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New Exhibition of Original Photographs from the Silent Film Deerslayer on Display in Cooperstown

September 19, 2011

New Exhibition of Original Photographs from the Silent Film Deerslayer on Display in Cooperstown


COOPERSTOWN, NY (September 19, 2011)— To commemorate the centennial of the filming of the silent film Deerslayer, the New York State Historical Association’s Research Library in Cooperstown, N.Y. will feature still shots from the film. The exhibition can be viewed in the window case in the lobby of the library during regularhours from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., Monday through Friday, and Saturday afternoons from 1:00 to 5:00 p.m., starting September 24th. The original photographs are found in the Florence Ward Local History Collection in the Special Collections Department of the Library.

The 1911 fifteen minute film Deerslayer was groundbreaking, not only advancing the feeble film medium but also capturing on film the spectacular real-life setting of this literary masterpiece,” says NYSHA President Paul D’Ambrosio. “Film buffs, historians, James Fenimore Cooper enthusiasts, and admirers of Otsego Lake will all appreciate the still shots in the case exhibition.”

One hundred years ago this month, September 1911, the Vitagraph Film Company sent a film cast and crew to Cooperstown to film the silent movie of James Fenimore Cooper’s novel, The Deerslayer. The filming was done on location on the site of the original setting of the book – Otsego Lake. The Vitagraph Company had been in existence for about 10 years and was, at that time, a major film company. Filming the story in Cooperstown was supposed to put Cooperstown “on the map.”

The Freeman’s Journal recorded the events of the 1911 filming. Vitagraph had problems with bad weather atfirst and difficulty with the Indian costuming, but eventually filming began with the scene where Hurry Harry introduces Natty Bumppo (The Deerslayer) to the Old Tom Hutter and his daughters Judith and Hetty. Hutter’s home on piles at the northern end of the lake was reconstructed near Sunken Island. Hutter’s houseboat “the Ark” was reconstructed and floated around the lake. Some of the most well known actors of the time were in the cast: Natty was played by Harry Morey; Hurry Harry by Hal Reid. The Vitagraph girl Florence Turner played the part of Hutter’s feeble minded daughter Hetty.

The film was released in 1913 and was a big hit. Since film was a new medium, this film was considered a great accomplishment. Looking back at it 100 years later, we can see how primitive it was. The whole story of The Deerslayer was told in 15 minutes. With the passing years, the film was forgotten. In 1984, the NYSHA Library was able to obtain a copy, which is now in its collection.

The Library’s collections also include over 90,000 books and bound periodicals, manuscripts, newspapers, and photographs. Holdings on New York’s state and local history, agricultural history, 19th century life, art, and family history are particularly well represented. NYSHA welcomes visitors to its library on Rt. 80, just north of Cooperstown, next to the Fenimore Art Museum.

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About the New York State Historical Association

New York State Historical Association (NYSHA) has been welcoming and connecting people to our shared cultural heritage since 1899 through exhibitions and programs that provoke, delight, and inspire. Whether you are a student exploring history through New York History Day; a visitor taking in the Fenimore Art Museum’s world-class collections; a researcher combing through the holdings of our Research Library in Cooperstown or online; a scholar, teacher, or history buff attending one of our conferences or enjoying the journal of New York History or another of our publications; or a family experiencing first-hand a 19th-century farming community at The Farmers’ Museum, a vibrant living history museum and sister institution, you are experiencing a dynamic 21st-century cultural institution.

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