Hagley Museum acquires major industrial film collection

Delaware News Desk
Hagley Museum in Wilmington recently acquired a major film collection from one of the country’s oldest industrial film studios.

Hagley Museum in Wilmington recently acquired a major film collection from one of the country’s oldest industrial film studios.  

“The Cinecraft Productions collection is one of the most comprehensive collections from an industrial film company in the country and the largest ever motion picture acquisition for the Hagley Library,” said Hagley Curator Kevin Martin. "The collection includes films watched in classrooms, auditoriums, churches, company and neighborhood theatres, corporate events, board meetings, luncheon clubs and union halls. It also includes early filmed TV commercials, a made-for-TV film series, the first televised infomercial and one of the first cooking shows on TV. The collection fits perfectly into the Hagley Library's mission to document the history of business, industry and technology."  

Founded in 1939 by Betty and Ray Culley, Cinecraft is the country's longest-surviving corporate and industrial motion picture studio. This sector of the film industry included hundreds of studios at its high point in the 1940s, ’50s and ’60s. The Cleveland-based Cinecraft is privately owned and has had only three owners in the 81 years since it began.  

The collection contains more than 6,000 cans of film covering approximately 1,500 unique productions, 1,000 movie scripts and related records and 3,000 studio production photographs and negatives. Most of the collection consists of unique master materials. A significant portion are "lost" films — those films not held by any other library or archive.  

Cinecraft's clients included a who's who of American industry — DuPont, Westinghouse Electric Corporation, Standard Oil Co. (Ohio), B. F. Goodrich and Seiberling Tire and Rubber, Republic Steel and Youngstown Sheet and Tube, Ohio Bell Telephone Co., Owens Corning, General Electric Co., Carling Brewing Co. and more than 100 other companies, trade associations and government agencies. Many are already represented among Hagley's vast collection of business records and archives.  

Celebrities who appeared in Cinecraft productions include media mogul Merv Griffith; singer, dancer and movie star Danny Kaye; Tim Conway, co-star of "The Carol Burnett Show;" Alan Alda, "Hawkeye Pierce" in the television series “M*A*S*H”; Louise Winslow, the "Martha Stewart" of the first years of television; Chet Huntley, the co-anchor of NBC's evening news for 14 years; Basil Rathbone, "Sherlock Holmes" in 14 Hollywood films; Joe E. Brown, one of the most famous American comedians in the 1930s and 1940s; and Richard Nixon.  

Noteworthy films in the collection include “The Romance of Iron and Steel” (1938), “Naturally - It’s FM” (1947), “Milestones of Motoring” (1954), “The Long Ships Passing” (1960), “Where’s Joe?” (1972), and “Where the River Enters the Sea” (1982). While Cinecraft films form the bulk of the collection, the archives include other studios' work, including the only known print of a silent film, The Heart of Cleveland (1924).  

The donation was made by Maria Keckan, president and chief financial officer, and Neil McCormick, chairman of the board at Cinecraft.  

Hagley has been processing the collection for more than a year. To explore a portion of the Cinecraft collection and to learn more, visit hagley.org/cinecraft. A highlight reel with clips from the Cinecraft productions collection is available on YouTube at bit.ly/38tsD2B. 

For more on Hagley Museum and Library, call 658-2400 visit hagley.org.