Earliest Known Color Film of the White House Found in West Branch, Iowa

Mar 28, 2017

Lynn Smith is an audio visual archivist for the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum in West Branch, and a few years ago, she made a discovery.

“I was looking at films that were supposed to be in black and white and on the side, I saw ‘kodacolor.’ So, I started doing some research,” says Smith. "Kodacolor film appears to be in black and white until it's run through a special projector." 

The color film she uncovered contains the earliest known color images of the White House and was shot by former First Lady Lou Henry Hoover.

During this Talk of Iowa segment, Smith talks with host Charity Nebbe. Tom Schwartz, who is director of the museum, also joins the conversation.

“These are important and interesting. We usually think of Herbert as a really dark figure. Times were hard when he was in office. Seeing him in color is nice,” says Schwartz. There is a scene in the films where he is caught fishing in a suit.

“He always thought a man should be properly dressed,” laughed Smith.

The films will be released in their entirety on Wednesday, March 29, which is the anniversary of Lou Henry Hoover’s 143rd birthday. The films will also be shown throughout the day in the Figge Auditorium at the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum in West Branch.