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Wilmington Public Library films

Creation: 1914-1984
Accession: 2012-212


Based in Wilmington, Delaware, the Wilmington Public Library has been serving the public since it was established in 1754. This collection consists of eighty eight films, dating from 1914 to 1984, donated by the Wilmington Public Library. These films were de-accessioned from the library’s non-circulating collection. This collection is organized into nine series based on the film’s subject or type of production: American History, Archaeological, Business, Commercial films/television, Educational, Environmental, Experimental, Political Science and Urban/Rural Studies.


  • Creation: 1914-1984



18 Linear Feet

General Physical Description

57 reels : sd., col. ; 16mm. 31 reels : sd., b&w ; 16mm.

Historical Note

The first Wilmington Public Library was established in Delaware in 1754. There was an interruption in service due to the Revolutionary War, but in 1788, with the help of several important patrons, the Library Company of Wilmington was incorporated. In 1784, a philanthropist, William P. Bancroft (1835-1928), paid the library’s growing debt which led to the library becoming free to all citizens. The original library started in the home of the librarian and moved several times before finding its permanent home, with the assistance of Pierre S. du Pont (1870-1954), at East 10th Street in downtown Wilmington. The building was completed in 1922, renovations were made in 1970, and in 2014 the interior of the building was demolished and rebuilt to serve the current needs of the community. This included the addition of conference rooms, children and teen spaces, a computer room and job center. "Satisfying the educational, cultural and literary needs of the public" is part of the library's mission and the library offers many events and resources to the public. Since the films in this collection were part of the non-circulating collection, most likely they were used as part of the library's extensive event programming.

Scope and Content

Dating from 1914 to 1984, this collection consists of eighty eight 16mm films donated by the Wilmington Public Library. The films were de-accessioned from the library’s non-circulating collection. All films were professionally produced for either television or theatrical release. The collection is organized into nine series based on the film’s subject or type of production: American History, Archaeological, Business, and Commercial films/television, Educational, Environmental, Experimental, Political Science and Urban/Rural Studies. All series are arranged alphabetically unless noted otherwise.

The American History series contains films dealing with the history of the United States and date from 1959 to 1973. This includes eleven episodes of a thirteen part series by Alistair Cooke entitled, “America: A Personal History of the United States”, produced by the BBC. This series also contains films on American music, the Erie Canal, life during different time periods in the country, and four episodes from the series "The Presidency in the Postwar World: The Truman Years.” Films within an episodic series are arranged chronologically.

The Archaeological series, dating from 1968 to 1971, consists of a two part series titled “Digging for the History of Man” that depicts archaeological digs in Turkey, Iran and Iraq. Also included are a film documenting the Colonial Williamsburg excavation called “Doorway to the Past” and a film that explains the history of scientific dating, “How Old is Old.” Films within an episodic series are arranged chronologically.

The Business series dates from 1968 to 1984 and contains two films that discuss better business techniques, “Putting the One Minute Manager to Work” and “Up the Organization”. Another film, “The Plutocrats: Rich, Super Rich, Texas Rich” documents the lives of several Texas multimillionaires.

The thirteen films in the Commercial Films/Television series date from 1914 to 1977 and are either feature films or have had a television release. Included are films by Buster Keaton (“College”) and Charlie Chaplin (“Dough and Dynamite”). Episodes of popular television shows, Fat Albert (“Going into Business”) and In Search of (“In search of…Amelia Earhart”) as well as a documentary on the author and illustrator of Winnie the Pooh, are part of this series. Of note is a serialized crime film titled “Five Clues to Fortune” (or “The Treasure of Woburn Abbey”) that includes all eight episodes. Films within an episodic series are arranged chronologically.

The Educational series contains nineteen films, dating from 1952 to 1980, that document a variety of subjects including institutions, modes of transportation, occupations, nature and historic events. There are two films on the history of the railroad industry “The Golden Spike” and “The Iron Horse” and on the automobile industry, “The Golden Age of the Automobile” and “Pierce Arrow”. Films explaining American institutions such as the Library of Congress and the Constitution of the United States are included. Instructional films on creating sound for film and the practice of printmaking in Colonial America round out the series.

The Environmental series includes nine films dating from 1963 to 1973 that are concerned with environmental issues. The series contains four episodes of a series based on the ramifications of energy usage called “Energy”. Two films present the issue of noise pollution, “Noise the New Pollutant” and “Noise Pollution”. Waste issues are addressed in “A Funny thing happened on the way to the garbage dump” and “The Silent Spring of Rachel Carson”.

Two films are included in the Experimental series; an Australian film, “autumn of a Mining Town” (1972) and a Dutch film entitled “The House” (1961).

The Political Science series contains films dating from 1967 to 1975 that discuss political and economic issues. “Politics, Power and the Public Good” is an abridged version of the 1949 film "All the Kings Men" which looks at political corruption. Also included are two films discussing economic issues within American society, “The Poor Pay More” and “The Incredible Bread Machine Film”.

The Urban/Rural Studies series consists of twelve films dating from 1946 to 1981. Some of the films in this series, such as “The Troubled Cities”, “Three Cures for a Sick City” and “Abandonment of the Cities”, address crises within cities and discuss possible solutions. Other films depict everyday life in a city (“Big Town” and “The City”) or a specific city (“Lewes: A Town by the Sea” and “Why save Florence?”). “Home Country USA” looks at the life of skilled workers in rural communities. Of note is the Robert Flaherty film “Nanook of the North”, a document of the everyday lifestyle of a Canadian Inuit and his family.

Access Restrictions

No restrictions on access; this collection is open for research.

Film material is located in remote storage. Please contact staff 48 hours in advance of research visit at

Language of Materials


Finding Aid & Administrative Information

Wilmington Public Library films
Lisa Kruczek
Description rules:
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description:
Script of description:

Repository Details

Repository Details

Part of the Audiovisual Collections Repository

PO Box 3630
Wilmington Delaware 19807 USA