The National Film Preservation Foundation, created in 1966 by the U.S. Congress to help save the nation's film heritage, has announced a grant award to the Southern Oregon Historical Society to fund the preservation of an important 35mm film in the Society’s collection.
The film, entitled “An Equal Chance,” was produced and released in 1920 by the National Organization for Public Health Nursing. The documentary describes the conditions faced by medical professionals responding to the 1918-1919 Spanish Flu pandemic.
SOHS’s copy of the film is believed to be the only surviving copy. Prior to the 1950s, 35mm film stock used highly flammable cellulose nitrate as a base and such films are referred to as “nitrate” films. While nitrate film produced highly desirable photographic results, it was dangerous. Indeed, many movie theatre fires in the first half of the 20th century occurred when projection lamp heat ignited a nitrate film.
Because cellulose nitrate is inherently unstable, many nitrate films have perished either as the result of combustion or degeneration. SOHS’s nitrate, however, is one of the lucky “survivors.”
SOHS’s nitrate copy of this film will be transferred in Maryland to safety 35mm film as well as digitized, allowing SOHS to make the film publicly available.
An article in the April 1920 Moving Picture Age magazine notes that the “National Organization [for Public Health Nursing] uses the screen to state problems of Health and Sanitation and Point the way to their Solution by Communities and Individuals.”
As such SOHS believes "An Equal Chance" to be both an important document as well as extremely timely.