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Wreck of the U.S.S. Maine, June 7th, 1911

[Detail] Wreck of the U.S.S. Maine, June 7th, 1911

Collection Overview

The Spanish-American War in Motion Pictures contains "actualities" filmed in the United States, Cuba, and the Phillippines. The films show troops, ships, notable figures, and parades, as well as reenactments of battles and other war-time events

Special Features

These online exhibits provide context and additional information about this collection.

Historical Eras

These historical era(s) are best represented in the collection although they may not be all-encompassing.

  • Development of the Industrial United States, 1876-1915
  • Emergence of Modern America, 1890-1930

Related Collections and Exhibits

These collections and exhibits contain thematically-related primary and secondary sources. Also browse the Collection Finder for more related material on the American Memory Web site.

Other Resources

Recommended additional sources of information.

Search Tips

Specific guidance for searching this collection

For more help with search words, go to The Spanish-American War in Motion Pictures Subject Index. For more search help, see Finding Items in American Memory.

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U.S. History

The Spanish-American War in Motion Pictures contains some of the first movies of American troops ever made during wartime. The collection, which includes considerable background information in the Special Presentation The Motion Picture Camera Goes to War, is a resource for understanding how Americans experienced the war and how the media's coverage of the war influenced national identity during and after the conflict. Another Special Presentation made by the Hispanic Division of the Library of Congress, The World of 1898: The Spanish-American War, contains helpful historical background and includes essays on the war from the perspectives of Cuba, Spain, and Puerto Rico.

The collection also features actuality footage (films taken of real events as they happen) and reenactments of events that took place in the Philippines following the Spanish-American War, which led to the Philippine Revolution.

1) Spanish-American War Events

The Spanish-American War in Motion Pictures includes footage of many important events of the Spanish-American War, from the arrival of the first members of the U.S. Expeditionary Force in U.S. Troops Landing at Daiquiri, Cuba to the triumphant celebration of victory in General Lee's Procession, Havana.

Browse the Topical List to see a chronology of the war's events and films for each topic.

2) Troops

The collection contains actuality footage of American troops at the turn of the century and shows the realities of being a soldier during this period.

Search on soldiers or sailors for titles such as Soldiers Washing Dishes and Troops Making Military Road in Front of Santiago.

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3) Events in the Philippines

The collection includes actualities of the war in the Philippines, and reenactments of key battles there. More resources on the Philippine Revolution are available in the Special Presentation The World of 1898, including a chronology.

Search on Philippines for titles such as Aguinaldo's Navy and Advance of Kansas Volunteers at Caloocan.

4) Motion picture coverage of the war

The collection shows the rise of motion pictures as entertainment and as a source of information, as audiences flocked to vaudeville theaters to see these films of war events.

Films such as Burial of the Maine Victims, Wreck of the Battleship Maine, and Cuban Refugees Waiting for Rations substantiated newspaper accounts of alleged Spanish atrocities for the public. War Correspondents and New York Journal Despatch Yacht Buccaneer put the journalists themselves, and their quest to get the story, at center stage. See Remember the Maine in the Special Presentation for more background information on the role of motion pictures during the war.

5) Individualism

The Spanish-American War created a boon for flamboyant individuals seeking to make their mark, from competing newspaper publishers William Randolph Hearst and Joseph Pulitzer to journalists and camera men, to wealthy private citizens who recruited their own volunteer military regiments to fight in the war.

Astor Battery on Parade

Astor Battery on Parade, Jan. 27, 1899

Astor Battery on Parade features the unit outfitted by prominent businessman John Jacob Astor. Theodore Roosevelt's Rough Riders, a volunteer regiment recruited by the future president, shown in the film President Roosevelt and the Rough Riders, were also a popular subject for the press.

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6) Nationalism

The collection contains many examples of the outpouring of nationalism which occurred in America during the war, including several parades honoring war heroes Admiral William T. Sampson and Admiral George Dewey. Reenactments of Spanish fights with the Cubans served to justify American participation in the war against Spain and to heighten nationalism.

Search on parades for titles such as The Dandy Fifth. Search on Spain or Spanish for reenactments such as Shooting Captured Insurgents.

7) African American troops

The collection shows the role of minorities during the war, particularly African Americans who fought in segregated regiments. The role of the 25th Infantry is discussed briefly in The Philippine Revolution, part of the Special Presentation.

Search on afro american troops for films such as 25th Infantry.

8) Images of empire

Film images helped make military strength and dominance over foreign countries more central to Americans' national identity, contributing to ideas of empire.

Films such as Troops at Evacuation of Havana, Raising Old Glory Over Morro Castle, and Filipinos Retreat from Trenches portray a victorious American army.

Critical Thinking

Chronological Thinking

This collection focuses on the events of the Spanish-American War and the subsequent Philippine Revolution from 1898 to 1901. The chronology is emphasized in the Special Presentation The Motion Picture Camera Goes to War and in The World of 1898, which includes an overall chronology of the war, as well as separate chronologies by country (Cuba, The Philippines and Guam, Puerto Rico, and Spain). Students can use these films to examine how war may have changed over time. They may answer questions such as:

  • How were the soldiers dressed compared to soldiers today?
  • What kind of fighting was performed?
  • What kind of coverage do war events receive from the media today as opposed to the turn of the century?

Comprehension

Students can compare actuality films (films taken of real events as they occur) with the reenactment films. Some actualities are U.S. Troops Landing at Daiquiri, Cuba, and Packing Ammunition on Mules, Cuba. An example of a reenactment is Skirmish of Rough Riders.

Students might answer questions such as:

  • Can you tell the two types of film apart?
  • What might indicate to you that the film is a recreation of an event rather than the actual event?
  • Why might it be necessary to recreate an event for the camera?
Skirmish of Rough Riders

Skirmish of Rough Riders, June 10, 1899.

The motion picture camera brought home images of the everyday activities of soldiers that made it possible to envision what it was like to be a soldier in the war, from the early enthusiasm of preparing for war (Go to Topical Title List, and scroll down to "Films of Military Preparations") to the hard work performed later in the midst of war (Troops Making Military Road in Front of Santiago).

Search on troops and soldiers to find more films regarding work life in wartime. What tasks were expected from a soldier during this war?

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Analysis and Interpretation

Students can do further research on the issue of imperialism and see if films such as Raising Old Glory over Morro Castle or Filipinos Retreat from Trenches strengthen the notion of U.S. dominance over Cuba and the Philippines.

Students can also look for more information regarding on the African American troops throughout history and analyze the role of African American soldiers in the army during the Spanish-American War in films such as 25th Infantry and Colored Troops Disembarking.

Students can answer questions such as:

  • Who led the soldiers?
  • Were the regiments integrated?

Ask students to find several newspaper articles of the period covering African American troops in the Spanish-American War. Then ask students to write their own article from the point of view of a journalist of that period.

Historical Issue Analysis and Decision Making

The World of 1898 includes a historical overview of the war from the perspective of events in Cuba, Puerto Rico, and Spain. Students can analyze the different sides of the war and determine their own opinions about the issues the war presented and the consequences of the actions taken by the United States. Students can hold a debate on the issues representing the different countries involved.

Research

This collection affords an excellent opportunity for the student to conduct further research into the Spanish-American War and the Philippine Revolution. Students can focus on different topics, such as the Naval War , the Philippine Revolution, Spanish occupation of Cuba, and Roosevelt's Rough Riders, and use the films as an added resource. Useful information on topics pertaining to the war and the Philippine Revolution can be found in the Subject Index to The World of 1898, including brief biographies for figures such as George Dewey, Theodore Roosevelt, and Emilio Aguinaldo.

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Arts & Humanities

Creative Writing

After viewing films of soldiers training, students can imagine themselves as those soldiers during the war. They might write a journal or diary of a soldier's daily life. They could also write letters home to family describing what the war is like for them.

Love and War

Love and War, Nov. 28, 1899

Students could view the film Love and War, a fictionalized account of a soldier during the Spanish-American War, and write their own script for the film and act it out.

Persuasive Writing and Debate

Students can research the events that led up to the war and write a persuasive paper as to why the United States should or should not get involved in the dispute between Cuba and Spain.

Students can also research the Sampson and Schley controversy, represented by two films in the collection (search on Sampson and Schley). The controversy was whether Admiral Schley had disobeyed orders from Admiral Sampson during a crucial naval battle, and is detailed in The War Ends - Parades and Controversies. Let students choose sides and hold a debate about whether Schley acted heroically or insubordinately.

Journalistic Writing

Have students read the Edison Catalog entry found near the bottom of the item record page for the film War Correspondents. Discuss how this differs from journalists "getting the story" today. Assign students to small groups, and ask them to act as journalists during the turn of the century in order to research the Spanish-American War. Then, have them work together to write headlines and articles regarding the war, and produce a newspaper of the that time period which contains their stories.

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