Claudia Lea Phelps Home Movies

Mark G. Cooper (USC Moving Image Research Collections)

Claudia Lea Phelps's Laconia Reel (1923): Travels in Japan, Formosa, Hong Kong, Java, India, and Egypt

Preserved and printed by Colorlab for the Orphan Film Symposium.


The University of South Carolina library's description of its Regional Film Collections (www.sc.edu/library/mirc/regional.php) offers the following on the Claudia Lea Phelps Home Movies.

Gifted to the University in 1992 by Claudia Lea Phelps's grand niece, Stephanie Wild, this collection comprises approximately five hours of material (1,900' of b&w 35mm film, 11,925' of b&w 16mm film, and 50' of color 16mm film). A fixture of Aiken society, Phelps (1894-1984) was an avid cinematographer in addition to being a sportswoman, gardener, and noted breeder of West Highland terriers. Her movies record her world travels as well as these pursuits. 

Shooting of the Laconia footage occurred in 1923, the year that 16mm film was introduced to the market for amateur moviemakers. However, the Phelps film was shot in 35mm -- not unique, but certainly a rarity in home movies, even of the affluent.


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Mark Garrett Cooper is an associate professor of Film & Media Studies and English at the University of South Carolina. His most recent book, Universal Women: Filmmaking and Institutional Change in Early Hollywood, is published by the University of Illinois Press (March 2010). He is also Interim Director for the USC's new library unit Moving Image Research Collections.

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