Pedestrian traffic on Main Street in Oshkosh was heavier than usual on Friday May 31, 1912. Folks were not out in great numbers hoping to see anything special as much as they were hoping that they would be seen. The special occasion was a film crew from Carl Laemmle's Independent Moving Pictures Company who had arrived to make a promotional movie on Oshkosh.
Picture Day Tomorrow. Moving Picture Forces Will Take Oshkosh Views-Everone Should Get Out. From the Oshkosh Northwestern, May 30, 1912.
Carl Leammle, circa 1925
Laemmle had previously managed the Continental Clothing Company in Oshkosh. He moved to Milwaukee in 1906 to operate two nickelodeon movie houses. In 1909 he moved to New York and started the Independent Moving Pictures Company. It would later move to Hollywood, California and change its name to Universal Studios. In 1912 he contacted Oshkosh City officials about making a picture to promote the city. The Oshkosh Daily Northwestern ran articles for a week prior to the filming, advising people to gather on Main Street on the 31st. On that day, director Watterson R. Rothacker and cameraman Charles Kaufman arrived and began shooting. Filming was continued on June 1, cancelled due to rain for two days, and was completed on June 4th and 5th.

The film played in Oshkosh to eager crowds, but it is unknown how wide a distribution it received. The motion picture would have been lost to time if not for an Oshkosh film collector, Vance Yost, who discovered an original copy in 1974. Yost was able to have a negative made from the deteriorating original nitrate film and duplicates made from the negative. In 1998 the Oshkosh Public Museum purchased the Yost Collection from his family.

The film presents a rare and unique glimpse of Oshkosh and its residents. Horse-drawn steam pumpers, Main Street shoppers, private residences, civic buildings, Paine Lumber employees, and children playing are all captured in time. These images are even more exceptional because they are not frozen in time, but are in motion.

Scott Cross
Archivist, Oshkosh Public Museum



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Updated May 31, 2002

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