Hogs And Hominy

BISMARCK, Nd. North Dakota's reputation for being a slice of America's breadbasket was projected onto the silver screen in the early 1900s.

A series of groundbreaking short films promoting the potential for bumper crops of corn, wheat, and alfalfa were produced when silent movies were just beginning to capture the attention of the nation.

"Seeing is believing" was the concept filmmaker Frithjof Holmboe used to promote North Dakota on 35 millimeter film.

Gerald Newborg, State Historical Society: He was a tremendous promoter and entrepreneur in the whole movie business.

The Norwegian immigrant came to North Dakota in 1907 and set up a photography studio. He isn't as famous as Cecil B. DeMille or D.W. Griffith, but outside of Hollywood, Holmbow's vision was legendary on the Northern Plains.

Shane Molander, State Historical Society: "He was really ahead of his time."

Shane Molander is the deputy archivist for the State Historical Society. He says promotional films like "The Land of Corn and Alfalfa" and "Hogs and Hominy" created an image of North Dakota that was very enticing.

Gerald Newborg: Everything was bountiful. Whether it was the wheat fields or the corn fields, or the fat cattle or the really sleek horses, everything was bountiful in his films.

Only a few hours of Holmbow's films have been preserved.

Shane Molander: "A lot of it could be out there. Places we don't know yet. There could be new discoveries to be made."

The collection housed at the State Historical Society has been digitized. All the original nitrate films are kept in cold storage.

Shane Molander: "I actually have it in a freezer, a walk-in freezer here just to stop any deterioration that might happen; we keep it at ten below zero."

Molander estimates Holmboe shot hundreds of hours of footage in North Dakota between 1909 and 1921.

His subject matter included farm films, main street movies for businesses, parades, and military documentaries of soldiers leaving for World War One battlefields.

Someday, Molander hopes to colorize the Holmboe collection to make turn-of-the-century film even more intriguing.

In 1921, North Dakota's famous movie maker left the state for California and continued his film career in Hollywood. He died in 1966.