Newly Discovered 28mm Film Reel by Raymond Ditmars, Including Previously Unreleased Footage of the Hornaday Bison Herd


Newly Discovered 28mm Film Reel by Raymond Ditmars, Including Previously Unreleased Footage of the Hornaday Bison Herd

28mm Pathe film reel in original canister, containing three short films by Raymond Ditmars, circa early 20th century. The films are titled: “Four Legged Overcoats,” “What’s Left of the Bison Herds,” and “Wild Horses.” A title frame identifies the films as “Photographed by Dr. Ditmars in the Bronx Zoological Park.” The Hornaday Bison herd is the subject of both the first and second films, and is the earliest known motion footage of the herd known to be in existence. The original canister measures 7” diameter by 1 ½” tall, and is marked “PATHE FRERES PARIS”.

The film has been authenticated by Mark Hall Patton, as well as the Wildlife Conservation Society/Bronx Zoo Archives.

There are very few known still photos of the Hornaday Bison herd, so to have motion footage from the period is astonishing. Also, 28mm films are quite scarce and most are held in institutions. Raymond Ditmars was credited with 96 films, but the 3 on this reel are not included in his “known works.” Only 4 of Ditmars films are known to exist today, and only one of those has English intertitles. This film reel is, in every way, a rare, significant and remarkable record of American history and the efforts to save the American Bison from extinction.

William Temple Hornaday and the “Hornaday Bison” Herd at the Bronx Zoo

William Temple Hornaday's advocacy is credited with preserving the American bison from extinction. At the end of the nineteenth century, he began to plan, with Theodore Roosevelt's support, a society for the protection of the bison. Years later, as director of the Bronx Zoo, Hornaday acquired bison, and by 1903 there were forty bison on the Zoo's ten-acre range. In 1905, the American Bison Society was formed at a meeting in the Bronx Zoo's Lion House with Hornaday as its president. When the first large-game preserve in America was created in 1905—the Wichita National Forest and Game Preserve—Hornaday offered fifteen individuals from the Bronx Zoo herd for a reintroduction program. He personally selected the release site and the individual animals. By 1919, nine herds had been established in the US through the efforts of the American Bison Society.

Lot 146, Brian Lebel's Cody Old West Auction - June 22, 2019. Santa Fe, NM.
Estimate $20,000-25,000.