To New Horizons:                       

Ephemeral Films 1931-1945

If the United States had a tradition of recognizing individuals as "national treasures," media archaeologist, Rick Prelinger would be one of my first nominees. Over the decades Rick rescued 60,000 industrial and educational films, many literally from the dumpster, that together tell a story which is quite different than the "official" Hollywood version. What Rick understood was that the narrative in these "ephemeral" films, which were never intended to be saved for future watching. . . was in many ways a more honest portrayal of the culture than the comedies and dramas on TV and movie screens.

Rick gave his collection to the Library of Congress and also made much of it available at the Internet Archive. But before that, Rick curated a two-hour collection of films which shine a light on the darkness of mid-20th century American culture. Voyager published these on laserdisc and videotape in 1988 and on CD-ROM in the early 90s. 

Volume 1 is below, Volume 2 is here.

In My Merry Oldsmobile (1931) excerpt

Cartoon by Max Fleischer

Master Hands (1936) excerpt

Elegy to the assembly line: Chevrolet’s Flint plant

We Drivers (1936) excerpt

Message from Big Brother I

Chevrolet Leader News (1936) excerpt

Message from Big Brother II

Relax (1937) excerpt

Improving her efficiency

Precisely So (1937) excerpt

Tools march to Tschaikovsky in stop-motion animation

Extra (ca. 1938)

The Esso men sing a duet

Breakfast Pals (ca. 1938)

Snap, Crackle, and Pop slug it out with Soggy, Mushy and Toughy

Three Smart Daughters (ca. 1938)

Singer Sewing Center grads get their men

Oxydol Goes Into High, 1938) excerpt

Suds, suds, suds, everywhere suds