1902 Film Shot in Indianapolis Makes National Film Registry

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A screenshot of Black parade go-ers from the 1902 Ringling Bros. Parade Film that has been inducted into the National Film Registry.
A screenshot of Black parade goers from the 1902 Ringling Bros. Parade Film that has been inducted into the National Film Registry.

A film shot in Indianapolis in 1902 that captures a menagerie of Ringling Bros. circus animals parading through the city’s downtown has landed a spot on the National Film Registry. The 3-minute-long silent film, titled “Ringling Bros. Parade Film,” is part of a class of 25 films recently added to the Library of Congress’ National Film Registry.

The Associated Press

Released by the Selig Polyscope Company in July 1902, it is the 11th oldest movie in the registry, the Indianapolis Business Journal reported. It features elephants, camels and caged lions traveling on Capitol Avenue past the Indiana Statehouse before the parade passes along Washington Street past the Indiana Repertory Theatre’s future home.

When announcing this year’s class of films on Dec. 14, Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden said Black residents seen along the parade route factored in the movie’s selection for the National Film Registry.

“African Americans were rarely shown in films of that era, and then only in caricature or mocking depictions,” Hayden said.

An Oakland, California, couple who said they found the film in their basement in the 1970s donated it to the Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum in Fremont, California, in 2011.

David Kiehn, the museum’s historian, identified the film’s date and place, and the museum’s restored version of the film was posted to YouTube in October 2020, with the tale of Kiehn’s detective work. Kiehn said the film is the oldest nitrate print in the museum’s collection of hundreds of movies.

“It was in pretty good shape when we got it,” he said. “It’s held up pretty well.”


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