Filipinos retreat from trenches made by Thomas A. Edison, Inc.; producer, James H. White — from Edison films catalog description:
An incident of the Battle of the Trenches at Candabar [sic]. The enemy threw up a high earth embankment during the night, and are defending it with great stubbornness. The pits are crowded with Filipinos, who fire volley after volley. The artillery of the Americans plays havoc with their ranks and they fall back, leaving many dead. Their retreat is hotly covered by a company of U.S. Infantry, with mounted officer. They tumble over the embankment into the trench, fire a volley and advance. The officer carefully examines the earthworks, his horse picking his way cautiously over the bodies of the fallen foe.
This minute-long re-enactment used soldiers from the New Jersey state militia. It is one of several re-enactments the Edison Company made of Philippine battles and, of course, it is one of the first war movies. The Biograph Company also made films about the war, in its case documentaries. These did not have the same excitement of the Edison dramas. Biograph did not film battle scenes. It did, however, shoot on location. "An Historic Feat" captured, according to the Biograph catalog, "Gen. Franklin Bell's famous mule pack train swimming the Agno River in Northern Luzon. This is one of the most notable incidents of the Philippine War. The picture has made a decided sensation wherever it has been shown."
Film provided a new way of imagining events in far-off places. You could see the people, as in Biograph's "25th Infantry returning from Mt. Arayat," in which the African-American soldiers of the 25th march along a dusty road, their white officers riding ahead of them. You could see the Agno River and the mules. The impact, to use the title of a popular television program of the 1950s, was to give the viewer the impression that "You Are There."
Stereopticon slides (need to contact Jim Zwick for permission):
Americans could gain the same impression in their own parlors and kitchens by purchasing sets of stereopticon slides. [There is a brief discussion of how the slides and viewers worked at a site on the Johnstown Flood. The image comes from there.] Photographers used cameras with two lenses. The viewer merged the two so that someone looking into it saw a three-dimensional image. Americans had been looking at photographs of war ever since Matthew Brady and his associates took pictures of Civil War battlefields. But, as graphic as those images were, they were two-dimensional and therefore less life-like than the stereopticon slides.
Stereopticon slides and viewers became very popular in the late nineteenth century. A number of companies marketed slides of everything from natural wonders, like Niagara Falls, to natural disasters, like the Johnstown Flood. Quaker Oats included slides as premiums inside their cereal boxes. Often families viewed the slides together, passing the viewer from hand to hand. Frequently there was a printed commentary on the back of the slide. Always there were captions.
Both the films and the slides strongly supported the imperialist arguments for the war. American soldiers are unfailingly heroic. Emilio Aguinaldo, the Filipino leader, was "ambitious," not patriotic. The "better class of Filipinos" welcomed the Americans. Filipinos generally, however, were backward when not actually barbaric. Some still practiced cannibalism. Others, corrupted by the long Spanish rule, favored brutal sports like cockfighting. All needed American help in becoming truly civilized.
1) Heroic Americans
- "The Dead Soldier"
- "For the Stars and Stripes"
- "Funston's Fighting Kansans"
- "14th Regulars fighting from captured Filipino trenches in the woods near Pasay, P.I."
- "Fighting from Stone Wall Defences -- Washington Volunteers -- Taquig, Philippines."
- "Heroic Washington Volunteers advancing across an open field -- Filipinos 800 yards in front, Taquig, Philippines."
- "There goes the American Soldier and all Hell can't stop him." P. I.
- "If McKinley wants me I'll Serve"
2) Filipinos in need of, or receiving, the "blessings of liberty and civilization"
- "A Favorite Costume for Boys at Jaro, Philippine Islands"
- "A Filipina 'Granny' (wearing an amulet) enjoying her Cigar, Cavite, Philippine Islands"
- "Uncle Sam's new citizens"
- "Starting a Cock Fight, Manila, Philippine Islands" (text on back notes: "The long Spanish rule has imbued them with a liking for cruel sport. Bull fights and cock fights are their greatest pleasure.)
- "Igorots, Philippine Islands, Manila"
- "Hulling Rice for Breakfast -- Island of Luzon, P.I." (text on back reads, in part: "If you were to come near a cluster of Philippine country houses in the evening you would hear a regular boom! boom! boom! You might think that heavy guns had opened up a bombardment. In fact, American officers once heard such a booming, and they led their soldiers forth to take part in the battle. What they found is what you see here. Filipino girls were hulling rice for the next day!"
- "The right way to Filipino Freedom -- Boys in Normal High School, Manila, Philippine Islands"
- "Better Class of Filipinos -- who welcome American Rule -- Manila, Philippines
Anti-imperialists were shut out of this visual conversation. So were Filipinos, other than as objects of imperialist commentary. Advertisers, on the other hand, were free to jump in. Here are two classic examples. The first is for Pears' soap. The text reads:
The first step towards lightening the White Man's Burden is through teaching the virtues of cleanliness. Pears' Soap is a potent factor in brightening the dark corners of the earth as civilization advances, while amongst the cultured of all nations it holds the highest place -- it is the ideal toilet soap.
The main image shows Admiral Dewey, victor at Manila Bay, washing his hands on shipboard. Smaller images in the corners show: an American naval warship (upper left); a wooden Spanish ship (upper right); a missionary instructing an almost naked dark-skinned Filipino in the need to use Pears' (lower right); and a shipload of Pears' being off-loaded in Manila harbor.
Grape-Nuts cereal also used imperialist themes in its advertising. "Good Things in a Bad Place" shows a Filipino cannibal complacently patting his stomach. The skeletal remains of his most recent meal are neatly piled to one side. The text begins: "Pies, puddings, cake and goodies of all sorts (missionaries excepted), are intended for human use, but such good things should not be put in a bad stomach." As with other drawings of Filipinos, the artist used stereotypes associated with Africans and African-Americans such as black skin and exaggerated lips.
Americans could hear arguments against imperialism from William Jennings Bryan, who made the war in the Philippines a centerpiece of his campaign for president in 1900. They could read criticisms of imperialism from Mark Twain among others. What they saw, on the other hand, uniformly reinforced notions of white supremacy and the "white man's burden." Imperialists monopolized the visual.
- How did stereopticon slide manufacturers portray the American military effort? Be specific. What sorts of images did they favor? Did they appeal to sentiment? How?
- How did they portray Filipinos? Again, be specific.
- How did advertisements portray Filipinos? Did the ads and the slides reinforce each other? Contradict each other?
- How did the Edison Company portray the American military effort? Did the moviess and the slides reinforce each other? Contradict each other?