Watch the Earliest Known Color Footage of the White House
Herbert Hoover and his presidency at the start of the Great Depression are often remembered in black-and-white. Newly surfaced footage shows the President in clear color, and it may be the oldest color film depicting the White House grounds.
As The Washington Post reports, seven color film reels were discovered by Herbert Hoover Presidential Library & Museum archivist Lynn Smith two years ago. While sifting through the library’s film inventory one day, she saw a collection labeled “Kodacolor” that caught her attention. They looked like normal black-and-white films, but they had strange lines running across the frames she couldn’t identify.
The lines, as Smith later discovered, are there to help convert the film to color when it's fed into a certain kind of projector. Without a way to play the footage, she secured a $5600 grant from the National Film Preservation Foundation to have it preserved, digitized, and copied.
Late last year she was able to view the reels for the first time. The footage, captured sometime between 1929 and 1933, shows Herbert Hoover, his aide Larry Richey, and interior secretary Ray Lyman Wilbur tossing around a medicine ball in the White House yard.
The footage was taken more than a decade before Harry Truman gave the first presidential address on television. Radio was still a fairly new medium, with Warren Harding becoming the first president to use it to address the people in 1922.
The reels also feature scenes of the White House gardens, the Washington Monument, the Lincoln Memorial, the White House dogs, and first lady Lou Hoover. One clip shows the president on a fishing trip reeling in a barracuda in his coat and tie. Hoover Library director Thomas F. Schwartz told The Washington Post, “Hoover was caught once without a tie, fishing, and he was upset because he thought the dignity of the office required … some formality, even when fishing.”
[h/t The Washington Post]