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First films from First State discovered in Library of Congress

Thomas Gears
A screenshot of one of the silent films depicts girls boarding a miniature railway.

Silent films of Brandywine Springs Park from the early 1900s were recently discovered.

Historic Red Clay Valley’s History Chair Thomas Gears discovered the nine short black-and-white silent films from 1903 in the Library of Congress after an extensive search.


“When I first saw them I was ecstatic because these were sort of the Holy Grail for local historians," Gears said. "These are the oldest existing films made in Delaware and they show Brandywine Springs Park alive, and we’ve only seen it in pictures.”


One film shows a miniature railway, one of the park’s attractions from its amusement park days.


“We really knew very little about it, and now all of a sudden we see it and it’s running, and there’s kids on it and everything else," Gears said.


Other films depict the forerunner to the tilt awhirl called the Razzle Dazzle, an annual Baby Parade through the park and more.


Gears paid for the films - created by the Thomas Edison film company - to be digitized – preserving a unique part of Delaware’s past.

He’ll be giving a presentation about them at 4 p.m. Saturday at Greenbank Station, home of the Wilmington and Western Railroad.


Delaware Public Media's planning to feature the back story of the Thomas Edison film company later this year on History Matters.



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