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Ian St. Clair writes about a film discovery in Oregon. 

It’s news in Wyoming because the film shows Cheyenne Frontier Days from 1911.

Consider the timing. 

“The first feature-length film to be released in its entirety in the US was the 69-minute epic Dante’s Inferno (1911, It.) (aka L’Inferno), inspired by Dante’s 14th century poem The Divine Comedy.  (from

It opened in New York on December 10, 1911 at Gane’s Manhattan Theatre.”

New York gets Dante’s Inferno and Wyoming gets The Daddy of ’em All

Go with The Daddy.

How the film of the 1911 Frontier Days came to Oregon is a mystery.   Even Michael Kassel, the curator of collections at the Old West Museum, has no idea.

Discovery is like that

Watch a clip of Antiques Roadshow for a sample of that excitement.  When an appraiser says you ought to insure the old painting you brought in from your garage for $200,000, something happens.

Given the meticulous research and record keeping museums are famous for, should you be surprised that a Wyoming rodeo film turns up in the Oregon Historical Society collections?

Be more surprised that a 1911 film turns up anywhere, and that it’s in good enough shape to show.  This is what museums are even more famous for: keeping what they have until they know what it is.  For example:

Michele Kribs received the 2011 Thomas Vaughan Award after thirty years as the OHS film preservationist.  Her effort to keep film intact and available has been a life-long goal.  It must amuse her to think of audiences watching film she preserved in comfort, the same film she cracked out of dirty cases wearing a respirator.

Early film has its hazards.

Before Ms Kribs, historical film in the OHS collections had another guardian, Lew Cook.

From Anne Richardson, “Michele was not the first preservationist/archivist to work for OHS. That honor goes to the man who trained her: Lewis Clark Cook, a filmmaker-turned-archivist who inspired both Will Vinton and Jim Blashfield ( who in turn inspired, employed and mentored a young, film curious, Gus Van Sant.) For that reason, Lew Cook could reasonably be called the granddaddy of Portland filmmaking today.”    

The Granddaddy of Portland filmmaking saves film from The Daddy of ’em All?  Sounds just right.


About David Gillaspie

Since I'm from Oregon I know all about wood; It's like writing a blog. For example I once made a four poster bed from rough cut lumber. It broke the first time I laid down. Now it's four foot stools. Every blog post on comes from the same process. Be a good surfer and sign up. You might be sorry, but not that much. Talk soon, David

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