in danger of degrading beyond repair, the launch of the archive ensures the preservation of the papers’ legacy.”

Silicon Valley firm Olive Software started digitising the archive in December last year.

GNM chose ProQuest CSA to be the exclusive global distribution partner for universities, libraries and corporate accounts.

Rod Gauvin, the ProQuest senior vice-president of publishing, said: “The vivid and fearless reporting by both newspapers has set journalistic standards not only in the UK, but also worldwide.

“Indeed, globally many rely on the Guardian and the Observer for unbiased, thoughtful reporting on events in their own country.”

Fingers at the ready come November 3rd…

Screen heritage survey

Magic lantern slide from National Media Museum

Magic lantern slide from the National Media Museum, http://www.nationalmediamuseum.org.uk

A online survey was launched today, to uncover collections in the UK with moving image and screen-related artefacts. It is organised by a body called the Screen Heritage Network (of which the organisation I work for, the British Universities Film & Video Council, is a member). The survey is open to any UK collection with artefacts relating to the moving image and screen-related media which may be accessible to the public or researchers. There are ten categories of artefact being sought:

1. Film production equipment
2. Television and video equipment
3. Animation and special effects
4. Sound
5. Sets and costumes
6. Cinema and projection
7. Magic lanterns, slide projectors and viewers
8. Toys and games
9. Installations
10. Documentation

The information gathered will be used to create the first-ever online database of moving image and screen-related objects in UK collections.

Behind this activity lies a definition of ‘screen heritage’ which goes beyond moving picture to encompass the machinery that produces and exhibits them, the culture that supports them, and a notion of ‘screen’ that extends beyond cinema and television back to magic lanterns and forward to video games, consoles and the handheld technologies of today.

So the survey, in looking at artefacts, is concentrating on just a part of this vision of what ‘screen heritage’ comprises. It’s all most appropriate to the study of silent cinema, and where silent cinema fits in within the broader scheme of things. Do take a look at the project site, and if you know of a museum or other heritage organisation within the UK that ought to be taking part, and which we may have missed, let us know.

Indiana University Sheet Music Collections

Take Your Girlie to the Movies

Sheet music for Take Your Girlie to the Movies, from http://www.letrs.indiana.edu

Indiana University is a specialist provider of digitisation services and digitised resources, among which is Indiana University Sheet Music Collections. This is a database of some 150,000 examples of sheet music in their collection, immaculately presented with sound cataloguing detail and many of the records having digitised cover images and sheet music. There is a simple and advanced search option, and searching on titles and using the option to choose digitised images only brings up records associated with going to the movies from the silent era.

The rise of cinema-going in the 1910s and 1920s was also the great era of recorded popular song, and many tunes were composed which celebrated the stars or were title songs designed to promote particular films. Among those to look out for on the site which have covers and music score available are:

Mary Pickford: The darling of them all (1914) – composers/lyricists: Richard A. Whiting, Dave Radford, Daisy Sullivan.

Poor Pauline (1914) – composer: Raymond W. Walker, lyricist: Charles R. McCarron, a ditty celebrating Pearl White and the Perils of Pauline serial.

Kathleen Mavourneen (1919) – composer: Albert Von Tilzer, lyricist: Will A. Heelan – written to accompany the Theda Bara picture of that name.

Mickey (1919) – composer: Neil Moret, lyricist: Harry Williams, written to promote the Mabel Normand picture.

Smilin’ Through (1920) – music/lyrics by Arthur Penn – written to accompany the Norma Talmadge film.

And the near-legendary Take your girlie to the movies (If you can’t make love at home) (1919) – composer: Pete Wendling, lyricists: Edgar Leslie and Bert Kalmar.

“Take your girlie to the movies,
If you can’t make love at home.
There’s no little brother there who always squeals,
You can say an awful lot in seven reels!

Take your lessons at the movies,
And have love scenes of your own!
When the picture’s over and it’s time to leave,
Don’t forget to brush the powder off your sleeve!”

etc etc

At the Moving Picture Ball

Finally, there’s At the Moving Picture Ball (1920) – composer: Joseph H. Santly, lyricist: Howard Johnson. There’s an MP3 file of this sung by Maurice Burkhardt on Project Gutenberg and the Internet Archive that’s free to download, and here are the name-dropping lyrics should you wish to sing along:

Reel 1
Hip hooray I feel delighted, yesterday I was invited
To a swell affair, all the movie stars were there
Oh what fun, the party lasted till the break of dawn
Famous players turned to cabareters, how they fooled and carried on.

Chorus:
Dancing at the Moving Picture Ball, some scenario
Great big stars paraded ’round the hall, they were merry oh,
Handsome Wallace Reid stepped out full of speed,
And Theda Bara was a terror, she “vamped the little lady”, so did Alice Brady,
Douglas Fairbanks shimmied on one hand, like an acrobat
Mary Pickford did a toe dance grand, and
Charlie Chaplin with his feet
Stepped all over poor Blanche Sweet
Dancing at that Moving Picture Ball.

Reel 2
Ev’ry girl a handsome looker, had a dance with Mr Zukor
Mr Thomas Ince stepped around just like a prince
William Fox and Jesse Lasky both joined in the fun
Big directors mingled with the actors, why the whole bunch seemed like one.

Chorus:
Dancing at the Moving Picture Ball, some scenario
Great big stars paraded ’round the hall, they were merry oh,
Handsome Wallace Reid stepped out full of speed,
And Theda Bara was a terror, she “vamped the little lady”, so did Alice Brady,
Douglas Fairbanks shimmied on one hand, like an acrobat
Mary Pickford did a toe dance grand, and
Sennett’s bathing girls were there, each one was a little ‘bear’
Dancing at that Moving Picture Ball.

Love that rhyming of looker with Zukor…

New York Times

New York Times

http://www.nytimes.com

Here on The Bioscope we’ve had several items on the digitised newspaper collections that are available online, both for free and via assorted subscription options. The latest news on this front promises to be the most significant such resource yet, especially for those of us interested in researching the history of early film.

The New York Times has been available in digitial form back to 1851 for some time now, under subscription. Two things have just occured. Firstly, the NYT has dropped its subscription scheme, and now offers free access to its archives back to 1987, and for articles between 1923 and 1980 articles are available for purchase at $3.95 a time, or a ten-article pack of $15.95 (over a period of thirty days). But the sensational change as far as we’re concerned is that everything before 1923 is now held to be in the Public Domain, and hence is being made available for free.

The documents are available in PDF format only, though keyword searches operate across the whole texct, not just headlines. To access the service, go to the New York Times front page at www.nytimes.com and type in your search term in the search box, then select the option NYT Archive 1851-1980. If you are searching for a phrase, put this in inverted commas. You can sort the search results by closest match or date – newest or oldest first. Each result gives you the opening lines of the article, then the option to view the whole piece in PDF format. Articles from 1923 onwards give you a free preview of the opening lines. The first few searches are uninterrupted, but then it seems you have to register (for free), for which for some reason they want to know what you earn, your profession, and the number of people employed in your company. You may deal with such hurdles as you see fit.

It is amazing, and I can’t begin to tell the gems and discoveries I’ve made already in just a couple of hours’ searching. I’m still in shock at coming across a letter from 8 October 1905 which seems in all seriousness to recommend filming lynchings so they can reach a wider audience through the Kinetoscope. I’ve comes across Kinemacolor films I’ve never heard of before. And I’ve found such useful things on when terms first became common (I’d no idea before now that the word nickelodeon was in use before there were motion pictures). Though I suspect the first reference to the word ‘television’ in 1853 may be an OCR error… (but take a look at the article ‘Sending Photographs by Telegraph’ from 24 February 1907)

With this, the Chronicling America resource, and other newspaper collections covered in the Times Past and More Times Past posts, the research opportunities are just huge. How lucky we all are.

(My thanks to David Pierce for alerting me to this and other newspaper resources)

The Irish Times

Latest among historic newspaper collections to be made available online is The Irish Times. Its Digital Archive contains all issues from 1859 onwards, with a Text archive for material from the complementary ireland.com site from 1996 onwards.

Searching is free, and gives you tantalising glimpses of the headlines for the terms requested. Accessing the full newspaper is available at a variety of subscription rates, starting at 10 Euros for twenty-four hours. There is plenty there for the study of early film. ‘Kinetoscope’ brings up thirty records, the earliest 14 May 1895. ‘Bioscope’ brings up 2,797, ‘Kinemacolor’ fifty-six, ‘Charlie Chaplin’ 2,103, ‘Kinematograph’ 155, ‘Douglas Fairbanks’ 938, and ‘Electric Theatre’ 227. Searching is by keyword, with the usual option to search for a phrase by enclosing it in inverted commas. It’s also possible to browse by date. All in all an excellent resource which is bound to open up the study of early film production and exhibition in Ireland.

Pictures ought not to move

Not everyone liked the silent movies. There were plenty of critics who scorned the new medium, often as much for the audience it drew as the quality of the films themselves. Mechanically-produced, cheap, easy to view, inescapably bound up with urbanisation and crowds, above all modern, they drew contemptuous attacks from many social commentators and critics more at ease with the well-established art forms.

A fascinating example is ‘Moving Pictures‘, an essay by the surgeon and essayist Stephen Paget, from his 1916 book Sometimes I Think, which a friend alerted me to recently. It can be found on the Gaslight website, and I’ll quote a few passages here and encourage you to investigate the essay in its entirety.

Here’s how Paget begins his argument:

We are so accustomed to moving pictures, that we do not trouble ourselves to study their nature, or their place in the general order of things. We take them for granted. Youth, especially, takes them for granted, having no memory of a time when they were not. But some of us were born into a world in which all the pictures stood still: and I challenge youth to defend the cause of moving pictures. Let the lists be set, and the signal given for the assault. On the shield of youth, the motto is Moving Pictures are All Right. On my antiquated shield, the motto is Pictures Ought Not to Move.

Pictures, of one sort or another, are of immemorial age. Portraits of the mammoth were scratched on gnawed bones, by cave-dwellers, centuries of centuries ago: and we look now at their dug-up work, and feel ourselves in touch with them. The nature of pictures was decided at the very beginning of things, as the natures of trees and of metals were decided. It is not the nature of trees to walk, nor of metals to run uphill: it is not the nature of pictures to move. Pictures and statues, by the law of their being, are forbidden to move. That commandment is laid on them which Joshua, in the Bible-story, lays on the sun and the moon – Stand thou still. They must be motionless: ’tis their nature to: they exist on that understanding, as you and I exist on the understanding that we are mortal. If I were not to die, I should not be a man. If pictures were to move, they would not be pictures.

It’s a curious argument, but at root Paget wants pictures not to move because to do so inhibits the imagination. And this leads him to his own logical conclusion, that motion pictures cannot be an art form:

The photograph of a friend, on my mantelpiece, gives play to my remembrance of him. Within the limits of photography, it is perfect. But if it moved – if its eyes followed me about the room, and its hands had that little gesture which he had with his hands, and its lips opened and shut – it would be hateful, and I should throw it in the fire.

The great pictures in the National Gallery – the Rembrandt portraits, the Raphael Madonnas – imagine them moving. Their beauty would vanish, their nature would be destroyed. The Trustees would immediately sell them, to get rid of them. Probably, they would go on tour: admission threepence, children a penny. Then they would be “filmed,” and the films would be “released,” and a hundred reproductions would be gibbering all over the country. The originals would finally be bartered, in Central Africa, to impressionable native potentates, in exchange for skins or tusks: and if pictures were able to curse, these certainly would curse the day on which they began to move.

By these instances, it is evident that pictures ought not to move. The worse they are, the less it would shock us if they did. The better they are, the more it would shock us. Why must they not move? Because they are works of art. It follows, that moving pictures are not works of art.

QED. Paget then intriguingly calls upon the common argument that films were originally a tool of science (which is quite true), only to use this to bolster his argument against them:

They are works of science: they are “scientific toys.” Science invented them, just for the fun of inventing them: made them out of an old “optical illusion.” They are that friend of my childhood, the zoëtrope, or wheel of life, adjusted to show the products of instantaneous photography. They are “applied science.” … But scientific inventions, unlike works of art, have an immeasurable power of growth and development. They can be improved ad libitum: they can be multiplied ad infinitum. Nothing could be less like a work of art coming from a studio than a scientific invention coming from a laboratory. The work of art is made once and for all: it may be copied, but it cannot be repeated: you cannot have two sets of Elgin Marbles, or two Sistine Madonnas. The scientific invention is like the genie who came out of the fisherman’s jar: you cannot tell where it will stop, nor what it will do next.

Paget, despite his distaste for the motion picture, appears to have been sufficiently aware of the medium to describe in knowledgeable detail the circumstances of its exhibition in war-time:

I should like to see the War bring down the moving-pictures business to one-third of its present size, bring it down with a rush, and with the prospect of a further reduction. Picture-palaces in London are like public-houses: too many of them, too many of us nipping in them; too many people making money out of us, whether we be nipping in the palaces or the houses. The more we patronise them, the more they exploit us: and some of us are taking more films than are good for us. … The bill of fare, at the picture-palaces, includes trash: but it pays them to sell it to us: and we behave as if these palaces belonged to us, while they behave as if we belonged to them. Picture-palaces and public-houses, alike, amuse all of us and enrich some of us: they do good, they do harm: they have to be watched, these by censorship, those by the police: and both these and those are backed by wealth, and by interests too powerful to be set aside.

Paget is most interesting, however, when he takes the motion picture to task for its illusion of reality, still more its pretension to drama:

What is the nature of moving pictures? What are they “of themselves,” and where do they come in the general order of things? Take, for instance, a waterfall. If we look at a waterfall, we see water moving. If we look at a picture of a waterfall, we imagine water moving. If we look at a moving picture of a waterfall, we see a picture moving, a very beautiful object: still, we are looking at an “optical illusion,” not at a waterfall. Or take a more critical example: take a moving picture which not merely moves, but acts. What is it, really, that we are looking at, when we see, on the screen, Hamlet, or How She Rescued Him, or Charlie Chaplin?

He is an actor equal to Dan Leno: the same unfaltering originality, the same talent for dominating the scene, holding our attention, appealing to us by his diminutive stature, his gentle acceptance of situations as he finds them, his half-unconscious air of doing unnatural things in a natural way. But think what we lose in the transition from Dan Leno on the stage to Charlie Chaplin on the screen. Dan was really there: Charlie is not. Dan talked and sang: Charlie is mute. Dan’s performance was human: Charlie’s, by the cutting of the film, and by the driving of the machine at great speed, is super-human. In brief, on the Drury Lane stage I saw Dan Leno, and heard him: but on the screen I do not see Charlie Chaplin–let alone hearing him: I see only a moving picture of him: and this picture so cleverly faked that I see him doing what he never did nor ever could. It was delightful, every moment of it: all the same, it is an optical illusion. Nor is it a straightforward illusion, like the old zoëtrope: it is rendered grotesque and fantastical by the conjuring-tricks of the people who made the film.

He then goes on to decry the idea of filming Shakespeare, particularly in dumbshow (‘Let nothing ever induce you to see him “filmed”‘). Yet he is not wholly against film, when it does what only film can do:

It follows, that the best plays, on the screen, are those which can best afford to lose the advantage of voices and presences, and to be taken for what they are. Wild farce, with lots of conjuring-tricks in it, is the best of all. In pantomime, with a film so faked and speeded-up that fat men run a mile a minute, and cars whirl through space like shooting stars, and all Nature is convulsed, these picture-plays are at their best, joyfully turning the universe upside-down with the flick of a wheel. In the mad rush of impossibilities, there is no time for words, and no need of them.

Perhaps inevitably, Paget is most sympathetic towards the film that depicts reality, and, as a doctor, he shows especial interest in the medical film.

In the display of moving pictures of real things, all the way up from elemental movement to human action, the picture-palace is our good friend: it is servant, by divine appointment, to reality. Moving pictures of living germs of disease, colossally magnified by the adjustment of micro-photography to the making of a film, are the delight of all doctors: moving pictures of wild creatures are the delight of all naturalists: scenes of human life in diverse parts of the world – the crowds in London streets, the crowds in Eastern bazaars, the work and play and habits and customs of the nations – these are the delight of all of us, and will never cease to delight us. For this wealth of visions, this treasury of knowledge, let us be properly grateful.

He concludes by referring to the Cabinet film – an failed attempt by Cecil Hepworth to make a film of the British cabinet – arguing that for the great to be filmed is to lower their dignity (“the value of a moving picture of a great man is lowered, if he is posing for it”); contrasting this with the official film of The Battle of the Somme.

A moving picture of a little group of great men, behaving as the camera expects them to behave, might deservedly fail to have power over us. But here are legions of men, not under orders from the camera, but employed in a business of tragedy such as the world has never suffered till now: men great, not in the Westminster-Abbey sense of the word, but in the greatness of their purpose, in their unconquerable discipline, their endurance: they go into the presence of Death without looking back, and they come out from it laughing, some of them: you see them treading Fear under their feet, you see Heaven, revealed in their will, flinging itself on the screen. You and I, safe and snug over here, let us receive what they give us, their exampl

This is a very interesting, thought-provoking essay, which is eloquent in the way it challenges the motion picture’s pretensions to art and its apprehension of reality. It calls for better pictures rather than no pictures at all, and its distaste is chiefly aimed at the business that creates films rather than the masses who watch them. The complete essay is well worth reading. After all, if we are equipped with an imagination, why do we need pictures to move at all?

How workingmen spend their spare time

How many people writing on early film know about this? Using a bit of lateral searching on the Internet Archive, I found How workingmen spend their time, a doctoral thesis by one George Esdras Bevans, submitted at Columbia University in 1913. I’ve not come across it before, and it seems few film histories refer to it, yet it is a marvellous source of information on cinema-going, audience leisure tastes, and the relationship of earnings and work-time to leisure, with a wide range of evidence demonstrating the prime position of cinema in the public mind just before the First World War.

Here’s the author’s description of his methodology:

This investigation has been undertaken in order to determine how workingmen spend their leisure hours. On the suggestion of Dr. Franklin H. Giddings, Professor of Sociology, Columbia University, the questionnaire method was adopted and a time schedule prepared. The investigation was begun in February, 1912.

More than 4,000 schedules were distributed among workingmen thru the agency of Labor Unions, Clubs and Churches; but altho much interest in the study was manifested, only 113 properly filled out schedules were returned, and these were considered too
few in number to serve as a basis for any general conclusions.

In the Fall of 1912 the Bureau of Social Service of the Home Mission Board of the Presbyterian Church became interested in the study and agreed to engage investigators to interview workingmen in order to secure a sufficient number willing to answer the questions. This investigation began on November 1st, 1912, and was completed on February 3rd, 1913.

Schedules to the number of 868 were returned by the paid investigators. In addition 31 schedules were obtained as the result of a Workingmen’s Mass Meeting held November 12th, 1912, at the Labor Temple, 14th Street and 2nd Avenue, New York City. By February 3rd, 1913, 1,012 schedules had been secured from New York City, 10 from Rochester, N.Y., and 5 from Utica, N.Y. After the tabulation had been partly completed 43 schedules were received from other cities and were used in the closing part of the study relating to Expenditure of Money. Altogether, 1,070 schedules were returned, and these serve as a basis for the present study.

Bevans then goes into great detail, describing the processes he took, the particular statistical method employed, and the resistance that he sometimes received (questions were asked, “Who is back of the study?” “What capitalistic scheme is this?” “Why not investigate the employers and see how they spend their spare time?”). He also provides the questions asked and the forms supplied. The main body of the text is tables with accompanying analysis, under such headings as ‘The Relation of Occupation to the use of Spare Time’, ‘The Relation of Wage to the Use of Spare Time’, and ‘What Men Usually Do on Certain Hours and During Certain Hours’.

As an example, here’s is one of the the tables accompanying the heading ‘The Relation of Hours of Labor to the Use of Spare Time’:

Table one

This isn’t the place to go into a detailed analysis of the data, but essentially one finds that whatever the working man’s circumstances, his hours of work or his earnings, the motion picture was the favoured way of spending one’s spare time. This might be expected, but it is invaluable to see the assumption tested against other leisure options, the availability of free time, and the means to pay for it. Here’s a table on the relationship of age to spare time:

Table two

OK, not everyone interested in silent cinema is going to be that engrossed by statistics, but the sociology of early cinema is still a grievously neglected subject, and if we don’t relate the films to th people who saw them, its hard to say what we are doing investigating early films at all.

There were other such early sociological studies. The most notable is Emilie Altenoh’s study of film audiences in Mannheim, Germany over 1912/13, published as Zur Soziologie des Kino: Die Kino-Unternehmung und die Sozialen Schichten Ihrer Besucher (1914), part translated as A Sociology of the Cinema in Screen, vol. 42 no. 3, Autumn 2001. I hear tale that a full translation into English is underway. Another is M.M. Davis’ The Exploitation of Pleasure: A Study of Commercial Recreation in New York City (1911). There is always something a little unsettling about people being studied anatomically in this way – and generally working-class people. What seemed irrational or in need of explanation (and then control) by elites, seemed wholly rational to those enjoying the experience. But we still have to be glad that such studies were done. As Bevans’ data amply proves, watching movies was, quite simply, a good way of spending your time.

Into the Bioscope Library it goes.